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Saving seeds for the seed library.

A seed of an idea

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A small project to start a street seed library in a Tassie town is expanding throughout the state’s north, writes Penny Woodward.

The changes in our lives during 2020 and continuing in 2021, made life tough for many, but also led to all sorts of people doing interesting and innovative things. Jo McLauchlan is one of those people, coming up with the idea at the beginning of lockdown that Trevallyn (a suburb of Launceston, Tasmania) needed a kerbside Street Library to exchange seeds rather than books.

For many years now there have been Street Libraries in suburbs and towns all over Australia. Locals leave and swap books, taking some and returning others. Jo thought, why not do this with seeds, too? Using $1000 of her own money, Jo bought seed from Rangeview Seeds, which has championed and sold seed that grows well in cooler climates for over 30 years, as well as another Tasmanian-based company Seed Freaks.

This investment, along with extra seed sent by the companies (over and above Jo’s order), was the starting point for Trevallyn’s Street Seed Library, and progressively for another six libraries in Gravelly Beach, Invermay, East Launceston, Scottsdale, Devonport and Burnie. In each case Iain Gartley created delightful, functional new libraries especially for the seed, often beautifully painted by local people.

You can do it, too
Jo set up a Facebook page for all the libraries(search ‘Street Seed Libraries, Northern Tasmania’), while more locally a page was started for each individual Street Seed Library, with a community member (the ‘owner’) in charge of the library and the connected account.

These pages allow members to communicate what’s in the library for collection and for people to ask questions about the seeds, plants, bulbs, and more, that are being shared. Plants in pots, spare fruit, herb cuttings, rooted pieces, gardening books, native and endemic plant seed, as well as vegie seeds, all find their way into the libraries. And a plethora of information onto the social pages. A quick look shows that people are talking about jonquils, garlic, books, seed-raising mix, recycled containers, recipes and much, much more.

Seed library_OG 126 Jo McLauchlan's son Beau

Seeds are just the beginning
Jo McLauchlan says it’s all about sharing and connecting. “The idea is that you take a few seeds now and if you’re successful you’ll hopefully let some go to seed, collect and bring back to share onwards,” she says.

Each Street Seed Library has an expanding group of helpers in their immediate surroundings. They get together to make or fill seed envelopes, collect their own seed, give impromptu gardening lessons in their gardens, as well as teaching kids how to sow seeds and have their own worm farms, and much more.

Jo says that although the libraries receive and distribute seeds as their core activity, they have branched out in unexpected ways.

“We got a big donation of 136 heritage tomato seeds a couple of months after starting this seed library project, that spun off into another group: Tomato Growing in Tasmania,” Jo says. “There are 785 members in that one so far.

“Kicking off now is a project where people have put their hands up to grow larger quantities of seed specifically for the libraries. Most of these people are in rural locations (so no close neighbours whose crops can cross-pollinate) and they often have horticultural backgrounds. Many are in their 20s and 30s and have small children, which is very encouraging to see.”

Jo says the wider effects have been very positive. “It’s helping our moods, stress levels, feelings of being connected, exercise, enjoyment of nature – some lovely things coming out of a terrible year last year.” 


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