A seed library is a depository of seeds where seeds are leant or shared with its members. It is distinguished from a seed bank in that the main purpose is not to store or hold germplasm or seeds against possible destruction, but to disseminate them to the public which preserves the shared plant varieties through propagation and further sharing of seed.
Members come to the library and borrow seed for their garden. They grow the plants in their garden and at the end of the season; they let a few plants ‘go to seed.’ From those plants, they collect seeds and return the same amount of seed (or more) as they borrowed at the beginning of the growing season. Seeds are free to members.
The library is both a collection of seeds and a community of gardeners. Since seed is a living thing, it must be renewed each year somewhere by someone or unique varietals can become extinct. Even growing one seed and returning it to the library is a valuable contribution. Seed Libraries may also operate as pure charity operations intent on serving gardeners and farmers.
A common attribute of many seed libraries is to preserve agricultural biodiversity. by focusing on rare, local, and heirloom seed varieties.
Seed libraries use varied methods for sharing seeds, primarily by:
- Seed swaps otherwise known as seed exchanges, in which library members or the public meet and exchange seeds.
- Seed "lending," in which people check out seed from the library's collection, grow them, save the seed, and return seed from the propagated plants to the library.
- A far wider variety of seeds can be kept fresh by many people growing rather than one person growing in one garden. We all gain when we combine our efforts.
- Participants can save hundreds of dollars each season by growing their own food and saving their own seed
- A seed library ensures we have a food supply that is reproducible, local, uncontaminated by unproven genetic modification, and free from external controls.
- A true seed library is focused on varietals ideal for home gardeners (full flavor and variety in a small garden) rather than commercial varietals, which often sacrifice flavor and personality for the sake of uniformity and durability for shipping.
- Over time the plants will change in response to our local climate and soil, and gradually will become better seeds for our area.
- We get to hang out with other like-minded gardeners!
- Growing our own food and saving our own seed continues the fine American tradition of self-reliance and closeness to nature.
- Gardening nourishes the soul as well as the body, and is a great source of relief from the chaos of urban life.
- As caretakers of seeds, we cooperate with nature in carrying on priceless genetic material for future generations. Seeds are a sacred trust passed down to us by our ancestors. The seed library helps us to best honor that gift.
- By growing a plant from seed, eating its fruit and returning it back to seed, we become fully engaged in the rhythm of nature, grow more attuned to the world around us, and gain a deeper understanding of our own place in the web of life.
The Jefferson County CSU Extension Colorado Master Gardeners in partnership with the Golden Public Library are the process of setting up a Seed Library for the Jefferson County area. We will not only be checking seed in and out we will also be holding classes to educate the public on how to plant, grow and save seed to enable our library effort to be successful. Watch for our upcoming announcement.