Cindy Conner’s Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People is a remarkable guide to a remarkable method of farming. Seed libraries, community collections of seeds made freely available to the public, have increased by the hundreds in the last decade. Conner expounds on the historical development and contemporary significance of these seed libraries, all while providing concrete, step-by-step instructions and useful considerations for starting a seed library. Due to this holistic approach, Seed Libraries is likely to prove a useful resource for anyone with an interest in seed issues, seed saving, and community seed initiatives.
The introductory chapters of Seed Libraries highlight several concerns central to what Connor describes as a growing movement to save seeds, including the corporate consolidation of seed markets, the development of intellectual property rights, and the accelerating loss of crop diversity. She also points out that saving seeds can help preserve cultural heritage, develop varieties adapted to particular microclimates, save money, and hone gardeners’ skills.
Much of the rest of Conner’s book is a manual for establishing and operating a seed library. By profiling a number of seed libraries, Conner offers readers the chance to review several different startup models. In addition, she gives countless suggestions on approaching concerns common to every seed library, such as funding, attracting patrons, and maintaining the momentum of the project. Conner also provides a collection of resources that address organic gardening, seeds, plant breeding, and other related topics at the end of her book, affording readers a sense of direction in furthering their knowledge.
Overall, Conner’s book provides a wealth of information about seed libraries—from the big picture to the minute details—making it a must-read for seed activists or anyone with an interest in seed conservation. Conner’s thorough and approachable treatment of the practice reminds readers that most have the ability to build a seed library; or, more broadly, that anyone can create viable and vibrant alternatives to modern food and agricultural systems and that, any action—even one so small as saving tomato seeds and trading them with a neighbor—contributes to a growing movement to transform food systems.
While the issues facing food and agriculture may intimidate some, Conner holds that the solutions are as simple as saving seeds. The following metaphor captures Conner’s mission for the book well: “I sometimes think of what I do as walking through the deep snow after a storm. Once there is a path, it is much easier for others to follow. However, I don’t want people to follow me; I want them to walk with me. With the phenomenal growth in the number of seed libraries, there are many paths—highways actually—to make travelling this journey easier. We can all learn from each other.”
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