Mason’s Capital Area District Library has announced its third annual One Seed One State initiative which provides free seeds for the month while supplies last to encourage growing and saving seeds.
In collaboration with the MI Seed Library Network, multiple CADL branches have become Seed Libraries providing seeds brought in by local gardeners to teach the community about growing for a nutritious benefit.
Before seed libraries were a thing, the MI Seed Library Network was founded in 2017 by Bevin Cohen, a founding member and president of the organization. Initially the network was a database of information through his work at Small House Farm, a village farm located in Sanford, Michigan. Traveling around the state to offer educational programs, Cohen noticed that many libraries were interested in having seed libraries.
“I had found that I was answering a lot of the same questions for everybody that were interested in. ‘What is the seed library?’ ‘How does the seed library start?’ I thought if there’s a central place where all this information was at, it would be helpful for everybody so that was kind of the impetus for the MI Seed Library network,” Cohen said.
The project started like a Facebook group where people could share ideas. After its success it officially turned into the MI Seed Library Network. Library branches can find out how to become a seed library, organize seed events, and use interactive maps to find other seed libraries in Michigan.
The transition to the ‘One Seed, One State’ initiative began from a seed library summit that Cohen and other network members attended in California.
A program called one seed, one community was started by one of the seed libraries. It wanted to share seeds among the community so everyone had a shared experience of learning to grow that particular seed and save for a harvest.
“Some of the people from the Michigan State library network that were with me were librarians and here in Michigan we have a thing called ‘One Book, One State’ which is a very similar thing to highlight one book for all the libraries of the state. It’s kind of a shared experience, so we thought what if we take those two ideas and put them together and do One Seed, One State where we can have one variety that we share with libraries all over the state,” Cohen said.
The One Seed One State initiative was announced in 2019. COVID denied its start until 2021 when 63 libraries participated.
The featured seed always has a connection to Michigan. It’s a great opportunity for seed libraries to offer a shared experience and for the network to help new members by providing packets and posters to offer to the community.
This year’s seed is the Grand Rapids Lettuce seed, named after Eugene Davis, a Grand Rapids native known in the 1800s as “the father of forced lettuce.” According to the CADL seed library, the name came from “The greenhouse winter lettuce industry in Grand Rapids that supplied the Great Lakes region and beyond for decades.”
The Capital Area District Library in Mason was an early participant in the network.
“We’ve worked with the Capital Area District Library a number of different ways. They’ve always been big supporters of our programs, they’ve helped sponsor our website in the past and help us cover some of the costs of hosting. We do a lot of programming for them and some of the librarians have presented at our seed library summit, so we have a great relationship with the Capital Area District Library just to collaborate with them a lot,” Cohen said.
Heather Goupil, head librarian in Mason, said becoming a seed library has increased visitors to the library.
“CADL seed sharing numbers rose from five branches sharing 2,400 seed packets in 2021, to six branches sharing over 8,000 seeds in 2022, and this year we have over 15,000 packets to share at nine locations,” Goupil said.
A seed library provides seeds that you can have to start growing. This can benefit local gardeners who can now receive seeds with no cost. The MI Seed Library Network has partnered up with numerous public libraries across Michigan to expand information to local residents on how to raise seeds and l garden in a sustainable way.
John Takif, Capital Area District librarian, said,
“We have a bunch of free seeds, actually, not just the Grand Rapids …we have flowers, we have vegetables, we have herbs, we are also having a few gardening related activities. We have a gardening related program coming up,” Takif said.
According to CADL’s Seed Library, members are able to borrow seeds from April till May while supplies last. Other locations participating in the initiative can be found through the MI Seed Library Network.