Commercial seed companies are constantly working to improve yields, extend storage times, and create "super seed" better known as GMOs (Genetically Modified Oganisms). These so-called improvements come with a price, one of which is taste. I'm sure that most of us are aware that the newer varieties of vegetables just don't have the old-fashioned taste that we knew in our younger days.

Many of the old favorites are getting harder to obtain and most of the larger seed companies just don't want to be bothered with stocking these oldies from the past. Many of the older or heirloom varieties are in danger of becoming extinct.

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Collecting seeds from plants at the end of the growing season is an idea as old as agriculture itself. But with the advent of seed catalogs, even the most dedicated gardeners and farmers routinely buy new seed each spring and most gardeners don't even know how to save seeds any more.

Luckily there are some organizations working diligently to preserve our garden heritage. The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is one such group. Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. The SSE is on the forefront of encouraging the establishment of seed libraries across the country.

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Why Save Seeds?
When you grow and save your own seeds, you

  • develop seed stock that is well suited to our climate
  • save money
  • lessen our dependence on agro-business

When you participate in the seed library, you create a culture of sharing and abundance.

Why would a community, a library, a church, a county extension, or a museum be interested in a seed library? Some people want to grow their own vegetables because they want to know where their food comes from. Some people want to grow their own food to save money. Community seed sharing ties in nicely with the mission of community gardens, especially in urban areas.

More and more seed companies are being bought by large corporations that develop and sell hybrid seeds that can't be saved, and must be bought again every spring. Heirlooms, the sort of seeds found in seed libraries, can be saved and replanted, from year to year.

What is a seed library?
Just like a book library, a seed library acts as a centralized location where seeds are accepted and stored for distribution.

The basic concept
The idea is you check out a packet of seeds, plant them, and let some of them go to maturity. You then harvest that next generation of seeds, and return them to the library so other people can check them out. You also retain some for your own future use.

Image Flower as well as veggie seeds can be saved

In establishing a seed library you need to establish some goals for the site, including

Determine a location, one that is pu public and accessible.
Seed storage that is cool (under 85 degrees), dry and dark
Organization type - will it "loan" or distribute seeds?
Criteria for accepting seeds - vegetable, flower and/or herbs; only organic, open-pollinated or locally grown?

Where do you get the initial stock of seeds?
You can put out a call to local gardeners for donations.
Purchase from heirloom seed dealers.
Conduct a community seed swap meet.
Many organizations such as SSE can help you get started via donations of seeds.
Some heirloom dealers can help with seed donations to get you started.

Image Any O.P. seed can be saved

I'm spearheading an effort here in my local county to establish a seed library.
Ours will be a collaborative effort between our Master Gardener Association and our county extension service.

Personally I think the first thing that need to be done is to educate the public.

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Explain the difference between open pollinated (OP), heirloom and hybrid seeds.
Educate on how to save various types of seeds, fermentation method, flowers and herbs as well as vegetables.
Teach proper storage procedures.
Instill the importance of correctly identifying the correct variety of the particular seed.

I believe that this concept is in its infancy and could really blossom into a nationwide practice just as our public libraries have been forever.
So, why not discuss this with your local Master Gardener group, garden club, church group, PTA, or public library and get one started in your area.

You can do it!