Monterey's First Seed Library Almost Ready to Grow
By Justin Ebrahemi
Every great project begins with a few seeds. With the help of her community, Heather Cunningham, Environmental Science major at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) may have helped sprout a local grassroots seed revolution.
After completing her senior Capstone last year on seed libraries and models around the country, Ms. Cunningham connected with Francesca Garibaldi, Administrative Assistant of Monterey Public Library (MPL). Under Ms. Garibaldi's lead, MPL had begun quietly exploring the possibility of housing a Seed Library from as early as 2011. Four months ago, Garibaldi and Cunningham partnered to lead the project development and search for sponsorship. Particularly inspired by the Richmond Grows Seed Library, they contacted over 30 organizations and individuals with the hope that a local project would launch.
Ten people attended the project's first meeting in October, where attendees offered policy and maintenance suggestions for the program. The second meeting identified potential partners, consisting of volunteers from the City of Monterey Parks and Recreation Commission and Monterey Institute of International Studies community garden.
Monterey Public Library prides itself on being a progressive platform for a dynamic cultural and socioeconomic community. "MPL recognizes that we live in a community where growing plants or produce is a fairly known practice and decided that a seed library could be a practical addition in their location," says Cunningham. Part of the Monterey Seed Library's policy is to not accept genetically-modified plant seeds.
Modern seed libraries began in early 2000 to enhance biodiversity through community outreach and self-reliance. Unlike many other programs, the Monterey Seed Library will offer bulk seed donations to patrons, and users of the program do not need to be a library member to participate.
A seed library offers seeds readily available to the public. Patrons "check out" seeds from a library before planting them. They are encouraged but not required to let some plants go to seed to harvest and donate the offspring. Drawing on classic traditions of seed banks, the program will use paper check-out forms. "I believe in value in the ancient tradition of growing plants from seeds," says Cunningham. "The modern twist to an organized plant seed cabinet is having them available in a traditional book lending location which is consistently available to the public. I believe the seeds most readily available to a community are a reflection of the community's culture."
Through her outreach, Cunningham galvanized local organizations to offer their hands. Return of the Natives Restoration Project, a CSUMB affiliate that specializes in growing and harvesting native plants, agreed to donate seeds to promote local agriculture. The environmental education nonprofit MEearth offered a site location on their Carmel property where participants can harvest seeds for donation.
With the CSUMB Alumni Association Capstone grant of $500 that Heather received, the Monterey Seed Library partners intend to purchase bulk seeds, books, and other start-up materials.
The gracious donations continue to spread. Pacific Grove Public Library donated a card catalog drawer set for the seed storage. Wanting to customize the cabinet, Cunningham contacted local artist Barney Silven to donate his time to beautify the structure with a rustic bulletin board.
Monterey Seed Library's first Seed Donating Day will be February 1st from 11-2 p.m., where participants of all gardening experience levels can gather to discuss ideas and donate seeds, all while grooving to the tunes of Hilby House. The project is expected to officially launch around Earth Day 2014. Got questions? Email the team at
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