NOTABLE EDIBLE: Seed Collection

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Seed Collection Grows at Butte County Library

The Chico branch of the Butte County Library plans to seed a brand new collection—literally: the Chico Seed Lending Library (CSLL). Here’s how it will work. Home gardeners check out donated seeds, plant them, let some plants go to seed, and return the seeds to the library collection. No obligation, no fines—just opportunity. It’s a fairly new—and growing—concept, with around three dozen such collections in California, and in the case of Butte County, a collaboration between the Chico Permaculture Guild, the GRUB Education Project, and the Butte County Library.

Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper and Joan Bosque of the Permaculture Guild, Sherri Scott of GRUB Education Project, and Sarah Vantrease at Chico’s library have propagated the concept. Stephanie, Joan, and Sherri say the germ for the library grew from annual seed swaps held at GRUB. There, stories as well as seeds get exchanged. For example, two growers of one variety of German pole bean discovered each other and the stories behind each other’s family’s bean tradition. Joan terms it “an agrarian family tree”—an immediate life-affirming connection between the two. Chico Seed Lending Library will foster such community. Think of it as a hybrid of a traditional library. Libraries have long served as free and safe community gathering places that offer resources, say the women, and now Butte County Library’s Chico branch will add seeds, workshops, and videos on gardening and seed-saving to its book collection.

seed packet_72dpiAs the women have planned CSLL, their ideas have crossbred with others’. Hudson Valley Seed Library in New York State offers its seeds in packages designed by local artists, and then the original artwork blossoms into greeting cards sold to support the Library’s efforts. Because of Chico’s vibrant art community, this idea intrigues these local women. Their recent field trip to four Bay area seed libraries fertilized yet more ideas. Like many other seed libraries, Richmond’s version, Richmond Grows Seeds, has developed a community seed garden with signs to educate about seed saving techniques and explain those techniques used in the garden. When the women imagine the garden planned for 2014 onsite at Butte County Library’s Chico branch, well, let’s just say a whole seed tray of ideas germinates. Maybe the garden will also grow herbs and native plants; chefs and native plant groups might offer workshops on culinary herbs, plant dyes, and native foods; kids working in school gardens too might save and donate seeds.

To inaugurate the bank, local farmers and gardeners will donate. Kalan Redwood, who grows regionally adapted seeds in her family’s Manton business Redwood Seeds, is on board, as are Synergy Seeds in Willow Creek and Sierra Seed Cooperative east on the San Juan ridge. CSLL’s Facebook page is already posting information on how to save all kinds of easy-to-save seeds so that even gardeners new to seed saving can contribute.

Although CSLL may sound like a full-grown resource, it’s a seed treasure looking to be cracked open. On July 31 at 5:30 pm at the Butte County Library Chico branch, CSLL will hold a produce swap that will double as an interest meeting. Bring something grown from your garden or just come and broadcast your interest and ideas.

To learn more or to volunteer (for example, the group needs help creating their online educational videos), follow Chico Seed Lending Library on Facebook or email chicoseedlibrary@gmail.com.

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