Participants in Peterborough Town Library seed program can borrow seeds to grow plants

  • Colette Lucas shows off the hydroponic plant tower at the Peterborough Community Seed Library, located at Peterborough Town Library, which offers a variety of vegetables and plants for patrons. STAFF PHOTO BY BEN CONANT—

  • Seeds at the Peterborough Community Seed Library, located at the Peterborough Town Library, which offers a variety of vegetables and plants for patrons. STAFF PHOTO BY BEN CONANT—

  • The hydroponic plant tower at the Peterborough Community Seed Library, located at Peterborough Town Library, which offers a variety of vegetables and plants for patrons. STAFF PHOTO BY BEN CONANT—

  • The hydroponic plant tower at the Peterborough Community Seed Library, located at Peterborough Town Library, which offers a variety of vegetables and plants for patrons. STAFF PHOTO BY BEN CONANT—

  • The hydroponic plant tower at the Peterborough Community Seed Library, located at Peterborough Town Library, which offers a variety of vegetables and plants for patrons. STAFF PHOTO BY BEN CONANT—

  • Colette Lucas shows off the hydroponic plant tower at the Peterborough Community Seed Library, located at Peterborough Town Library, which offers a variety of vegetables and plants for patrons. STAFF PHOTO BY BEN CONANT—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/18/2022 1:41:05 PM
Modified: 7/18/2022 1:40:41 PM

Colette Lucas never anticipated that supply-chain issues would impact something so small as the seeds in her garden.

However, when Lucas realized that others were having trouble acquiring seeds, she decided to do something about it. In April, she proposed starting a seed library at Peterborough Town Library, which allows community members to borrow seeds, grow plants and return seeds from the plants that they grow at the end of the season.

“I think my first inspiration was that I was unable to get what I wanted when I wanted it, and I had never experienced that before. Of course we all learned in 2020 and 2021 about supply-chain issues. It had never occurred to me that it would affect something like seeds,” said Lucas.

Lucas became a master gardener in 2009 through the University of New Hampshire Extension Office. Master gardeners are expected to educate community members on gardening and horticulture, and Lucas runs a program in Peterborough called Garden Tithe that partners with Monadnock Congregational Church and the UNH Extension Office to grow produce for Peterborough Food Pantry during the summer months.

Peterborough Town Library will host the community seed library throughout the summer. Seeds are available at the the library across from the front desk, in envelopes next to a display of plants grown from some of the seeds that are available. A library card is not required for community members to participate. According to the library website, peterboroughtownlibrary.org, the seed library’s mission is to “strengthen regional food security and self-reliance by distributing seed to the community, sustaining a seed-saving network, promoting the use of native plants and providing ongoing education for gardeners at all levels.” 

“We’re asking people to go ahead and select up to five envelopes that they would like to experiment, try, borrow,” said Lucas. “If their efforts are successful, we’re hoping they’ll be able to bring some seed back at the end. In between borrowing and bringing seeds back, we’re hoping to have some programming where people can pick up some more information about the growing and seed-saving process.”

The process of seed-saving, according to Lucas, is easy and well worth it. It involves allowing the plant to go through the full process of growing and beginning to dry out. Lucas said many people begin to clean out their gardens when the plants are in their less-attractive drying-out stage, instead of allowing them to complete their growing cycle and harvesting the seeds.

“I used to do that,” Lucas said. “But now I know that there’s a beauty to that end stage.”

Additionally, seed-saving lends itself well to sharing.

“If I take the very best tomato from my garden, and I only save seeds from that one tomato, depending on the size, I may get 100 seeds,” Lucas said. “Well, I have a very small garden, maybe I need 20. That gives me plenty of seed to share with the community.”

In addition to the practical benefits of seed-saving, Lucas says that the seed library reflects the mission of Peterborough Town Library.

“It’s very clear to our whole community that when the Peterborough Town Library recognizes a need that they can fill, they raise their hand and say, ‘Let’s try it!’” Lucas said. “In a way, it’s a lot like what you would expect at a library. You select what is of interest to you, and then you return it later.”

With a seed library, Lucas said if someone borrows seed, and if it’s not a good growing year, the person may not be able to return seed, will still learn something.

“What happens with the return is actually something interesting,” she said. “What gets returned to the library, in some ways, is superior to what was borrowed. Because it was planted in our community, now we know that it’s something that grows well in our zone, in our climate. So the goal would be, someone shares seed from the very best crop, and then we all have something from the very best crop that’s acclimated to our zone. We keep moving it forward, and it just keeps getting stronger and stronger.”

The spirit of generosity that the seed library hopes to foster has already been integral in getting the project started. The project has received help from the Cornucopia Project in Peterborough, as well as from the UNH Extension Office in Goffstown.

Paula Sennett provided the link between the seed library and the UNH Extension Office. She had noticed a overstock of year-old seeds at the office that were donated by various stores and companies. According to Sennett, seeds that are a year old are still perfectly viable. 

“When I got hooked up with the seed program, I asked (the extension office for seeds), and they were happy to do it,” she said. 

Sennett, who is also a master gardener, didn’t want to see the seeds sitting at the extension office go to waste.

“I thought, ‘I know there are all these seeds, and we may as well give them somewhere to grow,’” she said.

The Cornucopia Project is a nonprofit that provides horticulture and nutrition education to students and families in southern New Hampshire, and grows food through its garden. The organization has helped with education about plants offered in the seed library, and provided a display tower with examples of plants that patrons might grow. 

According to Cornucopia Project Program Coordinator Jess Gerrior, the partnership with the seed project was a natural pairing. 

“We thought it was a fantastic project to support and be involved in,” Gerrior said. “Our involvement helps connect the dots between seed-saving, seed-planting and eating nutritious food.”

Gerrior feels the Cornucopia’s expertise on plants is a great complement to the library’s expertise on the community. 

“(We) help people to see that growing, tasting and sharing food is a readily available activity to them,” she said.

Lucas felt the same way.

“Right from the beginning, we sought assistance from the Cornucopia because we knew that they were the local experts in a lot of things that we were interested in and that we thought seed library patrons would be interested in,” she said.

Above all else, Lucas hopes the seed library will show community members that gardening is for everyone.

“With a program like this, if someone had land and they wanted to do a big effort, there are certainly a lot of books and other supports that we could offer,” she said. “But at the same time, if someone is doing container gardening, there are a number of plants that can be advisable for that as well. Everyone can enjoy the starting of seeds, the growing of seeds, the enjoyment of food, and hopefully at the end, the saving of seeds to share with others later. Gardening is a beautiful way to learn how to do something at any size that’s available to you.”


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