Seed Libraries Newsletter
Cool Beans!
 August 2015 - Issue #7
Tomato Festival   
A Great Way to Find Varieties that Work & Save Local Seed

Richmond Grows' Tomato Festival - Richmond, Calif.
  Summeris a great time to host a Tomato Festival.* Have a celebration of locally grown, open-pollinated varieties with a tasting followed by a super easy seed saving class or work party to process all of the uneaten tomatoes (or the uncut tomato on each plate). All of the resources and suggestions on how to host a Tomato Festival are at
*Sorry Southern Hemisphere folks for the northern bias. I'll try to remember to put a link in again during your summer.
** Please check about health or other regulations  for a tasting. If regulations forbid it or are too much, you can have it as a private event with gardening friends.
Seed Library Summit - Vandana Shiva
National Heirloom Expo, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Wed., Sept. 9th 4-6PM
Free with cost of Expo admission 
Register for summit here
The Heirloom Expo is coming to Santa Rosa September 8, 9 and 10. Wednesday afternoon, all the seed libraries at the Expo will gather for a meeting from 4-6 PM to get to know one another and discuss our ideas, and the comings and goings of seed libraries today. After our Wednesday afternoon meeting and some time to eat, Dr. Vandana Shiva and others will be part of a seed library panel on the Expo's calendar - we're sure it's a not to be missed event.


The Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) will have a booth in Grace Pavilion, the hall with the most traffic and exposure. We invite ANY other seed library to participate at our booth! It is already paid for. If your library can afford it, we would be happy to accept donations to ameliorate our costs, but what we really want is for the people from other libraries to help us person the booth during the hours the Expo is open.


This is a fabulous opportunity to build bridges between different seed libraries and to put faces to the libraries we see in other cities. Write to and ask to be on our calendar; keep my cell number handy at the Expo as well, 310.722.3656. Even just a couple of hours would be helpful and you can put out fliers or other material for your library too! We won't really get a schedule made up until we are there and see which times each of us will want to attend which presentations.


- David King, Chair, SLOLA, Los Angeles, California, USA 

Help Us Name the Seed Library Organization
Since the International Seed Library Forum in May, a group of folks have been meeting to create an international seed library organization. If you have ideas for the name of the organization, you can send your submissions to In an upcoming Cool Beans! issue, we'll probably have a list of a few of the top picks to select from.  Here are some of the words we brainstormed using, but you can definitely use other words too: International , Community , Seed Libraries , Global , World / Worldwide, Coalition , Network, Sharing , Open Source, Commons , Diversity, Cultivating , Abundance, Heritage , Movement, Association , Alliance, Action 
Legal Issues Update 
 Overview: Neil Thapar (SELC), Betsy Goodman (Common Soil Seed Library), and Joy Hought (Native Seeds/SEARCH) attended the American Association of Seed Control Officials (AASCO) meeting to propose our amendment exempting seed libraries from commercial seed law. Although AASCO wasn't ready to adopt our amendment, many were supportive of what we do and others wanted more information. A working committee that includes AASCO, seed library and ASTA (Am. Seed Trade Assoc.) members has been established to come up with a proposal that will be reviewed and voted upon at the AASCO 2016 meeting.

Betsy Goodman's reflections from the ASSCO Meeting:

Food Security goes hand in hand with Seed Sovereignty. Thinking 7 generations from now, if I bring kids into this world, how can I ensure their kids have the luxury of going to the grocery? I feel it is my personal responsibility, as well as the responsibility of each community, to uphold a certain amount of local food sovereignty. In that, growing food and saving seed on an individual basis. Food security is the basis for national security. This is what our four fathers intended by providing free seed to establish communities, thus creating new diverse vegetable varieties and maintaining traditional cultivars. This is why seed libraries are important. 


In talking with David Svik, the Nebraska Seed Control Official, I understood seed integrity to be our common ground. As a farmer, I believe in the seed law, I am happy that it is in place because it insures that when I purchase seed, I will get quality seed. As a beginner in vegetable breeding, I know the value of the time and energy that goes into creating new varieties. Hybrids and patented varieties aught to be protected by the seed law ensuring that credit goes to the individual or institution that created the cultivar.  Open pollinated varieties that have always been in the public domain aught to remain forever open and available to the public, no exceptions. In my opinion, seed libraries aught on only distribute open-pollinated, non-patented, varieties. 


