Liam Harder, Ritchot’s program coordinator, has launched a series of seed-sharing libraries throughout the municipality.Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published 12:43 Jun 03, 2022

By Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Gardeners of Ritchot are participating with enthusiasm in a seed-sharing program that sprouted for the first time in Ritchot this spring.

These seed libraries are the brainchild of the RM of Liam Harder, Ritchot’s program coordinator, and he says that it didn’t take a lot of advertising to see that the interest was there.

“Our initial post to Facebook and Instagram took off like crazy,” Harder says. “It’s probably one of the best we’ve seen so far. Our communities really got the conversation going.”

Free seed libraries follow the same model as free book libraries, which have also been cropping up in communities everywhere. Generally speaking, free book libraries consist of a wooden box with a glass door. The box is mounted atop a pole and provides a place for passersby to take or drop off a book for someone else’s benefit.

It’s an exchange, essentially, but not with an accompanying quid pro quo of having to leave something in order to take something.

In Harder’s case, he’d like residents to consider the seed-sharing program as an act of “borrowing.” If they take seeds in order to grow some tomatoes, his hope is that they will harvest and dry a few tomato seeds to donate back for next year’s program.

“Our plan is to keep [the seed boxes] outside in the beginning of the year for planting season,” he says. “Then we’ll take them back inside and in the fall towards harvest season we’ll put them back out for people to use as a seed drop-off point,”

In Ritchot, there’s a seed library box located in each community. St. Adolphe residents can find a box mounted near the door of the RM office. In Île-des-Chênes, it’s located just inside the lobby of the TC Energy Centre. Ste. Agathe can find theirs in front of the community centre. The picnic shelter in Grande Pointe also has a seed library box.

To kickstart the local program, Harder located some reclaimed wood and window glass and constructed each box by hand. The first of the seed packets were graciously donated by Van der Meer Garden Centre in Île-des-Chênes and Sage Garden Greenhouses just south of the Perimeter. As well, staff of the RM office and some residents made donations of their own.

Harder equipped the door of each box with a clicker-counter so he could see the level of use each received. So far, he says, seed stock is remaining steady with generally more seeds are being contributed than taken.

Donations of started packets of seeds, he says, are also welcome. This way, if a resident needs only a few seeds they can take what they need and return the rest, getting the maximum mileage out of each packet of seeds.

“The whole thing is designed to be for more than just seeds,” Harder adds. “There are larger trays in the bottom so if you have little bags of fertilizer, seed potatoes, or bulbs, that can all go in the miscellaneous tray in the bottom.”

For Harder, the idea came about when he noticed that COVID-related supply chain shortages seemed to be affecting the availability of garden seeds. Seed store shelves were emptier than usual, and some seed was virtually impossible to find.

As well, he was inspired by one St. Adolphe senior who for years had been growing her own gardens and philanthropically sharing the spoils with others, both in terms of the garden produce she grew and the seed she collected from her harvested produce.

In the end, Harder sees the seed share library as a sound solution to the skyrocketing cost of grocery store food and hopes the idea will catch on in communities all across the country.

“We want people to eat healthy, but how can you eat healthy when a head of celery costs more than a Big Mac?” Harder muses. “So we’re hoping we can encourage people to take free seed and grow their own free salad.”

This item reprinted with permission from Niverville Citizen, Niverville, Manitoba