(First published in RIG News, 2013)
‘Standing on a windswept hill on the rocky, clay soils of MT molloy in Far North Queensland, new residents Caroline Lieber and John Brisbin were scratching their heads for ideas about how to start a tropical kitchen garden. “This was a new experience for us”, recalls Caroline, “We were looking for some guidance from local people, but didn’t know how to start. This is a very small village and we’re pretty remote from the usual sources of advice like commerical nurseries. Besides, we were very keen to plant out locally-adapted varieties that aren’t in the shops.”
Thinking laterally, Caroline and John decided to put their shovels down for a moment and dig into the internet for some answers.
John knew about the Seed Savers Network  and learned about the concept of a “local seed network” or LSN. “The idea of an LSN is to call local people together and swap seeds, cuttings, an advice. It sounded like just what we needed!”
The Local Seed Network program was set up by Seed Savers founder Jude and Michel Fanton and now there are over 100 groups around Australia. The Seed Savers website has a directory of these groups, making it easy to see if there are any in your local area. John was keen to get started: “We checked the directory and found an active, well-established group in Mareeba. We enjoy their meetings, but it’s not really our local. So we decided to put an invitation around the village and see if people in Molloy and (nearby) Julatten were interested.” It turned out there was plenty of interest.
The Fantons agreed to come up and help launch the network in Ocotber of 2012. The network now has a mailing list with over 60 subscribers, and meetings are held monthly in LSN member’s gardens around the district. Caroline looks forward to each gathering: “There’s always something new to learn, and people are so generous with their time and knowledge…and their amazing plants!”
LSN members have exchanged hardy workhorses like pigeon pea, ebony cowpea, moringa, cassava, taro, yam, and sweet potato. The typical veges get swapped around enthusiastically, including: tomato, corn, asian greens, eggplant, okra, and choko. Each gardener has a few special plants to share: vanilla bean orchids, native prunes, wild rice, rare mulberries, and Cape York-adapted rosellas have all been a hit.
In addition to the monthly gatherings, the Molloy group puts a table up at the local markets to swap seeds, seedlings, and stories. Through connections with long-term locals and enthusiastic new-comers John and Caroline are learning to appreciate the special challenges and opportunities of their new home bio-region.
Although most of us still spend more time listening to birds twittering than we spend writing tweets, it’s obvious that mixing up some social media with social gardening can yield a bountiful harvest. You can visit the Molloy Seed Savers page online . Have a look at the LSN groups around Australia and grow your own!
 Seed Savers Network: http://www.seedsavers.net
 MT Molloy Kitchen Gardeners & Seed Savers: http://www.seedsavers.net/local-seed-network/2