Historically, seed companies were generally small, often family-run businesses. Because they were regionally-based, they could focus on varieties well-suited to the local environment. A Pacific Northwest company, for example, would specialize in different cultivars than a company based in the Southeast. However the absorption of these small, independent seed businesses into large multinationals, combined with the advancement of biotechnology resulting in hybrids and GMO seeds, has led to a serious loss of genetic diversity. The public is now at the mercy of the corporations who control the seeds.
In the past few years, gardeners have realized the inherent danger in this situation. A growing movement is striving to preserve and expand our stock of heritage and heirloom varieties through seed saving and sharing opportunities. Seed Libraries is a practical guide to saving seeds through community programs, including:
Step-by-step instructions for setting up a seed library
A wealth of ideas to help attract patrons and keep the momentum going
Examples of existing libraries and other types of seed saving partnerships.
Whoever controls the seeds controls the food supply. By empowering communities to preserve and protect the genetic diversity of their harvest Seed Libraries is the first step towards reclaiming our self-reliance while enhancing food security and ensuring that the future of food is healthy, vibrant, tasty and nutritious.
This is not a gardening book, nor does it cover much about seed saving. Instead this is a book about seed libraries. A book written for those who are passionate about food security and keeping seeds in the public domain. The focus is on the relevance of seed libraries in our current political economic climate, the benefit to the community, granting opportunities to those who would otherwise never have a chance to grow their own tomato, and the practical elements of starting and maintaining a seed library.
This is the first book I've seen that focuses strictly on seed lending, and I think it couldn't come at a better time. The way we see seeds and food production in the Western world is changing rapidly. Without getting all political, Conner demonstrates why we should bother caring about keeping seeds and the skills to use them in the public domain.
So what is a seed library? At the most basic, it is a central collection of seeds, like a seed bank, but more open. A member of the seed library can 'borrow' seeds at the beginning of the growing season, grow the plants, select the best plants, save the seeds, keep some seeds for themselves and 'return' the extra seeds to the library. For a seed library to work well, free classes are usually supplied that teach growing, seed saving, and other useful skills. Seed libraries are usually free and usually associated with book libraries - why? Conner tells us all about the advantages of combining seed libraries with traditional libraries.
As enthusiastic as I am about seed libraries, it wasn't until I read this book that I realized how important they are. Food security - awesome. Localized seeds - great. Free seeds - that's nice.
What I learned from Seed Libraries was how important free seeds are. There are many people who can't afford the luxury of buying seeds, tools and learning how to garden. Conner gives examples of inner city seed libraries that not only provide free seed and gardening classes, but that also provide free garden plots and tool use to people without access to land. 'Though not every library offers an allotment, the seeds alone make a big difference in some peoples lives.
This book covers a lot of the practical aspects of setting up and maintaining a seed library. Where to get seeds, how and where to store them, managing volunteers, setting up classes, funding, and little details like what if some people don't return their seeds, these are all covered in this book.
I may be a bit uncharitable giving this book only eight acorns, as it is a very good book. Not just because it's the only book on this topic, it is actually the right book at the right time by the right author. It is just not a book that inspires me. I'm a full on introvert and the idea of starting a project like this, interacting with actual real people, and shudder, organize them... This is like my second most worst nightmare scenario. I'll gladly participate and donate seeds to the library, but count me out for organizing one.