Start a Seed Library

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner

You may have heard about seed libraries since they’ve been in the news the past couple years. They seem to be popping up everywhere. Seed libraries are places where you can receive seeds for free in exchange for growing them out and bringing back more than you received. That’s the tricky part—growing them out and saving the seeds. Seed libraries are sometimes in public book libraries, but they could be anywhere people are—and where they’ll be coming back to. If you give them seeds you need them to come back.

Whoever owns the seeds controls the food supply. Seed libraries are a grassroots effort to combat corporate control of our seeds, thus our food supply. Many well-meaning people are realizing this and starting seed libraries to get as many seeds into the hands of the people as possible. But, it takes a village—at least it takes more than one well- meaning person. Setting up a seed library is a big job and needs to be integrated into a community. After all, it is the community’s food system that it is part of.

You can learn more about starting a seed library at Homeplace Earth. If you are interested in starting a seed library, but don’t have any community connections to make that easy transition, start by growing some plants to seed yourself for the first year. Learn all you can about how seeds are formed and saved with that crop and then expand to other crops. Even if you are a beginner now, that will change once you have some experience. Learn all you can and gather your seeds. When the time is right, you will also have gathered friends and community connections who are ready to move forward with a seed library. They will need a supply of seeds (which you will have already saved) and a knowledgeable person to teach others (that’s you!).

If you think all this is a good idea, but you don’t have any space to grow plants, start documenting plants going to seed. You will learn a lot by just taking a closer look. If you have artistic talents, make some sketches of plants at various stages of growth from seedling to mature plant to seed. Drawing might not be one of your talents, but you can take photos of plants at these stages. Knowing the life cycle of the plant and when the seeds are mature, which may be past the time when the vegetables are mature, is the first step to being able to save seeds. People love flowers. Many, however, have never stopped to think that to have more flowers, the petals need to fall off and seeds form. The real beauty is to observe the seeds that come after that. If you deadhead the faded flowers you will never get the seeds.

There are many books about saving seeds—and more titles are being published all the time — so you will have no trouble finding resources to help you save seeds this year. I’m writing a book that will help you establish a seed library —Seed Libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people. Look for it in early 2015, published by New Society Publishers. Until then, save those seeds!

Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to