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Seed library gearing up for new season in Campbell River

Greenways Land Trust partnering with Campbell River Library for 2024 season
Campbell River Librarian Arjia Fisher started the seed library during the pandemic. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

As the weather warms up, Campbell Riverites with green thumbs are starting to get the itch.

To help gardeners with their seeds this year, the Campbell River branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library has partnered with Greenways Land Trust to expand the seed library program. The idea is that people can bring seeds in to donate, and librarian Arjia Fisher and her team will sort the seeds into manageable packages, then the seeds will be available for gardeners to pick up and use.

“A lot of library systems, not just in B.C. but in North America … have what they call ‘alternative lending libraries,” Fisher said. “These are collections of items that might be willing to share, but not necessarily own themselves. One of those examples is seeds.”

“Our purpose as an institution is to help share things and provide alternative avenues to just purchasing something,” she said. “As the cost of living has gotten higher, and as people are looking for a bit more green in their lives … I just thought this was a really good opportunity.”

Fisher said she started the seed library in 2022, and the program has grown every year since then.

“I had a regular customer of ours who is part of the Campbell River gardening club. She was in the process of helping put together a community garden at her kids’ elementary school. She did an initial donation of seeds, and helped me talk to West Coast Seeds about getting donations,” she said. “It turned out to be incredibly popular. I actually hit a point where before the end of planting season I ran out completely.”

Now as the program is about to start its third year, Greenways Land Trust has gotten involved.

“I like to go to the library with my kids and I noticed that it was there and I thought ‘hat a cool thing. I’m so happy that this is in the library’,” said Jeff Groat from Greenways. “Our food security projects are very much geared through land use and gardens. It just seemed like a good idea.

“It’s something I had thought about us doing already, and it’s something we’d tried before, but just couldn’t get off the ground,” he said. “Why reinvent the wheel when we can just combine our resources?”

The partnership will help the two groups combine resources and improve the quality of the seed library as a whole.

“We thought we could help out and be a part of it,” said Groat. “Never mind our volunteers … We’ve got a lot of resources of people who are already doing these things, so it just seems like a good match to bring it all together. “

Part of the goal is to also promote seed diversity through seed saving. About one third of the seeds that come in were grown and saved by local gardeners.

“Because of the state of the world, how seeds are produced and capitalism and all that stuff, there’s a huge diversity loss among seeds,” Groat said. “There used to be so many thousands of varieties of tomatoes … and all that’s getting lost as bigger seed producers streamline and pick hybrids that they know sell well. It’s at the risk of losing all this genetic diversity … If we can do one small thing to help preserve some of these seeds that are starting to be locally adapted … that will hopefully bring a bit of security and stability to our local food.”

Fisher said that even over the past few years, she’s seen some seeds she’s never heard of. Things like orach. She’s also seen people of all ages taking part in seed saving and sharing.

“I got my favourite donation ever at last year’s Seedy Saturday event,” she said. “There was a 10 year old boy who walked up with his grandmother with several bags that he had very happily helped her gather from their garden … It was so fun for him to hand those bags to me and say how he got to help.”

Fisher said they would like seeds that are fresh within the last few years, and she would be happy to get seeds that are locally adapted, particularly for flowers.

“And as a personal plea from me, no more kale,” she added.

People can drop off donations any time at the library desk. The seed library will be open after the frost ends and people are able to plant.

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Greenways Land Trust helps students start native plant seeds