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Back to January 2022 Newsletter

Fernie BC - Our Cold Climate Seed Library

by Mary Cosman

Five years ago members of our community garden gathered to brainstorm ideas for a seed library. As a seed-saver from northern BC transplanted to this little mountain town in southeast BC, I understood well the challenge of growing out seeds in our short growing season. This prompted the idea of naming the project Our Cold Climate Seed Library.

Knowing that many communities partner their seed libraries with their public libraries, we first brought our idea to the Fernie Heritage Library. Staff there showed us how their beautiful old building was bursting at the seams with their own programs, proving that having a seed library there was very unlikely.

Meanwhile, I continued saving seeds of staple foods that could be grown here, cataloging them and keeping small quantities of each separate from what we shared at our annual seed swaps. We developed a program of basic seed saving information which has been delivered as a live two-part workshop (winter learning and summer hands-on in the garden). Last year, our live sessions moved online supplemented with a 24-page PDF workbook.

Our community garden and seed library are projects of the local branch of a regional environmental non-profit. A year ago, as part of our mandate to increase food security in our valley, our branch opened a retail storefront to market products from local farmers and food producers. 

This social enterprise has given us a home base which now houses, hidden in plain view, our actual seed library! One of the advantages of being part of a larger organization is greater credibility when accessing grant funding, and this made it possible for us to purchase a rolling metal toolchest to house our library. Located in the front of our store, the chest top doubles as a platform for store window displays. We keep temperatures low in this retail section of our store, the chest is below the window so little light gets in, and the cupboard doors and drawers face the wall when not being accessed. Opening the library is done outside of store hours, when we can roll out the chest into the centre of the space. 

All seeds are in envelopes or bags stored inside glass jars, with a larger section of seed swap stock kept separate from the smaller catalogued seed library stock. There’s also room in the chest for seed cleaning equipment and our catalogue and logsheet binders.

A lifetime membership in our library is $10. Members receive free workshop materials, seeds they wish to grow out, and the joy of participating in seed cleaning. With a membership of over 25 people, we have about half a dozen folks who actually participate in growing out seed to restock our library. Many are cautious beginners, but interest and experience is definitely increasing now that we have home for our library!


Mary Cosman is a long-time Seeds of Diversity member and seed saver, who also energizes the Fernie Seedy Saturday.


Back to January 2022 Newsletter

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