Seed Swap comes to Dunham library

By Ruby Irene Pratka – Local Journalism Initiative

Aspiring gardeners will soon be able to get more than how-to books at the Dunham Library. On March 19, the library will launch its Troc-sémences/Seed Swap initiative, allowing cardholders to take out small packets of local seeds.

According to Ève Sano-Gélinas, recreation, tourism and cultural activities coordinator, library members will be able to choose from a range of vegetable, flower and herb seeds sourced from local suppliers. “We’ll give out the seeds and a kit with instructions about how to harvest seeds [at the end of the season] and bring them back,” says Sano-Gélinas. “It’s this whole concept of taking, planting and giving back.”

The seed library is made possible by a small investment from the town of Dunham, a partnership with the MRC Brome-Missisquoi, local suppliers who have made seeds available for free or at a discount, and the contribution of several volunteers, according to Sano-Gélinas. Seeds will be available from March through September. The library will also offer a series of free public gardening workshops. Although only library cardholders may take out seeds, the workshops are open to anyone and everyone.

According to an information document made available by the library, the initiative aims to “build a collection that contributes to the security” of regional plant varieties by “circulating heritage varieties, privileging open-pollination species.” Open-pollinated varieties allow gardeners to save viable seeds from one year to the next – and to replenish the seed library.

Sano-Gélinas says the idea of a seed library was first proposed several years ago by France Bergeron, an artist, art therapist and gardener based in Frelighsburg.

“I heard of the concept many years ago when it was being done in some libraries in Montreal,” says Bergeron. “As an art therapist, I’ve held many workshops at the Dunham library…I mentioned the idea to Ève [Sano-Gélinas] and that was basically how it happened.” She says a library, a public place where books and other historical documents are kept safe, is a natural place to keep seeds safe.

Bergeron sees the seed library as a step toward food security and a kind of food resilience that will become increasingly necessary in a changing world. “In the context of the climate crisis and the pandemic, food security is something that we do have to think about,” she says. “People were really worried last year [about the food supply chain] and we’ve all seen the rise in food prices.”
For her, planting a garden is a way to preserve heirloom species and ensure the quality and quantity of the vegetables she cooks with for years to come. “I’m taking things into my own hands – if there’s a real problem, I can count on my carrots,” she says. “Gardening is fun, but it’s not only fun.”

Sano-Gélinas hopes the program will be able to give rise to a self-replenishing seed bank, and pique people’s curiosity about plants and seeds. “We want to create a culture of taking the seeds out, bringing seeds back at the end of the season, generating and regenerating [the seed supply],” she says. “We want people to try new things and not just to throw their seeds in the compost – look up what you can do with them first. We also want to make people curious about food self-sufficiency.”

For more information about the Troc-sémences/Seed Swap initiative at the Dunham library, follow the Bibliothèque et Centre d’art de Dunham Facebook page or contact Ève Sano-Gélinas directly at 450 521-8025.

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