Check out the seeds at Waynesville Library

By Jessi Stone Guide editor | Feb 26, 2014

Library cardholders will soon be able to check out more than just books at the Waynesville Library.

Beginning March 2, library patrons will be able to check out seeds to grow their own local food in Haywood County. Libraries have been adapting to changes for many years now, including new technology that has rendered old systems, like the card catalog, useless.

But instead of throwing away the vintage card catalog that stands in the NC room at the library, it will be used to organize the variety of seeds that will be available for the public.

An open house for the new seed library will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 2 at the Waynesville Library for people to learn more about the program.

Kathy Olsen, adult service librarian at the Waynesville Public Library, said she got the idea for a seed library from similar projects around the country.

“I heard a story on NPR about a library in Colorado that started a seed library. I was thinking about what kind of community it was and it sounded a lot like us,” she said. “Something like this wouldn’t get going or be sustainable if the community didn’t want it.”

Luckily, there is a huge interest in locally grown food here in Haywood County. With numerous farmers markets and farm-to-table dining and plenty of local “Foodies,” having a seed library seems ideal for the county.

Olsen said she and Tina Masciarelli, Buy Haywood project coordinator, would be providing all locally grown food for the open house event to show people the possibilities that start from just a few seeds.

The seeds were donated from trusted seed savers, local farmers and Sow True Seed in Asheville.

“I only got seeds from seed savers, farmers and the seed company because I want to have the quality continued,” Olsen said. “I want to know that the seeds have been saved and stored properly.”

Earlier this month, Olsen had a seed packing party at the library and about 30 people showed up to help her sort out the donated seeds into packs and organize them in the card catalog. Each of the 400 packs of seeds is labeled with the variety name, location of harvest, the seed source, the level of difficulty to grow and whether the seeds are organic.

While anyone can check out the seeds, Olsen said only seed library “members” will be helping to preserve some of the heirloom seeds donated by returning the seeds from their next harvest. To be considered a member, participants have to receive an education in seed saving.

Aspiring members are encouraged to take Lee Barnes “Seed Saving 101” class that is offered at the library, but several online resources are also available. As an incentive to return the next generation of seeds, Olsen hopes to make special or unique seeds only available to those who have returned them.

But Olsen also has plenty of resources at the library to help novice gardeners get started.

Some of the heirloom seeds include Cherokee moon and stars watermelon, homestead tomatoes, October beans, candy roaster squash and greasy beans.

The open house is coming at a good time for anyone who wants to grow a garden this year. Olsen said now is a good time to start the seeds indoors before transplanting them outside in the spring.

“Mother’s Day is a good rule of thumb for planting,” she said.

Olsen said she was very pleased with the amount of support she has received for the new venture.

“We’ve got four or five core groups of supporters who are interested in eating close to home and growing their own food or shopping at the farmers markets,” she said. “Hopefully this will encourage people to promote our plant diversity.”

The success of the seed library will depend on continued donations. To make a seed donation, call Olsen at 828-356-2507. Supplies and monetary donations are also needed. Checks can be made out to Friends of the Library and donors should write “Seed Library” in the memo line.

Anyone who would like a tax-deductible receipt for his or her donations should pick one up at the circulation desk.