Seed Libraries where library members can “borrow” fruit and veg seeds for free

Public libraries across the US are offering library members free fruit and vegetable seeds to promote sustainability.

Known as seed libraries, these collections of complimentary seed packets are being made available in hundreds of libraries across the country. While some institutions simply give the packets away to library card holders, others allow them to be “checked out” with the understanding that the seeds of any future plants will be returned to the library.

A seed library is a place where community members can get seeds for free or for a nominal fee and is run for the public benefit. Many seed libraries are open in public libraries and community centres, and are run by nonprofits, clubs, or school groups.

The Seed Library Social Network, an online resource for anyone wanting to set up their own seed library, said: “For some communities, getting folks to garden and grow some of their own food is the focus. For other communities, seed libraries may be created as an important step to develop a network of seed savers, to create locally adapted varieties, to respond proactively to climate change or loss of gene integrity due to GMOs or to preserve genetic diversity. Seed saving is something humans have done for over 10,000 years.”

The Seed Library Social Network came into being in 2011 after seed enthusiasts in the US came together to connect similar programmes and share tips with other seed savers. Instrumental in the creation of the Network is Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in Richmond, California.

Housed at the Richmond Public Library, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library allows visitors to “borrow” seeds for free. The basic is idea being is that the borrower plant the seeds, let some go to  seed, then return some of these next generation seeds for others to borrow.

Rebecca Newburn, co-founder of the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, told Atlas Obscura: “It’s great if we have all this sustainability, but unless we have access to seeds, all the other aspects of sustainable agriculture really don’t mean anything.”

Just a handful of public library seed programmes existed around the US in 2010, when Rebecca Newburn, a middle school science teacher and urban gardener, helped introduce the concept to her local library. The following year, she and her collaborators posted the framework for their seed programme online for others to replicate, before creating the online resource, The Seed Library Social Network.

In less than a decade, Rebecca Newburn’s list of seed libraries has grown to include around 500 programmes from Oakland to Dallas to Martha’s Vineyard, and many more are in the development stage. She hopes that as numbers of seed libraries increase nationwide, so too will understanding of ecological issues.

The Seed Library Social Network

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at 


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