Vegetable and herb seeds will be available at Stratford library

Thanks to a partnership between the Local Community Food Centre (LCFC) and the Stratford Public Library, a new seed library is set to take root.

Following its launch Wednesday evening, the seed library will allow gardeners to “check out” packets of seeds for a variety of vegetables and herbs and grow them in their home or community gardens – as long as they promise to donate the seeds from their harvest to the library’s collection.

“People are growing out seeds in their garden plots, so at the end of the year they can save the seeds, and then they can plant them again next year or they can share them with their seed library,” said Katie Mcleod, the LCFC’s greenhouse coordinator. “So it’s looking at the whole cycle of gardening, and rather than going out and buying seeds, you can learn how to save seeds.”

As it turns out, the practice of saving seeds has a number of benefits over buying them commercially.

“As the generations of seeds go out and come back in, we develop varieties that are hearty to the region,” said Derek Barnes, the LCFC’s manager of community outreach and communications. “So commercial seeds that are conducive to temperature variances and pests – we’re now developing seed varieties that are specifically suitable for our region.

“…And you don’t get that otherwise because people are buying from the store, and those are shipped from who knows where.”

Saving and sharing seeds, Barnes continued, is also a great way to get to know the neighbours, learn from one another, and even save a little money, as the seeds from the library are free of charge and a library card is not required.

The seed library can also offer varieties of seeds that aren’t commercially available.

“The heirloom seeds… would have been used in previous generations – so for instance by Canadian settlers or Indigenous people,” said Robyn Godfrey, adults collection and outreach librarian at the Stratford Public Library. “So they hope to have them open pollinated, non-GMO, non-pesticide.”

“There’s one man who’s involved in our garden who is going to use seeds from his late mother – he’s going to plant tomato seeds she had saved before she passed away,” Mcleod added. “So these seeds are really important to him, and he’s going to sort of continue his mother’s legacy.”

To get Stratford’s collection started, both Mcleod and Godfrey reached out to organizations in the U.S. that donate seeds to new seed libraries. Now, with approximately 150 seed packets in its collection, the seed library will allow gardeners to begin planting in the spring. Come harvest season, donations to the seed library can be dropped off at the LCFC, where staff and volunteers will sort and package them.

Both the LCFC and the library will also have resources, experts and training available to ensure even the most amateur gardeners will know what to do with the seeds they check out.

“There’s a binder here available at the library for anyone who wants to get further information, which includes a reading list that Katie provided,” Godfrey said. “…The book list is available on our online catalogue. The books we’ve selected are specifically about growing your own food, growing heirloom seeds and saving seeds.”

The LCFC will also be running a number of programs intended to help gardeners make good use of the seed library.

At the seed library’s launch event Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Mcleod will kick off the Stratford library’s Let’s Do It series with a presentation on microgreens.

“What people need to know is that people can learn to grow them at home. They’re very simple to grow, it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, you can grow them on your countertop, and we’re going to talk about why they’re good for you,” Mcleod said.