Good Food Governance

Bristol’s first seed library!

By Emma Lewis

Emma Lewis

Bristol’s first seed library was launched in Bishopston Library on 22 March, when people from the local community came together to celebrate and share what they plan to grow this year. We hear from organiser Emma Lewins about how this exciting project is progressing.

The seed library is a new initiative from three local people – myself, Jess and Jas – who took part in a Change in Nature GROW programme and were inspired to create an accessible community project that would help connect Bristol residents with nature, food and community. After considering different ideas, we approached Bristol City Council to ask if it would be possible to add a seed library to Bishopston Library. With their support, we then then requested donations of seeds from various businesses and community groups to launch the library. The Eden Project, Vital Seeds and Real Seeds generously donated their support and many seeds to start this exciting project.

A seed library works much like a traditional library. People from the local community “borrow” seeds from the seed library at planting time. At the end of the growing season, they save seeds from the plants and return a portion of the seeds to the library.

You can use the seed library any time that Bishopston Library is open. And borrowing is much more long term than books! You take any seeds you’d like, and then save seeds when you harvest them (for example with sunflowers, you can simply take the seeds off the head of the flower). Then you can bring seeds back for someone else to grow. Once the seeds are fully cleaned and dried (so that they don’t go mouldy!), you can bring some back to restock the library. Since we opened last month, there has been plenty of borrowing already and we’ve had people donating seeds they no longer want anymore.

Organic seeds – where no pesticides have been used – will be stored in envelopes at the library for anyone to borrow. There are a variety of seeds, from flowers to herbs, fruits and vegetables. Anyone can take as many types of seeds as they would like. This initiative will help to improve food sovereignty, tackle the climate crisis (through reduced food miles and seasonal eating), and encourage a sharing economy in the city.  

Bristol Seed Library board at Bishopston Library

Another of the volunteer organisers, Jess Borthwick, said after the opening event: “It was such a wonderful experience to see local residents coming together in support of this initiative. This project means a great deal to me personally, and I see it as a radical step towards gaining self-sufficiency in a society that is increasingly controlled by large corporations. It’s our hope that this small contribution will get people gardening, connecting to nature, growing their own food, and building community resilience.”

There is already a great variety of seeds on offer thanks to donations from Vital Seeds and Real Seeds, as well as all the Bristol residents who have so kindly added to the seed library stock at the launch event.

Molly Newberry, Community Network Developer for Eden Project Communities had this to say of the project: “It was a joy to support the launch event of the Bristol Seed Library! The project is such a wonderful example of a couple of passionate individuals within a community having a fantastic idea and then making something really positive happen for their local area. I really look forward to seeing the project grow and flourish over the next few months.”

Future plans for the seed library include producing resources on how to set up a seed library in your own community that details everything you need to think about. We also hope to host workshops about growing food and saving seeds later in the year.

Visiting and using Bristol Seed Library is the best way you can support the project. Follow the project on social media to keep up to date and share your experience of the library – you can find the project at @BristolSeedLibrary on Instagram.

Vital Seeds have some really helpful information about growing food from seeds and lots of seed saving resources. Find out more about the concept of seed sovereignty, including growing and seed saving information.

© Bristol Seed Library photos by Hayden Ward-Streeter.

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