-Start a sEED LIBRARY-

People pick out seeds from a library card catalog

Community members look over the seeds available at

the seed library. Once the libraries were established,

word quickly spread and many people came to see what this seed library was all about. This helped the seed collection grow as more local gardeners and farmers began donating seeds.

Blue Ridge Seed Library Network Boone and West Jefferson, NC Watauga and Ashe Counties

At the Watauga and Ashe Public Libraries, people are checking out more than books. These libraries are home to repurposed card catalogs filled with seeds donated by the Blue Ridge Seed Library Network. Community members are invited to “check-out” packets of seeds, plant them, and save seeds from their plants to return to the library.

Through this program, the network hopes to give food-insecure people better access to fresh produce, increase community resilience, and develop a culture of sharing. In addition to sharing seeds, they provide educational opportunities on growing food and preserving seeds. The network also focuses on preserving seeds that are adapted for their geographical area, which can be hard to find in national seed catalogs.

The Blue Ridge Seed Library Network grew out of a partnership between a local seed saving group, the High Country Seed Swap Growers Exchange, local public libraries, and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA). BRWIA and the local Cooperative Extension offer workshops on saving seeds and growing produce, which are promoted through the seed library network.

In addition to increasing access to healthy foods, the Blue Ridge Seed Library Network is committed to preserving seeds that have historical and cultural significance in Appalachia. Some of the seeds have been grown in the area since the 19th century. The network finds these seeds through local gardens, heritage societies, Native Plant Societies, local and regional seed swaps, and by word-of-mouth. People who are interested in continuing these traditions are invited to become “Dedicated Seed Savers” by committing to grow and save these heirloom seeds.

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Here are some steps to take if you’d like to start a seed library:
 

  • Connect with Other Seed Savers: Look for a local seed saving group, or start one of your own with your fellow gardeners!

  • Host Workshops: Organize workshops and garden tours focused on seed saving to engage more people. Your county’s Cooperative Extension staff may be able to lead these workshops.

  • Try a Seed Swap: Before you set up a permanent seed library, host a one-day seed swap! This will help you see how many people are interested, and get people excited about swapping seeds.

  • Find a Location: Once you are ready to start your library, you need to find a place to keep it! Ask your public library, cooperative extension office, or local community garden.

  • Develop a Method to Check Out and Return Seeds: You’ll want to keep track of which seeds have been checked out and which have been returned. You can do this online through Google Forms, or create a paper copy that people complete while at the seed library.

Resources

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it!

Start a Community Garden Network
Volunteers water plants in garden.
Start a Low-Cost CSA
Assortment of vegetables.
Start a Community Forum
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