“Little Free Seed Libraries” are Sprouting Up to Help Gardeners Share Seeds in Troubled Times

June 16, 2020 at 1:19 pm




Take a packet, leave a packet. Little free libraries now offer seeds to help preserve biodiversity and food security.




“Little free libraries” have expanded their inventories to include local, heirloom seeds.

Around a decade ago, hundreds of public libraries around the country started offering free seed exchanges, as an effort to preserve crop varieties that might be lost forever if not shared.

Now that public libraries are closed due to coronavirus, the effort has gone rogue, popping up in the form of “little free seed libraries” in urban and suburban yards around the country.

“We’ve been adding to our garden every year – especially this year – and we have a lot of extra seeds, so we thought it’d be nice to share,” Lindsey Werkhoven of Seattle tells her local news station.

In exchange, her neighbors are leaving all kinds of new seed varieties for her garden.

In Minnesota, the Deluth Community Garden Program has set up four little free seed libraries around the city.

“Food security is definitely threatened for a lot of our community members,” Program Director Megan Wilder says. “People have less income because of financial constraints because of Covid-19. Also, we are seeing supply chains get stressed and we may not have items in grocery stores that we normally would.”

In Nova Scotia, Canada, an activist has build a little free “plant” library, which offers an exchange of already-sprouted seedlings.

“I was getting transplants and they come in packs of six,” she said. “I’d want three types of tomatoes but I didn’t want that many tomatoes. I didn’t want to throw them away and trying to arrange to meet people was becoming difficult so I just kind of said I’ll set this up at the end of the driveway and put it out there and whoever wants to stop by can take them. I may have six tomatoes and you guys may have six cucumbers so it makes more sense to just trade them.”

Saving seeds is also a way of promoting plant and food biodiversity at a time when just four companies — Corteva, ChemChina, Bayer and BASF — control 60 percent of the global seed market

Corporate control and patenting of seeds could lead to further losses of crop diversity, as companies focus on just a few crop varieties, such as corn, wheat and soy.