Tale of Two Seed Libraries

By Laura Neff, Retail Associate.

Three times a year Native Seeds/SEARCH awards programs and community projects that have a focus in education, food security, and community development through our Community Seed Grants (CSG). The grants supply up to 30 free packets of seed per project. The awarded projects range from school garden programs, to starting community gardens, or as we will be highlighting in this post, starting a seed library in a community where there was not one before. All the grant requires in return are updates on the project be sent to NS/S and that there are efforts to save seeds resulting from the grant. Saving seeds from community based projects is an excellent way to make these projects sustainable and more resilient. Successfully saved seeds will locally adapted and grow best at these project locations and the abundance of seed ensures that there will be seed for future plantings and to share with community members to get them interested in growing food.

Seed libraries come in all shapes and sizes but the one thing they all have in common is their main purpose which is to make seeds available and accessible to everyone in a community. They can range from a few shoe boxes in a closet, an old library card catalog in a well-known public space like the one located in the NS/S retail store, to more advanced digitized systems like that of the Pima County Library’s Seed Library. The structure of a seed library can also change over time to help with ease of use or other adjustments that may need to be made as they grow.

With the help of our Community Seed Grant program, over 2 dozen seed libraries have been started since the grant program began in 2011. In 2017, two additional seed libraries joined the ranks. One, started by the Cochise County Master Gardener’s Association (CCMGA), is located at the University of Arizona – South Campus Discovery Garden in Sierra Vista. The other one located in the county of Greenlee, Arizona and has two locations. One is located in the Clifton Public Library and the other in the Duncan Public Library.

After receiving the May 2017 seed grant, the Greenlee seed library has seen great successes. “Upon receiving our seed packets, we set aside one packet from each variety to be grown in the U of A Extension demonstration gardens. Next, we divided the remaining seed packets into thirds so as to spread them about the county as much as possible. We photo copied information from your seed saving guide for each variety along with the packet info to create instructions for each packet. We also created a grower application so we can track where and by whom our seeds are being test grown.” said Cecilia Williams of the Greenlee Seed Library. The seeds have been distributed to community garden members, school garden teachers and classes, master gardener students, and backyard gardeners.

seed library

Photo credit goes to Cecilia Williams from Greenlee Seed Library.

The CCMGA recently had their grand opening of the permanent location of their seed library at the end of July and myself and Carly Herndon had the opportunity to visit. We found was a beautiful and lush garden with multiple demonstration plots showing the many ways in which one can have a thriving garden in an arid region (pictured above).

“Mary Jackson and I rolled out the beginning of the CCMGA Seed Library at our Annual Meeting on June 8th. We are very encouraged by how our work has been received by the Master Gardeners. We have 'loaned' out our first group of seed packets, have documented them, and will follow these seeds and their Master Gardeners on their journey to harvest and seed saving.  The trail we follow and document along the way will lead right back to NS/S!” says Deborah Hargrove, the CCMGA Seed Library coordinator. “Our members offered good ideas for introducing our fledgling library to others.”

These two seed libraries have never been on their own. Whether it be advice from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or working together during the whole process, it was truly a team effort. “Eve Williams, AmeriCorps volunteer from the AZ Extension Office in Duncan, has been my mentor through the seed library process,” said Hargrove.

Be sure to check out these two seed libraries on Facebook at Greenlee's Treasury of Seed a seed lending library and CCMGA Seed Library - Cochise County Master Gardeners Association.


Gourd sprout.