Historically, seed companies were generally small, often family-run businesses. Because they were regionally-based, they could focus on varieties well-suited to the local environment. A Pacific Northwest company, for example, would specialize in different cultivars than a company based in the Southeast. However the absorption of these small, independent seed businesses into large multinationals, combined with the advancement of biotechnology resulting in hybrids and GMO seeds, has led to a serious loss of genetic diversity. The public is now at the mercy of the corporations who control the seeds.
In the past few years, gardeners have realized the inherent danger in this situation. A growing movement is striving to preserve and expand our stock of heritage and heirloom varieties through seed saving and sharing opportunities. Seed Libraries is a practical guide to saving seeds through community programs, including:
- Step-by-step instructions for setting up a seed library
- A wealth of ideas to help attract patrons and keep the momentum going
- Examples of existing libraries and other types of seed saving partnerships.
Whoever controls the seeds controls the food supply. By empowering communities to preserve and protect the genetic diversity of their harvest Seed Libraries is the first step towards reclaiming our self-reliance while enhancing food security and ensuring that the future of food is healthy, vibrant, tasty and nutritious.
A Growing Movement From the beginning of time, seeds have been saved to grow out the next season. Eventually seed companies took over that role and, little by little, seed saving skills have been lost. In just the past few years people have realized the importance of preserving those skills and have begun to organize seed libraries. Seed libraries are fast becoming a way for gardeners to be involved in the most basic part of the production of their food. Seed banks are places that hold seeds for the future. Seed libraries, on the other hand, depend on getting seeds to as many gardeners as possible to be grown out each year, allowing the varieties to be preserved, while at the same time, changing as needed with the local climate and conditions. The gardeners save seeds to give back to the seed library.
Why save seeds? There was a time when cultures considered saving seeds a sacred act crucial to their survival. We have come away from that mindset and need to relearn why seed saving is important. We save seeds of open pollinated varieties to preserve the genetic diversity, especially of the crops that do well in our regions. Some of these seeds link us to generations past, complete with stories of the seed savers of old-or not so old. Saving money can be an important part of saving seeds. If we are growers, we have complete access to all the plant has to offer, including its seeds. Growing the plant to seed stage involves letting the plants flower, which could attract insects beneficial to your garden. We can save seeds to breed specifically for nutrition, taste, and variety, not the qualities that conventional agriculture is necessarily looking for. If we want to be in control of our food, we need to save seeds. Whoever owns the seeds controls the food supply.
Chapter 3 The Role of Public Libraries Public libraries are always looking for ways to stay relevant to the people and are ideal places to be the repository for seeds waiting to be dispersed to new growers. They provide a home for the seeds, educational material for loan, and a place to meet. Librarians are anxious to begin these programs, but often need help from one or more knowledgeable seed savers or organizations.
Chapter 4Other Entities to Pair With Organizations that are likely groups to cooperate with public libraries in developing a seed library are Transition Town groups, Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners,
permaculture groups and garden clubs, to name a few. Results of my research into actual partnerships will be in this chapter.
Chapter 5. Seeds Care and source of seeds. Not everyone knows that seeds have a shelf life. Suggestions for dealing with that are here. Questions answered in this chapter are: Where do you find seeds to begin with? How do you know they are something that will do well in your climate? Donated saved seed-has it been saved correctly and not cross pollinated? and Is the donated seed viable?
Chapter 6 Getting Started Starting a seed library requires the long term commitment of a group, person, or staff. A college research project can get a library up and running, but plans have to be made for permanency. There has to be some method of organization--guidelines and rules. Websites exist, such as www.richmondgrowsseeds.org that provide help with that. Equipment often includes old library card catalogs brought back to life for this new venture. Stories of what many libraries are doing to get started will be in this chapter.
Chapter 7 Packaging, signups, and other details This chapter is a continuation of Chapter 6, covering the details of packaging and storing the seeds, keeping track of patrons, etc. It will include suggestions from the libraries I've visited and talked to, as well as suggestions I've found online.
Chapter 8 Attracting Patrons Getting the word out to let people know there is a seed library is covered here. Social media plays a role in letting people know about launch parties and orientations. Having artists in the group who can design attractive logos and posters is important. An advisory board filled with people who have connections to groups of like-minded individuals is a plus.
Chapter 9 Keeping the Momentum Beginning a seed library can seem daunting enough. What to do with it after it is off and running becomes a concern. Careful consideration needs to be made of what is expected of the patrons. If the patrons are expected to bring seeds back, they will most likely need education in the form of available books or seed saving workshops. From the libraries I've talked with, what to do after they are up and running is the area they have the most questions about. Seed gardens can be developed, possibly in conjunction with another group or project, with the expressed goal of saving seeds for the seed library. This is an ideal project to tag on to a school or community garden.
Chapter 10 Seed Swaps and Other Ways of Sharing The mobility of people is such that they may plant a garden but aren't still around to collect the seeds. With others, saving seeds to bring back seems like a responsibility they are hesitant to take on. There are other ways of getting seeds into the hands of the people, such as the seed swap, in all its various forms. This chapter explores those ways, which I prefer to call seed shares because that term doesn't infer needing to bring seeds to be able to take seeds.
Chapter 11 We are living in exciting times! People are coming to realize that we are living in a living world. The things around us aren't static, but alive and changing all the time-such as seeds. We have to find a way for saving seeds for the future to become as much of a way of life as planting seeds to grow. People are longing for stability in these evolving times. Seeds can connect them with life and culture that has gone before and that is to come.
Resources Websites, webinars, and books.
For Ages: 16+ years old
Number Of Pages: 192
Published: 1st February 2015
Publisher: New Society Publishers