Community seed libraries are an effective mechanism for collecting and distributing a variety of heirloom, rare, and culturally important seeds that are typically not available from seed companies. The goal of community seed libraries is to protect genetic diversity in our food system and promote public access to seeds. Initially seeds are donated and collected at each library, then community members can check seeds out and grow them on the condition that a portion of the freshly grown seeds will be donated back to the library. These seeds are then stored and made available to others who continue to contribute to this cycle of taking seeds, growing them and donating a portion back to keep the collection viable, healthy and fresh.
The main function of community seed libraries centres on the protection and public access to seeds; however, many also run training days and workshops so that community members who may be interested in starting their first garden or learning how to hand pollinate squash can learn these skills and put them into practice.
Seeds of Diversity works with the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security to support many of these community seed libraries across Canada because they work towards the same goal we have be striving towards for over 30 years. Together, we are creating a growing network of seed collections that contain varieties that haven’t been available for over 50 years and supporting public access to these seeds. We believe people want a greater choice in the types of food they can grow. We also believe that growing food from seeds that have been grown outside Canada, under much different growing and climatic conditions may not be the most suitable and efficient way to produce the best crops. Community seed libraries have collections of regionally adapted seeds with characteristics developed through many consistent years of being grown in the same Canadian soil and weather. Why would a broccoli seed grown in a mega-farm in Mexico produce a better crop than one that has been grown in the Greenbelt of Ontario for a generation?
Interested in starting up a Community Seed Library? Here are some resources to get you started:
Micro-Seedbanking: A primer on setting up and running a community seed bank
Seed Libraries: and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people - link to our review of this book, which is a great resource to consider acquiring
Community Seed Network - a joint initiative of Seed Savers Exchange and SeedChange, two organizations that have witnessed the growing enthusiasm for community seed programs over many years.
Our 2022-2023 Seed Libraries Across Canada series, featured in our e-bulletin, aims to highlight some of the many seed libraries that exist across the country. Many offer inspiration, tips, and contact information to get in touch with those running them: