Print Edition: February 20, 2013
To grow anything, you have to plant a seed.
In good soil with sufficient sunlight and water, a seed can take root and green shoots can emerge. A seed can also represent an idea, which only needs a fertile mind and an opportunity to become a plant that produces seeds of its own. In a way, this is how a seed library works.
A seed library is an idea currently circling among some students at UFV. Wouldn’t it be great if we could borrow seeds the way we check books out of the library, free of charge? It’s that simple: “borrow” some seeds to grow vegetables, herbs or flowers, and plant them at home. When the plants grow, collect some of the seeds and return them to the seed library so that someone else can grow them too.
“Having a seed library in the community would give students and anyone else on a low budget the opportunity to start growing their own gardens,” says Ashley Mussbacher, a UFV student. “When I first started [gardening] it was a challenge, because I had little to no experience and very little space to work with. I just have a balcony, and I also don’t have a very big budget to get anything too fancy.”
Ashley recycled egg cartons to start her own radishes, lettuce and herbs, and uses the lid to protect the small shoots from her cats.
Existing seed libraries in the United States offer workshops on gardening and starting seeds indoors for beginners. Borrowing and sharing seeds becomes an exercise in community building; it provides opportunities to volunteer, to eat fresh local produce and to cultivate common interests with our neighbours. And, as Mussbacher explains, “even caring for a few perennial seedlings can be a great way to get outdoors and do something that relaxes and unwinds you. I need a break from my studies, even if it’s just for a half an hour here and there.”
The library in Richmond, California, suggests separating seeds into categories of super-easy, easy and difficult-to-save seeds. Visitors to the seed library can borrow and plant seeds from any category, but are only asked to return super easy seeds at first, until they know more about saving the seeds from the plants they grow. There is no fine for not returning seeds. The library also runs a Community Seed Garden – if you don’t have the space or time to grow seeds at home, you can still take part in the gardening experience at the library.
If a local seed library was started in Abbotsford, it could be the first of its kind in Canada. For a city that thrives so close to agriculture, a seed library could be a logical step for a blossoming community.
“There’s just something about watching its progress,” Mussbacher says about her own small garden. “It’s exciting to know that a few months from now I’ll be munching on vegetables and cooking with herbs I grew right on my balcony.”