The problem with the current seed law as it stands in many states, lies in the definition of sale. As this law pertains to open pollinated varieties as well as patented, the law then excludes the traditional way of sharing seeds.  For the last 12,000 years people have dedicated lifetimes to saving seed and freely sharing it. This act has established healthy communities across this land. With the perpetuation of fragile food communities (also known as food deserts) and climate change, local seed sovereignty is imperative. 


Like ASSCO, Common Soil Seed Library feels that seed integrity is most important. We want to only distribute viable seed that is able to regenerate and grow well in Nebraska. We have a color code system along with an average seed life viability chart and do germination tests on questionable innovatory.  We do not distribute corn or soybeans as not to risk potential problems associated with cross contamination of patented varieties. Common Soil only distributes open pollinated varieties, that are known not to be a noxious weed, and has a very detailed seed return form so that we may practice discretion in our distribution.


In the future, I see a potential for a unique collaboration between the seed libraries, farmers, and USDA. We can continue to do the work that our four fathers intended, maintaining thriving, secure, communities, while collaborating to explore new diverse cultivars of vegetables that are regionally adapted to our changing climate. This shall remain to be an open source seed system not owned by anyone and upheld by many. 


The USDA officials and American Seed Trade Association were receptive and understand the cultural importance of seed libraries. There will need to be a regulatory group to enforce our protocols and make sure that we are not distributing hybrid or patented seed-this is their biggest concern. They expressed that they will not tolerate the sharing of this seed. There is also concern about mislabeling and lack of regulation in returns and distribution. Seed companies vocalized that they do not want whole seed packets distributed and want people to either take from packets or repackage. So, there is an absolute need for the International Seed Library Organization, other than advocacy, regulatory will be a main purpose. There has been a working group established with Seed Control Officials and American Seed Trade Association Director as well as a few others including myself and Neil Thapar. This working group will develop guidelines which will be somehow incorporated into RUSSL for 2016 legislative sessions.  

Share OP & Heirloom Seed 
Don't share PVP or noxious weed seeds! 
Some of the main concerns brought up by the American Association of Seed Control Official (AASCO) members was their concern that seed libraries might:
  • share seeds that were under Plant Variety Protection (PVP) or
  • noxious weeds
Although it is far less likely for seed libraries to spread noxious weeds then commercial operations, there are occasionally some common plants, such as morning glories in Arizona, that are considered noxious weeds. Check here for lists of noxious weeds for the US, US territories and Canada. Regardless of the country you live in, we recommend you take the following measures below.

Actions that you can take
All donations should be placed in a central location and seed librarians should look through donations before putting them in the collection. Share only open-pollinated (OP) and heirloom seeds.
1.  Do NOT accept any commercial seed labeled as hybrid, F1 or F. These do not breed true to type. (Note: If a home gardener saved Dino Kale but didn't cage it, they would want to label it "may have crossed with Red Russian Kale." That is acceptable.)
2. Don't put anything with the label PVP (plant variety protection) in your collection. We want to respect the work of plant breeders and it's illegal!
3. Avoid accepting corn since it is hard for home growers to save properly. (Population size needs to be 100-200 plants and it must be hand-pollinated). If you live in an are with big ag, you don't want to risk someone bringing in something contaminated by GMO corn.

Here are the complete guidelines for accepting donations. Please also post the sign explaining that your seed is not up to commercial standards. You may also want to post the Six Tips for Seed Saving in your library on in any web presence you have.
Seed Library Tip #1:
Label! Label! Label!
We are continuing to develop resources and support materials to help your community seed library. Here is a video for seed librarians with some tips about labeling.
Visit for resources on how to maintain your collection.
Video: Tip #1 Label! Label! Label!

Book Worm
Scott Chaskey, 2014  
  In Seedtime: On the History, Husbandry, Politics and Promise of Seeds, Scott Chaskey, community farmer, poet, and seed advocate, weaves mythology, poetry, science and storytelling into this lovely treatise on the importance and connection of seeds to humanity.  His words are rich and flavorful, sowing spirituality and politics, history and science all into the same narrative. His well formulated insights show a wealth of understanding of the topic, gained through his life experiences and studies.

I had the privilege of attending a poetry reading by Mr. Chaskey, and his passion for nature and science is lovely and inspiring to behold.  His gentle energy imbues his words with a resonant spark that fills the room with an electric buzz.  In this book, he always addresses his passions with an even keeled voice, speaking to the beauty, history and stumbling blocks faced by our continued
relationship with the seed, without diatribe or vitriol.  He takes us on a journey through geology, biology and the short but rich human history of seeds, making the story easily accessible and enjoyable for everyone.  He does not skirt around the issues of Big Agriculture or the co-opting of our human right to freely share and save seed.  He poignantly addresses our loss of biodiversity and the potential calamity of our current trajectory, while not losing sight of small hopes for a better future. Seed libraries anyone?

