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New seed library in Cowichan hopes to grow attention, and more local gardeners

Cowichan’s library branch in Duncan allows patrons to check out seeds with their reads with new initiative

For those who have shelved stepping inside their local library lately as the weather warms, you might be surprised what’s available to check out: seeds.

In partnership with Cowichan Food Hub, and Westcoast seeds the Cowichan Library in Duncan has joined several other branches in offering seed libraries, officially opening theirs on April 28.

This is the second seed library to be founded by customer services librarian Dalia Levy of the Cowichan Branch.

“I started a trend of seed libraries at Vancouver Island Regional Library with the opening of the Nanaimo Harbourfront seed library during the pandemic in April 2021,” said Levy. “A local food revolution begins with seeds! The Cowichan Seed Library is an offering to the community, connecting local growers with locally adapted seeds. We invite all community members to contribute local non-GMO seeds and also to come and take seeds to grow out in their gardens. This is an excellent opportunity to support local seed sovereignty and increase the collective seed bank in our region.”

READ MORE: ‘Seed library’ created at VIRL’s Nanaimo Harbourfront branch

Levy shares that across the vastness of Vancouver Island from Haida Gwaii to North Saanich, and Sidney there are several different climates and bio-regions in need of local, viable seeds to encourage biodiversity and food security that has become threatened by the converging issues of our time. During a time of climate emergency, resilient crops and plants that can withstand change are required.

Records show that in 1950, 85 per cent of the food consumed by islanders was grown here. Present day that number has dropped significantly down to 10 per cent. Helping to get the bulb rolling, for this new year-round venture at Cowichan library, Farm Hub donated 100 packets of seeds from their own stock which included everything from tomatoes, to beans like lentils and squash, as well as marigolds, bok choy, kale, peas, and tomatillos.

“There’s a real mix of diversity,” said Levy. “Free accessible seeds is one more way we can encourage patrons to engage in life-long learning in a truly empowering and hopeful way.”

The library is also encouraging community members to give any seeds they can spare, and will accept any variety of non-GMO clean, and dried food crops, herbs or flower seeds that are labelled and less than two years old. Much of the flower and vegetable seed inventory to date has been donated. The practice of seed saving is one that is encouraged, and any extras in hand can be donated back to the the library to ensure they have stock for the next gardener looking to nurture their own nature.

A library card is all one needs, to snap up some seeds, and satisfy green thumbs. Levy said even those without a fixed address can get an access card, and late fees are now a thing of the past. Available to avid or green gardeners are book lists and materials to empower, inspire, and educate those wanting to get their hands dirty, even if proactive planters begin with just a few pots to start.

“We want as many people as possible to be a cardholder at VIRL and receive the plethora of benefits,” said Levy. “We’ve got you covered with the information you need so you’re set up for success and seeds don’t go to waste. My hope is for the seed library to herald a new community of local gardeners, urban ag enthusiasts, seed savers and farmers of all ages, in turn, increasing food security in our region especially for families where one in six face food insecurity with grocery store prices not returning to what they were pre-pandemic. “

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