On Monday, January 21 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), Hennepin County libraries are closed.
People have always been able to go to the library for books about vegetable gardening. Now they can go to the library to get seeds for planting.
Library and Plant Grow Share staff and volunteers at Hennepin County Library—Hosmer are wrapping up their first spring of sorting, packaging and distributing seeds. The seeds have been donated by seed companies, the community organization Plant Grow Share, neighborhood gardeners, and even one patron’s father, who sent his extras from North Dakota. So far this spring, the library has distributed more than 200 packets of seeds – cucumbers, beans, peas, okra and more.
This is the only seed library in the Hennepin County system – for now.
The library system isn’t necessarily in the business of distributing gardening supplies, as such. But the seed library fulfills other aspects of the library system’s work: lifelong learning, community engagement and encouraging both self-sufficiency and a sharing economy.
“At the library, we see this as extension of our core mission of empowering the community through information, and community connection and resource-sharing,” said Chip Gehring, adult and teen services librarian.
Seed sharing cooperatives were illegal until a few years ago. Duluth Public Library successfully sought legislation to repeal Minnesota Department of Agriculture rules that prohibited transferring seeds without sanctioned testing and labeling. They lobbied for a change to the law. The State Legislature approved the change, and Gov. Mark Dayton signed the legislation in May 2015.
Staff and volunteers at Hosmer work with the Plant Grow Share group, part of the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization. Volunteers gather monthly to sort, package and label seeds. The finished packets go into an old card catalog case on the library’s main floor.
Volunteer Shannon Nordby (pictured above) enlisted students in her urban farming class at Roosevelt High School to help with the sorting. It was a good learning experience, she said, to talk with students about what kind of information gardeners would need them to include on the packets.
“It’s so great for us to have this in our community,” she said. “Seeds hold knowledge. For people to grow their own food is a step toward freedom.”
Gehring said they hope to continue to connect educational and community-building programs to the seed library. Some of the early conversations have been about connecting gardening to cultural heritage, making links between generations and providing support for both beginning and veteran gardeners.
Right from the start, though, library patrons have created community over the seeds.
“It’s just been cool to see the conversations the seed library sparks with staff or the other patrons,” Gehring said, recalling the bonding that occurs over the seed library’s catalog box. “One day, there were five patrons making connections, and having a very rich conversation about gardening.”
Donors can drop off seeds, and gardeners can pick up seeds during Hosmer Library hours.
Join us for seed sorting parties on Sundays, June 3, July 1 and Aug. 5, 2-4 p.m.