A most wondrous particle of human thought.


Heather here.

A library is a great equalizer, and many parents work from day 1 to establish a strong bond between their child, literature, and the possibilities of information that exist.

It is the most magical thing to me. A library is a sacred place. English studies really tells us what humankind believes holds meaning, and a library is an open collection of work, study, exploration; all the ideas, events, and notions that we value.

The materials that line the shelves are there because we find meaning in them. A library continually strives to provide resources for anyone and everyone.

Now the library will stock genetic material as well–in the form of seeds available for check-out.

Following the model put forth by Richmond Public Library in Richmond, http://www.richmondgrowsseeds.org our local library here, the Abingdon branch of Washington County Public Libraries, will offer seeds for check-out beginning Earth Day.

Now, you are probably wondering how can one borrow seed, how do you return seed, if people return saved seed how to we ensure genetic purity, and just what?

Or maybe like me you’re just thinking:

“Is this a dream? Is the library really becoming a community seed bank? Is this the start of community seed banks all over the nation with locally-adapted varieties, and the reinstatement of gardening as the NORM?? Is growing a garden, growing your own food, learning about flowers, seeds, natives, soils, worms, and being outside, forming a partnership with a piece of land becoming Just What People Do? Pick up your Agatha Christie, check out seed for your carrot patch, talk to the garden librarian about books on compost, sign up for the next seed workshop and just get on with it?”

The above is not a verbatim quote, but I hope it gives you a snapshot of my mental state.

Our presentation on March 18th answered many of these questions and got other people excited, too. We had a turn-out of 40 people. When I say we, I mean myself and Ben Casteel, a farmer with an edible landscaping business, Appalachian Wildside, and April Grace, of Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and Grace in Motion Dance Studio.

April and her family have been firm supporters of the Abingdon library her whole life, and her father, Raymon Grace, will be funding this project through the Raymon Grace Foundation. Ben and I will volunteer to teach classes and give some of our saved seed with the project, and help organize the program, along with April.

The library desired for this program to give people the whole picture–not just have seeds but have gardening workshops to go along with them, to equip people for seed-saving, and most importantly, to garden well and actually have success with the seeds! We plan to have a “garden librarian” to answer garden questions, seed questions, and keep our seed stock organized.

The first year the library will not ask for any seed back. We really want to ease into the project and get people comfortable with growing, and introduce them to the parameters that must be met to produce savable seed.

What will be “returned” the first year will be info on what people want to grow, how the varieties we started with did, and a gardening dialogue–there will be a packet limit so people only take as they will plant, and when they come back for more seed they report the planting of the previous seed.

In the future, seed will be “borrowed” simply by instructing gardeners to plant extra plants (how much extra depends on species) and let them go to seed…plant a row of lettuce, let a few bolt…this is something we do by accident quite a bit anyway!

Based on the anatomy of the flower, the plant’s pollination requirements, and genetic requirements (some species you can save seed from just a few plants and have enough genetic diversity, some species need to have seed collected from 100+ plants), life cycle (some plants don’t produce seed until 2 or even 3 full seasons of growth), species are categorized into “Super Easy” (lettuces, beans, peas, tomatoes) “Easy” (corn, onions, carrots), and “Difficult”–(watermelon, squash, cucumber).  So “Easy” and “Difficult” are not hard per say, but require more space then most home gardeners have, and require you to be aware of how far away your crops are from other varieties of the same species, and how far away your garden is from other gardens and wild relatives of your crop, or be prepared to wait a few seasons and keep the plants healthy during the winter so they keep growing in Spring. Or, besides focusing on isolation distance, you can retain purity by bagging flowers, caging plants, timing your various varieties so they flower at different times, taping blossoms shut to keep out insects, and opening to hand pollinate.

We have already had people from the library meeting come to our Grow Your Own workshop and one person joined the program, and the library will be helping us get the word out about the Grow Your Own workshops and the program in general. My hope is that more people will use our educational garden, and volunteer to work in it, and grow food for themselves there, too, and low-income families will be aware of this resource.

Being involved in this has already helped my seed-saving and plant anatomy and life cycle knowledge exponentially.

A picture-filled post will come soon, but I felt a detailed description of what a seed library is and what we are doing was warranted. 

Thanks for reading!