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Back to May 2014 Newsletter

Victoria Seed Library

One of the many Community Seed Libraries popping up across the country of late, the Victoria Seed Library officially launched its collection through Victoria Public Library branches in March of this year. It appears in the library’s main entrance on the second Saturday of each month – a table covered in seeds for loan and a variety of resources for potential seed savers. The location generates plenty of foot traffic and opportunities for Seed Library volunteers to engage in conversation with public library patrons.  

The Seed Library – a partnership between LifeCycles and the Greater Victoria Public Library – runs monthly orientation sessions for new and potential members where they talk about the origins and goals of the project, reflect on the motivations for seed saving, teach basic crop growing and seed saving techniques, and cover information on accessing the seed library as well as the rights and responsibilities of membership.  Members have also been invited to take part in a three-part workshop series entitled “How to Sow. How to Grow. How to Know.”

“I'm excited to see the project getting a lot of positive response in the larger community. Our press release has been picked up by a number of newspapers. It's reaching a larger audience & getting attention in a lot of places where our work [at Lifecycles] doesn't usually get attention,” says Matthew Kemshaw, the project's co-founder.

The library currently holds approximately 50 varieties of seed in its collection, representing 12 different crop species. Members can take out up to six varieties of seed each season, and loans are tracked fairly simply, using Google spreadsheets. By offering community members free access to the tools and knowledge they need to grow locally adapted vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, the seed library hopes to encourage and support local food security and the increased stewardship of their region’s biodiversity.

The Seed Library is run by a group of volunteers self-organized into a number of project teams:

  • The Seed Research Group is focusing on the ‘which’ and ‘how’ of acquiring new seed (with an emphasis on the beginner-friendly crops of tomatoes, beans and lettuce)
  • Another project team is handling tracking and organization systems to manage inventory and circulation, including the development of criteria to accept seed. They’re exploring the idea of maintaining two parallel collections:  a primary collection for seed they’re confident will grow true, and a secondary collection for seeds of less certain quality or purity which will operate as a more informal seed swap bin.
  • A third team is putting together a catalogue for the library.
  • An administrative team is helping with data entry and developing paper resources for patrons as well as communications to members and the larger community.

Matthew Kemshaw, LifeCycles’ Urban Agriculture Coordinator, provides staff support. In addition to the Seed Library, their urban agriculture projects include community gardens, an orchard project, a growing schools project, and a fruit-tree project that harvests and redistributes fruit from back yards.

Matthew expresses a lot of enthusiasm for the Seed Library and its potential. “A larger audience is recognizing this is a really great project and something that’s really good for the community,” he says. The Seed Library had a couple hundred participants show up for their official launch event in April and had to add a second orientation session to accommodate all the interest generated.

The Victoria Seed Library is one of 18 seed library projects being supported by Seeds of Diversity Canada, through funding provided by the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.


Back to May 2014 Newsletter

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