Seed Savers Mission
Why did WCPL become a partner in lending seeds?
by Will Stein, Reference Librarian
The Vital Importance of Seeds
Seeds are artifacts. In fact, they are one of the oldest artifacts known to man. Mankind’s ability to propagate plant from seed and to save seeds to ensure future propagation marks the beginning of civilization. Let it also be said that the ownership of the seeds that supply us our crops is a fundamental right.
Why Do Seeds Belong in a Library?
Like museums, libraries are in the business of preserving artifacts. Unlike museums, libraries—at least the public library—make their artifacts available for circulation to the public. Traditionally, the artifacts made available through libraries have been through the medium of the written or spoken word, visual images, and sound recordings. Seed lending libraries have been around for several years and have spread all over the world. Seedlibraries.net has a list of more than 500 of our sister seed libraries.
Seeds are part of our cultural heritage.
The importance of the burgeoning seed saving movement cannot be overstated. Seeds are part of our cultural heritage. If your great-great grandparents came into this country, as mine did in the late 1800’s, chances are they brought seeds with them. Some concealed these seeds in ingenious ways in order to get them into the country. These seeds had been cultivated by the family for generations, making them family heirlooms. These days, fewer people grow their own food and this legacy has been lost. Walking down the aisles of the local grocery store or, better yet, the local farmer’s market, seeing shelves and bins piled high with produce, you may not be aware of what you are missing. But the fact is we have fewer varieties available from seed now than were available a hundred years ago.
Reclaiming a legacy of food: caretakers vs. renters.
According to Jannise Ray, author of the recently published The Seed Underground: a growing revolution to save food , farmers and gardeners a century ago had five times the possibilities of what to plant. The culprits are large seed producing conglomerates which are genetically modifying seed to meet the demands of agribusiness. As Ray points out, because of genetic modification farmers have shifted from “caretakers” of heritage seeds to “renters” of genetic material in the form of high-tech seeds. This is because, like software companies, seed manufacturers like Monsanto reserve the rights to the seeds they sell. ‘Seeds have always had value, but the legal right to plant is a new phenomenon—thanks to “G.M.” or genetically modified seeds.’
Why did tomatoes taste better when I was a kid?
Genetically modified produce is designed to meet the demands of the producer rather than the end user. While GM results in higher yields and makes it easier to store and ship tomatoes, for example, we all know that the perfectly shaped, brightly colored tomatoes we purchase at the local supermarket don’t really taste like tomatoes. Large yields result in lack of diversity. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange wrote, in its 2013 catalog:
“Unless we have genetic diversity in our food crops, our food supply is vulnerable to epidemics. This has been a repeated lesson of agricultural history. The Irish potato famine of the mid-1840s and the U.S. corn blight epidemic of 1970 were both examples of the dangers of lack of genetic diversity. In 1970, nearly 80% of the U.S. corn crop was planted in hybrids containing a genetic trait that made the crop vulnerable. Our country came close to losing our entire hybrid corn crop, but all the open-pollinated varieties resisted the blight.”
Washington County is a leader in sustainable agriculture.
Washington County has a long-established tradition when it comes to the sustainability issue. Appalachian Sustainable Development has historically worked with farmers and timber owners to ensure good yields and local distribution. Lately ASD has been working with schools and local organizations to encourage development of small gardens for education and as an entrepreneurial venture.
We encourage you to become a part of the seed saving revolution. You can sign up in the main library or use our online application. Call us at 276-676-6298 or use our Ask a Librarian form for more information.
“The science (and business) of sowing seed,” Interview with Jannise Ray by Kai Ryssdal. Marketplace for Monday, September 17, 2012: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/science-and-business-sowing-seeds
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, 2013 Catalog and Garden Guide