Around the globe, seed lending libraries have been sprouting up in public libraries. The seed libraries function very much like regular libraries, except instead of books, you check out seeds and bring them back once you’ve harvested them. These programs aim to improve access to seeds and preserve seeds for future generations. Seed libraries are just one way people can share seeds. Other ways include hosting informal, community-based seed swaps and creating open-source licenses for seeds, as the German nonprofit OpenSourceSeeds did.
« This is important because we are living in a time of not only privatization of genetic resources, but the monopolization of genetic resources, » say Dr. Johannes Kotschi, one the leaders at OpenSourceSeeds. « Big companies, they are interested in producing few varieties and extending and distributing these varieties for large acreages — the larger the acreage, the larger their return through royalties. But what we need is diversity in production, diversity in genetic resources, and we need diversity in breeders. »
They started small. Rebecca Newburn estimates that her seed library, the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in California, was the sixth to sprout up in the country and one of the first in a public library when she started it in 2010. Just three years later, Newburn says, these libraries are “going fungal.” There are over 90 seed libraries today.