This book speaks to all people interested in the future of our planet.  It has something for every poet, seed saver, nature lover, farmer, gardener, eater, and activist.  It stands alone, as a wonderful read, regardless of what passion motivates and inspires you.

Kelly Wilson, Pima County Public Library Seed Library,
Tucson, Arizona, USA
Research on US Seed Libraries
Fill in survey here
"Do Seed Libraries Help Low-Income Americans Gain Access to Healthy Food?"
University of South Dakota undergraduate student Emily Roberson has started work on her senior thesis, a study of  seed libraries, healthy food, and low-income Americans.  The working title of the project is "Do Seed
Libraries Help Low-Income Americans Gain Access to Healthy Food?" For many low-income populations in the
United States, access to healthy food is not as easy as just going to the grocery store.  Nationally, Walker, Keane,
and Burke (2010) state that low-income neighborhoods are shown to have 30% fewer supermarkets than neighborhoods in high-income areas; for some cities, like Philadelphia, this average is an understatement.  

Nutritionally poor foods like Big Macs and Cheetos are significantly easier to come by, and areas where this occurs,
entitled "food deserts," have caused some low-income residents to suffer from nutritionally poor diets and the health problems that come with them, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, at higher rates than wealthier populations.  

Meanwhile, community and urban gardening programs have sprung up in part to help ameliorate this issue.  A lesser known movement springing up across the U.S. is, as you may have guessed, seed libraries. It is Emily's goal to
figure out if and how seed libraries are getting healthy food into the hands of low-income Americans.  

 There are two main parts of her project. One is to pinpoint seed libraries in relation to USDA recognized low-income food desert regions.  This way, she can look at whether the seed libraries within food desert regions are the ones are concerned with low-income access to healthy food and other key data points.  The second part is a survey...and here is where she needs a little bit of your help! For anyone reading this who runs a seed library, the survey is targeted at you.  She would love for anyone who has not already completed the survey to check it out! It's about 41 questions long, and should take no more than 10-20 minutes. The survey can be found here , and more pertinent information can be found on the first page.  Additionally, if you have any questions, you can email Emily at Only one survey will be accepted per seed library location, so if
you are not sure if someone already filled it out for your seed library, feel free to contact her as well. Additionally,
all seed library locations that complete the survey will be entered to win a $50 gift card to Seed Savers Exchange!

Thank you for your interest and contribution to this academic study of seed libraries!
SeedBroadcast Journal Submissions
Contribute to the Autumn 2015 SeedBroadcast Journal. DEADLINE AUGUST 31st, 2015. Email your submissions here.

  SeedBroadcast agri-Culture Journal is a bi-annual collection of poetry, inspired thoughts, essays, photographs, drawings, recipes, How-to's and wisdom gathered together from a national call out to lovers of local food and seeds.  This journal supports collaboration and the sharing of seeds, stories, resources, and inspiration within local communities and between individuals, while also providing pollination through diversified regional, national, and international internet-media networks.
Cool Beans! Submissions
Share a tip, a story, a book review of a great seed book, or a picture of a cool bean that you have saved and shared. We'd love to hear from you! Article and photograph submissions can be sent to
 Also, if you are offering an intensive seed saving course we're happy to post that.
In this Issue

Seed Saving Courses
- Lectures in 7 cities throughout Idaho, Montana and Wyoming,  
August 14th - 29th

Yellow Springs, OH, USA
Sept. 29-Oct. 4

Seed School in a Day
Denver, CO, USA
Sept. 11th

Seed Academy
Williams, OR, USA
Sept. 9-13

Grain School
Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Seed School On-Line 
Cool Beans! discount code: SSO$99tic 

Seedy Events
Sept. 4-5
Richmond, CA, USA

Sept. 9, 4-6 PM
National Heirloom Expo
Santa Rosa, CA, USA

Seed Libraries Association
-  Resources on how to start & manage a seed library
-  Sister Seed Libraries pages
-  Inspirational projects associated with seed libraries
Seed Libraries Social Network
- Connect with bioregional libraries
-  Share ideas with folks with similar projects
Sister Seed Libraries
- Have you opened?  
- Added branches?  
- Created a website?

Check the Sister Libraries List to see if your information is accurate and to find other libraries near you. Fill in this survey to help us keep the list accurate.

Banner Photo
Kenearly Yellow Eye Bush Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris
Photo credit: Rebecca Newburn