This book is an excellent resource for people who are interested in creating a seed sharing event or program in their community. Cindy Conner discusses a range of activities from seed swaps and seed libraries to starting a seed company or even creating a seed bank.
Communities benefit from seed exchanges because they increase the diversity of the seed supply and return control of seed production to local farmers, gardeners and independent seed companies. This can help diminish multinational chemical companies’ control over the seed supply. Seed libraries and other seed repositories also enhance food security by increasing local access to plants with greater nutritional properties that thrive in local conditions as compared to what large multinational companies provide.
While the main focus of the book is seed libraries, there is ample coverage of other seed sharing programs and activities.
An early part of the book covers the basics of saving and storing seed which is relevant to many types of exchange programs. The book also has an extensive reference section and good footnotes for those who wish to find books and other resources on topics such as seed sources, creating your own food supply, gardening with children and seed saving. There are also sections on Webinars and Ted Talks covering a variety of seed saving topics for those who prefer audio visual resources.
Seed libraries often set up in public libraries or other community sites. Typically, interested gardeners and farmers who save seeds call for others to contribute. The group then packages and displays seeds for others in the community to “borrow.” The borrowers are encouraged to help replenish the library with seeds they subsequently save. To introduce newcomers to seed saving, groups often provide information sessions and coaching from designated experts who are often called seed stewards. Some community libraries, schools and allotment gardens provide garden space to grow plants for seed.
The book offers many fine examples of seed libraries from both the US and Canada. The Toronto Seed Library is unique in that it has a loose network of locations with different procedures in each space. Locations include other sharing spaces such as tool libraries and a makerspace, as well as a nature centre, two universities, a video business and Permaculture GTA headquarters.
Conner provides ample advice on all aspects of creating and running a seed library. The advice ranges from how to enlist participants, package seed, attract patrons and maintain the momentum once the library is established. A number of useful photographs show cabinets used in different libraries to display the seed offerings.
Many seed libraries and exchanges engage participants with social activities such as pot luck dinners and speaker programs that attract both current participants and potential new recruits.
Seedy Saturdays, seed swaps, and starting your own small seed company are among the events discussed in the chapter on other seed sharing possibilities.
Seedy Saturdays originated in British Columbia. (The United Kingdom has Seedy Sundays.) These events bring together independent seed companies and other vendors and community groups to display their products and services.
The website of Seeds of Diversity Canada is mentioned as a source for finding Seedy Saturdays and other seed exchange events in Canada. This organization is also noted as a source of information on seed banking and creating small seed companies. Conner reports that Canada has about twice the number of small seed companies per capita compared to the US.
This is the kind of book you can go to again and again if you are community group trying to create seed exchanges or a farmer or gardener looking for sources of locally produced seeds or advice on proper seed saving.