Seed library open for business

bbashioum@demo-mo.comApril 4, 2014 

This spring, there’s more things than just books being checked out at the library.

The Cass County Public Library’s Harrisonville branch is budding with excitement as spring is in the air with a new kind of exchange program, dubbed “The Seed Library.”

The library, located at 400 E. Mechanic, is currently offering more than 75 varieties of heirloom, organic seeds for patrons to plant in their gardens.

Librarian Karen Allen said the seed exchange has been available for about two weeks and is already seeing a positive involvement turnout.

Patrons can check out up to six packets per library visit using their Cass County library card. The patron’s library card must be in good-standing to participate.

The seeds were acquired from the Herman’s Garden Seed Savers program in Decorah, Iowa, as part of the farm’s not-for-profit Seed Savers Exchange program.

The exchange has been promoting the preservation and utilization of heirloom varieties for 37 years.

Every year, thousands of seed varieties are exchanged among backyard preservationists for a variety of reasons, such as connecting to our garden heritage, finding varieties suited to a particular region, enjoying the diversity of heirloom varieties, and sourcing material to use in localized breeding projects.

These preservation methods keep many open-pollinated and heirloom varieties circulating in the hands of gardeners and farmers, making them available to everyone.

Harrisonville is the first branch in Cass County to try out the program after their librarian saw the idea on an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes television program.

Allen recruited help from Harrisonville’s Master Gardeners and other volunteers to get the program set-up at the library.

If all goes well, library leaders hope to expand the seed library to other branches in their system.

Using the seed library in Harrisonville is easy, Allen said.

The program is set-up so patrons can come into the library, check-out the seeds, grow their crop, harvest, and then return seeds for the coming year.

Accompanying the seeds, a gardening display is also set up at the library’s check-out desk.

“We have everything from Country Gentleman Corn introduced in 1890 with its white shoe peg kernels, to Riesentraube Tomatoes and Velvet Queen Sunflowers,” Allen said. “Seed sharing enriches our community, promotes good health and preserves our age-old gardening heritage.”

In addition to flowers, there are also herb, fruit and vegetable seeds available.

There is no charge to participate, but Allen is strongly encouraging users to bring back seeds at the end of the season.

Per program rules, participants are not allowed to sell their produce.

“We hope that once the growing season is over, the patrons will harvest the plant’s seeds and return these seeds to the Harrisonville Public Library for future growing seasons,” she said.

As the growing season progresses, Allen said the library also plans to host some gardening programs for participants – including a lesson on how to save the seeds for next year in the fall and possibly a taste-testing opportunity once the produce is ripe and ready.

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