Sharing seeds is an innocent enough practice — people plant seeds, grow food, harvest it, save the seeds, and share the best ones with their neighbors. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years. But recently, seed sharing has come under attack. In June, agriculture officials in Pennsylvania cracked down on the Joseph T. Simpson public library’s seed library, stating that in order to comply with state law, the seeds needed to be put through burdensome, cost-prohibitive seed-testing procedures. Other states have followed suit.
But seed activists are fighting back. The Sustainable Economies Law Center has partnered with Shareable, Richmond Grows, and other seed sharing organizations on a multifaceted-campaign, including a petition urging state officials to protect seed libraries from aggressive regulation. The focus of the campaign is to get the word out about seed issues, educate people on the importance of sharing seeds, and address unnecessary legal restrictions placed on seed libraries.
Want to join the seed movement? Here are nine ways to get involved.
1. Use your local seed library. First things first: find a seed library and connect with the seed activists near you to find out what’s being done with the seed movement on a local level. SeedLibraries' “sister libraries” resource is a listing of nearly 400 seed libraries around the world.
2. If there isn't a seed library near you, start one. Seed libraries may be one of those things you can’t have too many of. Perhaps one day we’ll have an over-abundance of seed libraries. Until then, the more the merrier. Starting a seed library is definitely something you can do. Read Shareable's guide and check out Seed Libraries' website for more information.
3. Protect your right to share seeds, sign the petition. Care about seed diversity and the future of seed libraries? Want to help protect seeds from being regulated into extinction? Sign the Legalize Seeds petition. Sponsored by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, Shareable, and Richmond Grows Seeds, the petition calls on the directors of all 50 U.S. State Departments of Agriculture to issue a public statement declaring that their state’s Department of Agriculture’s seed enforcement policy does not include seed libraries, and begin implementing regulations formalizing this policy.
4. Get educated. Check out the Community Seed Resource Program. Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is on a mission to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.” SSE also offers dozens of educational resources. The Community Seed Resource Program, a collaboration between SSE and Seed Matters, provides tools and guidance for creating seed-focused events, exchanges, libraries and gardens. Resources offered include community seed toolkits, including seeds, educational tools, and seed saving supplies; access to SSE's national seed exchange; and mentorship.
5. Get the ultimate seed saving handbook, Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth
Widely considered the best book about seed saving, Seed to Seed is a detailed guide of specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 vegetables. Covering everything from botanical classification, flower structure and means of pollination to the proper methods for harvesting, drying, cleaning, and storing the seeds, the book also provides regional knowledge from seed experts around the US.
6. Teach the kids using Handful of Seeds: Seed Saving and Seed Study for Educators. Created by the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, a non-profit education center in Sonoma County that works to promote ecologically and culturally resilient communities, A Handful of Seeds is an introductory seed-saving curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade. Seed saving can be used to teach science, language arts, math, social science, drama, music and more and the guide is a useful starting point for a variety of garden and environmental programs.
7. Join the Organic Seed Alliance. The Organic Seed Alliance is on a mission to advance “the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed." Through research, education, and advocacy, the organization "addresses the consolidation of the seed industry by empowering regional seed networks to create change locally and nationally." Among the alliance's offerings are events, publications, webinars, and a seed saving guide for gardeners and farmers.
8. Read the Guide to Saving Seed, Seed Stewardship, and Seed Sovereignty Created by the Seed Ambassadors Project, an Oregon-based group of seed stewards with a global perspective, this guide is a collection of seed information and know-how created as a way to share the collective seed knowledge of the Seed Ambassadors to secure a resilient future. As the guide states, “We are losing diversity, biological and social, at an unprecedented rate. This erosion of diversity directly limits our ecological and social resilience and adaptability within this changing world.”
9. Find the other seed activists. Join the Seed Library Social Network The Seed Library Social Network brings seed activists to together online to brainstorm and strategize. Created in 2011 by seed activists working at the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Demeter Seed Library, the network now includes members from around the world.
A version of this article originally appeared on Shareable.
Top photo: Kate Ter Haar (CC-BY).
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