Welcome to the MV Community Seed Library!
A collaborative project of the West Tisbury Library, Island Grown Schools, Polly Hill Arboretum, Whippoorwill Farm, and local home gardeners, the Martha’s Vineyard Community Seed Library brings the knowledge of how to save seeds back to our island community while creating a central space where seeds can be freely shared. Over time we aim to create a locally adapted collection of seeds, and a community of growers engaged in the ancient practice of seed saving. By saving and sharing seeds, we can increase local food security, strengthen our sense of self reliance, and safeguard genetic diversity while honoring the age old tradition of passing down seeds from generation to generation.
How to Donate or "Return" Seeds
Although the West Tisbury Library building is currently closed, the seed library is still collecting seed returns and donations in a drop box on the front porch. Stop by during curbside hours to “return” the seeds you borrowed and/or donate your own locally saved seeds to this special collection.
Please help us grow and develop locally adapted varieties for our seed cabinet and share in the joy of producing locally grown food!
Please be sure to label your seeds and secure them in an envelope, bag, small container, etc. Printable seed labels are available here, and pre-printed seed labels on the library porch during curbside hours. Please contact us with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org, 508-693-3366.
Seed Libraries, A Short History
In the spring of 2014, Ken Greene, the founder of the country’s first community seed library, came to the Vineyard to help lead a seed saving workshop. Ken explained the concept of a seed library to us: create a central space where people can donate seeds to share, and “check out” seeds to plant in their own gardens, with the hopes they would again save seeds from those plants to return to the library at the end of the growing season. Seed libraries are a way to bring the ancient practice of seed saving back to a community, while, over time, developing a collection of seeds that are adapted to the local environment. There are now more than 300 seed libraries across the US.
Seed libraries are a vibrant part of the grassroots movement to rebuild local food systems and revitalize crop diversity. With the decline in locally based seed saving, sharing and selling and the rise of industrial agriculture, we lost 75% of global crop diversity in the 20th Century, and the stories, culinary traditions, and local adaptations each of those varieties represented. But since the mid-1980s, there has been a hopeful trend in the opposite direction—people bringing back rare varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, and livestock primarily through what Gary Nabhan calls “alternative food networks” in his beautiful and compelling piece Conservation You Can Taste. Nabhan estimates 15,000 varieties have returned to American growers and eaters over the last 25 years, thanks to the dedication of countless farmers, gardeners, chefs, and consumers.
Seed libraries are a vibrant part of these “alternative food networks,” and we were so inspired by the seed library movement that we decided to start one here on the Vineyard. The MV Community Seed Library is a collaboration with Island Grown Initiative, Polly Hill Arboretum, West Tisbury Library, Whippoorwill Farm, and a growing group of both long-time and first-time seed savers. Each year, we host seed saving and processing workshops, seed and seedling swaps, and maintain a small but growing seed collection in a card catalog downstairs in the library.
Resources, Guides, & Seed Labels
To learn more about seed libraries, please visit www.seedlibraries.org, www.richmondgrowsseeds.org, or www.seedlibraries.weebly.com, and please come by our own local seed library at the West Tisbury Library and become part of this movement yourself.