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May 2024

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Courtesy Photos: Nan Fisher, founder of Aunt Nannie's Seed Exchange.

Auntie Nannie’s Seed Exchange Turns 10!

Ten years ago, our founder Nan Fisher started the Taos Seed Exchange. Many of our readers know Nan, and even more have benefitted from her work in our local farming and gardening community. Nan owns Nannie’s Plants, a small nursery that specializes in vegetable, herb, and flower starts for the Taos community, mostly through community-supported-agriculture (CSA) shares. She is also a writer on all things gardening, and you’ll see her words in gardening publications throughout the country.

Many Taos County residents have benefitted from Nan’s expertise through the Taos Farm and Garden Facebook page, of which she is the adoptive mother for the past decade. If you are not familiar with the page, it is among the most valuable community resources for growers looking for place-specific information on anything from planting dates, pest control, local learning opportunities, goats for sale, hay for sale, labor, acequia cleaning announcements, frost warnings, and moral support—and anything else a home grower or farmer might be looking for. If you have ever asked a question in the group, there is a decent chance you got an answer from Nan, informed by her degree in horticulture and roughly 40 years growing, most of those in Taos County. Today the page has multiple administrators to support its 3,500 members.

When Nan started the Taos Seed Exchange, she was working on growing as much of the food she ate as she could, but realized she needed to diversify her seed collection. That, and she was tired of eating the same red romaine lettuce she’d been growing forever. But when she went seed shopping and realized how expensive it was to purchase the variety she was looking for, especially when she didn’t need to grow the 20 tomato plants of the same variety and 500 heads of lettuce you can get from a single packet of seed!

Not long afterward, Nan learned about seed exchanges in other parts of the country and realized this was a solution that would solve her problem and serve the whole community. She created a system she thought would work for Taos, developed relationships with small seed companies throughout the country that specialize in heirloom and open-pollinated seed, and ran with it. Over the years she held various seed exchange events and developed a system of seed exchange stations throughout the county.

In 2021, she passed the seed exchange on to Alianza Agri-Cultura, though she stays involved to help us learn the ropes. In gratitude to Nan’s years of stewarding the exchange, we re-named the Taos Seed Exchange “Auntie Nannie’s Seed Exchange.” Last year we expanded the number of stations and the areas of the county served by the seed exchange, and we launched our seed grant program which provides seed to schools, community gardens, and other not-for-profit efforts to increase community knowledge, capacity, and access to home-grown and community-grown food.

We are excited to be stewarding Auntie Nannie’s Seed Exchange into the future and look forward to expanding programming, expanding the communities served, expanding our partners, and expanding opportunities for residents of Taos County to access seed, grow their own food, and save seed for future years and generations.

Seed Exchange Station How-To

  1. Seed Exchange stations are equipped with envelopes, pens, and a donation jar, as well as plenty of seed!
    Bring your extra seeds to donate, whether it’s seed you overbought, or seed you’ve grown out and saved. If you are not bringing seed in a seed packet, please label it with as much information as you can: provide species and variety, and any other info you might have, such as if you’ve brought in seed you got from your grandma that she used to grow, if you’ve found the variety to be particularly hearty in our climate, or anything else. Seed stories of all sorts deserve to be told!
  2. Take new seeds with you! Use the envelopes and pens to carry and label your newfound seed treasures. Keep in mind the stations are a community resource and we want to spread the seed wealth, so take only the seeds you need for this season and leave some for your neighbors. For example, if you don’t need to grow 20 of a particular tomato variety, use the envelopes to take just the few you need and leave the original envelope in the seed station.
  3. Leave a small cash donation if you don’t have any seed to swap! All donations go to keeping the seed exchange program alive. If you don’t have seed or cash to spare, consider giving back in different ways, whether it’s taking a second to straighten up the seed station, telling others about it, or growing out some seed to share next year and sharing your produce.

Seed station locations:

In Questa, you can find seed stations at the Questa Public Library and at Rael’s Store and Coffee Shop.
You will also find seed stations at Re-Threads in Taos, both Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores in Taos and El Prado, the Talpa Community Center, the Spot in Peñasco, the Rio Fernando Park in Taos, the Carson Café and Grocery Store, and at the Red Willow Center at Taos Pueblo (for tribal members only at this time).

Seed grants:

We are excited to announce our first seed grants of the 2022 season: Taos Pueblo Day School and Vadito

Head Start.
Taos Pueblo Day School

The Day School will be growing seeds under their Native Language and Culture program, which works with kids from kindergarten through 8th grade, and works with maintaining native language development, as well as teaching students land and water stewardship, ecology, and crop production. The food grown with this seed grant will go home with students, be used to make a lunch at the school, and share crops with senior citizens in the community.

Vadito Head Start
Vadito Head Start will introduce their young students to the magic of growing with their seed grant. While these kiddos are young, their teachers believe early exposure to growing food will leave a lasting impression. Teachers will work with students to start seeds and starts will be sent home with students to plant with their families.

Do you have a community project that would benefit from a seed grant?

Auntie Nannie’s 2022 Seed Grant Program is open for proposals from non-profits, community centers, senior centers, schools, faith communities, and other community efforts to increase community knowledge, capacity, and access to homegrown and community-grown food in Taos County.

Grantees will be provided with an assortment of open-pollinated vegetable, flower, and herb seed appropriate for our climate, and requests for particular crops will be accommodated when possible.
Apply any time at the link below, just make sure to let us know what season you need seed for.

We would like to give a shout-out to all the amazing seed companies supporting our 2022 season! Please consider supporting these great seed companies.