- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

YARMOUTH, Mass. (AP) - Sally Hockenbury is a confessed lover of all things seedy.

“I’ve always been a seed collector,” she said last week at her home on Alms House Road.

Now Hockenbury and other seed freaks have a new source at Sturgis Library in Barnstable, where a seed library has been opened through a partnership with the recently formed Cape Cod Food Hub.

“Their goal is to have every library on the Cape to have a seed library,” Lucy Loomis, Sturgis Library director, said.

At Sturgis, anyone can sign a membership book and take seeds for planting from a seed cabinet - think card catalog but for kale, tomatoes and flowers. Members can take whatever seeds they need and once the growing season is over, drop off whichever seeds they would like to share with others.

The seed library at Sturgis opened March 8 and has a dozen participants signed up.

Loomis also has purchased related books for the library that are located near the seed cabinet.

The library’s participation in the program, which is meant to encourage the preservation of heirloom seeds, is a nice parallel to its mission to preserve history and genealogical information, Loomis said.

The idea of libraries taking part in seed exchanges seems to be growing, she said.

There is already a small seed swap at the Truro Public Library not associated with the hub, said Tara Laidlaw, manager of the educational farm at South Shore YMCA Camp Burgess in Sandwich who spearheaded the formation of the hub.

Brooks Free Library in Harwich has also reached out to the hub about opening a seed library, expected in April, Laidlaw said.

“Ultimately we would be delighted to have one in every town on the Cape,” she said.

The Cape Cod Food Hub was created to build community around local food production and eating around the Cape, Laidlaw said.

Laidlaw said the group, which includes a core of about eight people, is focused on education and accessibility.

She got the idea for locating seed libraries inside traditional libraries from online webinars through Seed Savers Exchange, an organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

“I found out there was a seed library in Concord,” she said. She drove there to see how the system works.

In addition to the natural connection between the act of borrowing a book and returning it to a library and the act of “borrowing” a seed and bringing back other seeds, there are other practical reasons why traditional libraries are a good fit for the program, Laidlaw said.

“The mission statements of libraries tend to line up with what seed libraries are trying to do,” she said about the educational and community outreach of both.

Seeds and books also have similar storage requirements: cool, dry and dark.

“It’s a very natural partnership,” she said.

The food hub is planning to launch a website in the next week and move forward on other initiatives such as partnering with master gardeners at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension on lectures and other events, Laidlaw said.

“We’re also always looking for suggestions and ideas,” she said. “It’s such a new organization. We’re not on one particular path just yet. We just want to bring people together around local food.”

For Hockenbury, saving seeds already makes a lot of sense.

She stores her seeds in paper envelopes and then little pill bottles that are tucked into a dark closet, Hockenbury said.

Part of the key is to make sure not to cross pollinate plants, which can result in a hybrid seeds and a surprise the next year, she said.

“It’s all in the learning,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

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