Are you a gardener? Do you want to grow heirloom plants and save the seeds? Do you have heirloom seeds to share and exchange with others? Then a seed library is for you! I’ve been saving heirloom seeds for a couple years and I’ve been looking for ways to trade seeds with other local heirloom gardeners and seed savers. A few months ago I came across the Facebook page for a local seed library. I was intrigued!
Today when we were in town we visited the Five Valleys Seed Library. What an amazing experience! I heard about the seed library a few months ago but since we live out in the country and don’t spend a lot of time in town it isn’t easy for us to go visit. I’m going to share about our trip to the local seed library and how it is set up so you can start one in your area if you don’t already have one!
How the Seed Library Works
The Five Valleys Seed Library is a seed exchange program set up in a small corner of the Missoula Public Library. We stopped at the library reference desk to find out more about the seed library and how it works. We were told that the seed library offers a wide variety of seeds for anyone with a library card to take for free. They “check out” the seeds but you don’t have to bring them back like a library book; they do request that once you grow your own plants from these seeds that you save seeds and donate them back to the program to be distributed to others to grow. One of the reasons they have you “check out” with the seeds is so they can track what seeds are taken and know which ones may need to be restocked. The library staff we spoke to said that there is a growing movement of seed libraries popping up in public libraries across the country. What an amazing resource!
Little A and I ventured into the room where the Five Valleys Seed Library is located. It is basically a large desk with drawers filled with seeds. It is an heirloom seed fanatic’s dream! Little A was so excited she wanted to reach into the drawers and pull out handfuls of seed packets. I felt the same excitement as she did, I just have a little more self restraint than a three year old!
Instead we went through each drawer and looked at each seed variety together to decide which ones we wanted to take. There is a drawer for vegetables, a drawer for kids seeds, and a drawer for flowers and medicinal plants.
I didn’t know what to expect since I’ve never been to a seed library before. The drawers were organized alphabetically with large lettered place cards to divide them. There were quite a few packets of seeds from Botanical Interests, one of our favorite seed companies to buy heirloom seeds from. The seed packets from Botanical Interests were stamped with 2014 so we’re guessing that a local store donated them to the seed library since they are last years seeds (although still viable).
The seeds donated by local gardeners and regional farms were packed into paper envelopes with the seed information listed on the front. We also found a pack of calendula seeds from the Triple Divide Organic Seed Co-Op based out of the region north of us. I hadn’t heard of them before so was quite excited to find another regional heirloom seed source!
Since one of our homestead goals for this year is to eradicate the weeds in our back pasture, I was pretty excited to find a wide variety of native wildflower seeds. A few weeks ago I stopped by the local county extension office when I was in town and was given a wealth of information on how to reestabilish our back pasture in native grasses and forbes (flowers). They recommended planting a variety of native wildflowers which we’ll be able to do thanks to the seed library!
Donating Seeds to a Seed Library
When we went to “check out” our seed packs, I asked for information on how to donate seeds. They have slips of paper to fill out when donating seeds. The volunteers who run the seed library meet about once a week to sort through the new seed donations and transfer the seed information and seeds to paper packets. Then they are filed in the drawers to be taken home by other community members.
I’ve been saving heirloom seeds from our gardens for a couple years so I have several varieties of seeds we can give back to the program to share with others. Next fall I plan to harvest more heirloom seeds from the plants we grow from the seeds we got today. Then we can give more seeds back and continue the cycle of the seed exchange!
How to start a seed library in your community
The Seed Saver’s Exchange website is a wealth of information about saving and trading seeds. The Seed Saver’s Exchange has a whole page with resources on how to start a community seed project such as a seed swap, seed bank or seed garden. I even found a couple newspaper articles online from around the country where the Seed Saver’s Exchange donated seeds to new community seed projects including the Five Valley’s Seed Library! The Seed Saver’s Exchange website also has an online seed exchange program which you can check out here.
Do you have a seed library or seed exchange project in your community? What are other venues you use to trade heirloom seeds?