"This is why we ask for seeds to come back in plastic bags," says Sarah Pope, the creator of Delta County Libraries' North Fork Seed Library. Pope holds up a sealed bag filled with round brown seeds. The seeds appear to be moving, covered with strange little insects. "We discovered this is the hollyhock weevil. One of my favorite aspects of being a seed librarian is continually learning something new." Pope clearly relishes the challenges of seed collecting, even if that job means dealing with seeds that are bug-infested and unusable.
Other discoveries are more positive. Pope explains, "In my own garden, I've been harvesting dry beans. We've been growing several varieties for about five years now, and I'm starting to notice that they are adapting to our region and maturing earlier." The North Fork Seed Library, well into its second year, has not reached that stage yet, but Pope hopes Delta County Libraries' seed growers will begin to notice similar changes as the program rolls successfully into future years.
Delta County Libraries' staff is ready to conclude this year by accepting seed returns to the North Fork Seed Library, with or without weevils. Despite being called the North Fork Seed Library, seed savers are encouraged to participate throughout the county. The name reflects the origin of the program, but in reality, patrons checked out seeds from all Delta County Library branches, and donations have come from many different locations as well. Patrons can visit any Delta County Library to obtain seed return bags and forms to fill out with information about their seeds.
Returning seeds is not required in order to check out seeds in the first place. Patrons are encouraged to try, but there are other ways to participate and support the program. Pope offers, "As the seed library continues to grow we will need continued help. You can get involved this winter by helping at a seed sorting party." Seed sorting requires measuring seeds into individual packets, which are then labelled and cataloged for circulation. It sounds like a tedious task, but Pope assures patrons that working together makes the job fun. The first Delta County Libraries seed sorting party will take place Nov. 10, with details to be announced.
Pope has been pleased with the growth of the North Fork Seed Library over the last two years, and has exciting goals for the continued growth of the program. In addition to watching the stock and varieties of available seeds increase with time, she hopes to start capturing more of the stories behind the seeds. "So many patrons bring in their seed donations with beautiful stories of the history and their relationship to those seeds. I feel the seed library is the perfect way to preserve local history." To this end, Pope and other library staff have been looking into the possibility of recording patrons' seed stories and storing the recordings in the seed library catalog for everyone to access.
Numerous volunteers and staff members are needed to make the seed library a success; however, Pope provides good reasoning for all the work involved when she says, "By maintaining a vegetable variety, you are preserving a piece of history. By saving seeds, you are planting the future."