Seed Sharing and Sovereignty in Easthampton

seed_easthamp_photo_by_S_MarshStory and photo by Samantha Marsh

Read Seedy Business for more about national and international seed saving efforts. 

It takes a village to raise … a garden! Seed libraries across the country are gaining momentum as a way to address food insecurities, promote environmental sustainability, and help people who are looking to start their own gardens do so with the help of their community.

Feasthampton, a new volunteer-run organization, has started its own seed library as a way to build community, share ideas, and give people living in Easthampton and the surrounding towns a way to access seeds for free.

“We are interested in making food and gardening accessible to people,” said Feasthampton member Layla Hazen.

The seed library, located in the lower level of the Emily Williston Memorial Library, began with over 100 different seed varieties, and has grown by approximately 20 varieties since its launch over a year ago. Tamsen Conner, director of the library, was a large advocate for the creation of this project and has helped foster its growth. The organization operates with the help of five members, all of whom are committed to Feasthampton’s mission of “encouraging community-wide projects directed toward local food security and resiliency, educating through workshops and skillshares, and increasing biodiversity in Easthampton.”

The seed library began through seed donations from members of the local community and a Seed Savers Exchange program, as well as with the help of the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Approximately 90% of the seeds are vegetable varieties, as the library is largely committed to seed saving and sharing as a way to educate and empower people to grow their own food.

The seed library is a smaller project under the umbrella of Feasthampton, which also has hosted plant swaps, organized a community cider making day, and even a movie night about harvesting wild edible plants, among much else. “We wanted to create a community group or network to share ideas, share food and help each other make things happen,” said Feasthampton member Benjamin Lesko. The group is looking to be a community resource and cultivate relationships with others living in Easthampton and the Pioneer Valley.

The seed library operates in the same way that any library does: You register, borrow the seeds and return them (or rather their offspring, cleaned and dried) at the end of the harvest season. While saving seeds from harvest can seem like an intimidating process, Feasthampton offers workshops and brochures about seed-saving basics. For beginners, they suggest planting “super-easy” seeds, such as basil, beans, eggplant, peas, etc., as these seeds are open-pollinated and therefore are easy to collect at the end of harvest and produce plants just like the ones that were originally planted. For more advanced seed savers, Feasthampton suggests “easy” seeds that may be cross-pollinating or outbreeding, and require a bit more attention, such as members of the onion or amaranth family, or “advanced” seeds that are often pollinated by insects or the wind, such as cucumbers, mustard, wheat, etc.

Seed saving tools such as screens for drying and separating seeds, as well as gardening books, are available at the library as well. Feasthampton encourages borrowers to plant and save heirloom varieties (non-hybrid), and mostly organic seeds.

Seed saving and sharing goes beyond the individual garden by empowering people to take ownership over their food and decrease dependence on large-scale food businesses. Hazan explains that they hope to protect seed sovereignty through the creation of the seed library. “We fight hard to keep seeds belonging to the people.”