Seed libraries are a unique concept that has been growing in popularity in recent years. The Eden Prairie Library has recently sprouted its own version, making it easy to exchange seeds with other community members.
A seed library is essentially a collection of seeds that are available for members to borrow, grow, and return. Just like a regular library, seed libraries have a catalog of available seeds, and members can check them out for free. But the plot thickens; rather than return the same borrowed item, patrons are encouraged to save some seeds from their plants and bring them back to the library for others to borrow in the future.
Located just past the library’s main entrance, Eden Prairie’s seed library is contained in a repurposed vintage card catalog case. Library specialist Rose Schaubach has seen many parents explaining to their kids just what a card catalog is, and how it was used.
Seeds are sorted by category, such as vegetables, herbs, or flowers, and can be checked out just like a book. Patrons are welcome to browse the catalog and take just the seeds they need. This offers gardeners a chance to try new plants without committing to buying an entire packet of seeds.
Says Schaubach, “My favorite thing about the seed library is going through all the seed packages and envisioning which vegetables will ‘speak’ to a particular patron. … If people can plant at least one seed, they can experience the wonder of nature.”
According to their mom, Andrea Lahouze, her daughters Madeleine and Rosalie look forward to cultivating flowers, tomatoes, and strawberries from the seed library to grow in their garden.
Eden Prairie’s seed library relies on donations from partner organizations and harvested seeds in the fall from local growers. Community members are encouraged to donate any unused commercially packaged or harvested seed.
Donors simply bring their seeds and drop them in the seed library donation box. EP Library staff, along with volunteers, process the seed packages into smaller envelopes, so there is plenty to go around for all. If the seeds are harvested, donors are asked to fill out a brief form to provide relevant information and growing notes. Eden Prairie’s seed library partner is the University of Minnesota Extension – Hennepin County Master Gardeners.
According to the Hennepin County Library website, seed libraries were established to:
- Build a community of growers and encourage people to grow their own food.
- Encourage people to save seeds so their plants will adapt to the area, becoming disease-resistant and having better flavors.
- Address the issue of food insecurity and food sovereignty.
- Develop ongoing and sustainable local supplies of seeds that reflect the diversity and culturally significant foods of our neighborhoods.
Despite the weather report and the view out the window, it’s clearly time to dig into this innovative program that helps cultivate a culture of community and sustainability while promoting diversity in our gardens.
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