There’s been a renewed interested in the past decade for heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. As foodies know, heirloom varieties often have more flavor and character making them more interesting and exciting to eat. And as many organic and environmentally-aware folks know, monoculture farming is wreaking havoc on the health of the planet and its potential to feed all of its inhabitants. That's where a seed library comes in.
Introducing variety into our world, into our communities, into our backyards and ultimately into our diets is a critical step towards creating a more sustainable food system. That’s why seed libraries have been popping up.
A seed library is a repository for seeds (just like a library is a repository for books) and just like a library lends books, a seed library lends seeds. You may have heard of seed banks, and they are similar, but a seed bank doesn’t lend seeds, it holds onto them for the future in case varieties are lost.
The goal of a seed library is to disseminate rare, local, and heirloom seed varieties to the community. The holdings are donated from other gardeners who want to keep the cycle of sharing going. Seed sharing and swapping were commonplace before the invention of Big Agriculture. Farmers kept seeds year to year and swapped them with other farmers. A seed library is nothing more than the return of a more sustainable tradition.
One interesting tidbit--seed libraries might be found in actual libraries. The Richmond Public Library in Richmond, CA is one of the most well-established public library programs. Museums are getting in on the act too--the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum has a heirloom seed library. Seed libraries are being started in schools, via gardening groups, through food co-ops, in artist collectives, via Meet-up and more.
Sound intriguing? Want to learn more about starting your own seed library in your community? Here are some resources for learning more about seed libraries and about starting your own.
- Seed Library Social Network
- Hudson Valley Seed Library
- Webinar: How to Start a Seed Library
- Richmond Public Library Seed Lending Library
- Bay Area Seed Interchange Library
- Pima County Public Library Seed Library
- Grow Gainesville Seed Library
- How to Start a Seed Library in Your Community
- Sowing Revolution: Seed Libraries Offer Hope for Freedom of Food
- How to start a seed library
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Image: New Amsterdam Market