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How to Grow: Seed Swapping
Learn about seed swapping including information on heirloom seeds and seed libraries
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On a cold, snowy night in February, I was invited to the Jericho Town Library to talk about seed saving. But this wasn’t your regular home gardener audience. These gardeners have created a seed library.
The premise of the seed library is quite simple. Like with books, you go in and “take out” some seeds. However, at the end of the season you deposit seed of that variety back into the library for others to try. There are more than 400 libraries around the country now offering seed to borrow with a growing number in Vermont, too. Of course, the borrowers need to have information on how to grow and save seeds, and that’s where local experts come in. The idea was spurred from a desire to save old heirloom varieties that might not continue to be available from the commercial seed trade. And it’s a great way to help people learn how to grow their own food.
There are a few large seed banks that offer seed for sale as well a swapping amongst their members. Hudson Valley Seed Bank started as a seed library in Gardiner, New York. It’s since expanded into a small heirloom seed company.
Probably the grand daddy of all the seed saving organizations is Seed Savers Exchange. What started in the 1970s as a simple way for gardeners around the country to exchange favorite vegetable varieties, has grown into an organization that spearheads the preservation of thousands of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower varieties. They also offer seeds for sale, but the heart of the organization is the annual yearbook. It lists members who have seed varieties to swap. Although the Seed Savers farm is in Decorah, Iowa, it’s these members around the globe who really are the back bone of the organization.