It’s true! The library has joined over a thousand institutions across the world in establishing a collection of open-pollinated vegetable, herb, and flower seeds that circulate just like our books and other media. Gardeners of all ages and abilities can check out seeds to plant at home (or community garden plot etc.). Those who feel comfortable doing so are encouraged to save seeds from what they grow, and donate some of those seeds back to us at the end of the season so they can be passed on to others. We’ve seen a fantastic response from the public during our first few weeks of being ‘softly’ open. Word is spreading quickly; dozens of people have already checked out over a hundred packets of seeds. We have even gotten some donations of seeds saved right here in Dallas!
You may be wondering—what’s the point of trading seeds like this? Over time, plant varieties that are cultivated in a given location adapt to the unique climate and conditions of that place. Historically, seeds were distributed by the government, sold by a few small seed companies, and most importantly, exchanged between farmers and gardeners locally. In 1980, it became legal to file patents on seeds, and an industry developed around the distribution of this new form of intellectual property. Unfortunately, that process had some negative effects. With fewer people saving and sharing seeds, fewer varieties are in circulation, reducing biodiversity. This, in turn, threatens the resilience of our food system. Also, as climate patterns are becoming harder to predict, it becomes even more important to have access to locally adapted seeds.
By establishing a seed library here in Dallas, we have the opportunity to create a powerful resource that represents an increase in biodiversity and an increase in the self-sufficiency of our local food system. As this project gets bigger, we hope to record and share the stories that accompany each variety of seed. Perhaps most importantly, though, this project is meant to create an opportunity for local gardeners to build community and support one another. The seeds in this collection belong to all of us, and the success of this project depends on our collective involvement.
No matter your experience with gardening and seed saving, there are ways you can get involved:
- Check out some of our seeds—whether you have containers on your apartment balcony, a community garden plot, or a large backyard garden—we have something for you.
- Donate seeds you have saved yourself or leftover seeds purchased from a catalog or nursery. If you don’t know how to save seeds yet, we have resources available to help, including a great selection of books on seed saving.
- Build your seed saving skills by participating in a “grow-out.” This means you would dedicate part of your garden to a particular plant variety and save as many seeds as possible, to help build up our supply of seeds and preserve unique varieties.
- Teach a workshop on seed saving or other gardening topics here at the library.
- If you are an experienced seed saver, mentor new seed savers.
Everyone is invited to join us for our Kickoff Party at 1 p.m. on March 18th. We will reflect on the progress we’ve made thus far and celebrate the bright future of the seed library. There will also be a presentation on the basics of seed saving — and snacks!