Image credit: BASIL (Bay Area Seed Interchange Library)
We already know that saving seeds is critical to fighting climate change, yet seed libraries can prove tough to maintain. But what exactly is a seed library, and how can you use one? Here's a great primer on one such project in Berkeley. Could our public libraries get in on the act too?
Run by volunteers as a fiscally-sponsored project of the Berkeley Ecology Center, the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) seems to be about as close to a true library model as you can get. Seeds are made available free of charge to members, but those members are asked in return to "grow out" those seeds and return some of the same variety to the library at the end of the season.
The idea is to maintain seeds not as a preserved snapshot of a particular genetic moment in time, but rather as a living, evolving resource that adapts to the conditions, climate and even cultural circumstances (think organic growing methods versus conventional, for example) that they find themselves in.
As the orientation video below shows, seeds are organized both by plant families, and by ease of seed saving—so newbies can start out with fool-proof varieties to ensure both motivation in their first years (there's nothing worse than starting out with failure), but also to try to maintain the success and genetic accuracy of the library. (Some plants may be easy to grow, but due to cross-pollination may be a nightmare for saving "true" seeds.)
It occurs to me, watching this video, that the "library" is much more than just an analogy here. Maybe our public libraries should be incorporating seed saving into their remit?
More on Seed Saving and Genetic Diversity
Untouchable Organic Seed Bank: Saving Seeds and Empowering Women
Saving Seeds is Critical to Fighting Climate Change
Seed Libraries Prove Tough to Sprout
Massive Russian Seed Bank at Risk of Demolition