The idea of “seed lending” is by no means a new concept. In fact, it was an ancient way of life before money came into circulation. One would have to travel sometimes long distances to find someone who had what they wanted and wanted what they had in order to do an exchange of goods. Although money has made the purchase of items in today’s society easier, it’s a rare and wonderful occasion when members of a community get involved in a program that allows the exchanging of products without cash.
The New Hanover County Arboretum, the NHC Parks Department, and the public library are launching a new seed-lending program on February 22nd. It will allow members of the library to grow an array of their own plants without spending a cent.
The project aims to promote open-pollinated seeds among residents of New Hanover County. This program allows participants to check out seeds with their library card, plant them at home, wherein they save one seed to return to the library so others can check out and return in the same manner. Now that spring approaches, and folks are beginning to plan their gardens, the timing couldn’t be better to start saving seeds.
Developed by Andy Myers and Justine Roach, the seed-lending project came to be after Myers started hearing about the rennaisance of libraries sprouting across the nation. “The idea really appealed to me,” says Myers, who also founded Port City Swappers, another bartering-style organization focused on local foods being exchanged for free at end-of-month swaps. “[Seed-lending is] such a simple concept that can have a really big impact,” he continues. “I figured Wilmington would be the perfect city for the growing movement to come to next.”
The programs will launch simply, by focusing on two native plants: wild bergamot and dwarf sunflowers. Also, it will feature popularly grown vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers. Yet, Myers and Roach encourage community members to donate any seeds they can spare to diversify the seed library after the launch. As well, donations will be accepted at the arboretum.
“At a time when only three companies (Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta) own half of the global commercial seed market, libraries like these put seeds back into the rightful place of the public domain,” Myers insights. “The ability to acquire seeds is a fundamental right and by setting up projects like the seed lending, we are increasing that access.”
In addition, the program promotes a healthier lifestyle. More so, it keeps food growing locally while developing a culture of sharing, as well as providing natural habitats for wildlife.
On February 22nd, the event will kick off at 11 a.m. There will be exhibits by local plant experts available until 1 p.m. The New Hanover County Public Library has organized workshops on seed-saving and container-gardening, too. They’ve also included information from local gardening clubs. At 11 a.m. Matt Collogan from Airlie Gardens will be discussing basic techniques of seed-saving to ensure that those who participate will be able to return seeds next year for others to enjoy. Al Hight, an experienced gardener from NHC Arboretum, will talk about square foot and container gardening, a clever approach to making the most of limited space, at 11:30 a.m.
Even folks without stellar gardening skills can benefit from the program. Myers assures there are plenty of resources available at the library to help guide folks in the right direction.
“Taking advantage of the lending structure of libraries to disseminate seeds [has] really just begun to pick up steam in the last decade,” Myers states. “Beyond the obvious practicality reasons, public libraries are perfect because their mission is to preserve artifacts and make them available to the public. Seeds are artifacts and part of our cultural heritage, taking many generations to produce some of the varieties we have today.”
Everyone is encouraged to keep the seeds for one growing season and then return seeds from their best plants. In turn, it will increase the plant’s ability to thrive in New Hanover County.
Myers has high aspirations for this project, especially judging from the success of Port City Swappers. He sees first-hand the community’s dedication to the locavore movement and especially the sustainability of growing one’s on food.
“I hope that over time this library produces seeds that perform better in our local climate conditions than commercial varieties,” Myers tells. “I hope that this project allows folks to work together to increase local supplies of nutritious food while building community and an appreciation for our natural heritage.”
Seed Lending Project
Free admission • 2/22, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
New Hanover County Public Library
201 Chestnut Street
Andy Myers: 910-599-7447
Justine Roach: 910-798-6306