Seeds of Change and Connection to Community: A Seed Library in Hamilton

BY J’Accuse Davis

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After an archaeological dig on First Nations land in Wisconsin, ancient squash seeds sealed in a pot were grown into a variety of squash that is an estimated 800 years old. This particular variety of squash is a hallmark–an icon of the conditions in which it was grown not only because it has been preserved so well and for so long, but also because each season presents a new climate, a new weather pattern and a new set of DNA that will sculpt the next generation of seeds and plants. The essence of North American Agriculture 800 years ago is held in this squash seed. Preserving this biodiversity, heirloom varieties, and culturally traditional varieties of plant is important.

The essence of North American Agriculture 800 years ago is held in this squash seed

In Uttarakhand, Northern India, the Navdanya Seed University is a seed-production farm which began with the initiatives of Dr. Vandana Shiva, a powerful writer, speaker and educator on issues of environment and social justice. Shiva’s major works, including Ecofeminism, Stolen Harvest, Earth Democracy, Soil Not Oil, illustrate and confront the issues surrounding agriculture in a fertile area in a time of neo-imperialist global capitalism. Navdanya aims to grow organic seed and provide for the farmers of the area–to educate those who enter the property and to support local subsistence farming–rather than mass-farming crops to sell off to wealthier countries. They have created 111 seed banks in 17 provinces of India. They are well on their way to protecting India’s crop biodiversity and agricultural autonomy.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault on an island off the coast of Norway was created through the efforts of the government of Norway, Croptrust, and NordGen. The goal is to hold samples (currently 860,000) of plant genetic material within a protected area in case of climatic or directly man-made disasters. The bank is a controlled climate area which allows seeds to last for an indefinite amount of time. The vault has the capacity to hold 2.5 Billion Seeds: room for vast amounts of beautiful food crop protected and preserved for continual use.

Seeds are the very basis and key to our food system. They are the absolute image of the evolution of a species of plant, the conditions in which it was grown, its variety and characteristics each year. Changing slightly each season, species adapt and become resilient to pests, weather, and become hearty in their region. Each year we choose seeds from the plants which have produced well, given us good food to eat, and grown strong.

We cannot expect every individual to have the excess income, or the need for quantity to purchase new seed every year for their garden.

The care taken to watch and learn from each plant is absolute artistry, and we have some amazing seed companies in Ontario. Small producers of organic seed are the best choice when starting your own collection. However, we cannot expect every individual to have the excess income, or the need for quantity to purchase new seed every year for their garden. And just as the producer builds a relationship with their plants and garden, so should everyone.

Why not put our hands into the process, and nurture our connection to our food and the earth in our communities? Why not teach our children–our own little seeds–to see how plants grow again and again?

Anyone who is interested may look at the library’s collection, borrow the seed, grow out the plants, save some of the seed from them, and bring them back to the library at the end of the season.

A seed library is a collection of seeds from vegetables, herbs and flowers that may be commonly used in a home or community garden. Anyone who is interested may look at the library’s collection, borrow the seed, grow out the plants, save some of the seed from them, and bring them back to the library at the end of the season.

It is a simple, connected practice in community and ecology; aiming to provide public access and protection for our food system.

Seed Libraries are an international movement, arising from the pressure put on us by large agricultural companies controlling the world’s food sources. The organization Seeds of Diversity provides educational resources and is a source of activism in keeping seed production, biodiversity, and species information in the hands of everyone.

Hamilton Seed Library

The seed library as a project promotes people connecting with each other, sharing knowledge, sharing what worked for them each season with each plant, and creating a green urban space–linked together by gardens in every corner and coming back each fall to the collection.

While we make connections with our plants, our gardens, our regions, and our families–we mimic these relationships in our communities.

We do this to keep varieties and species growing every year. Keeping the seed viable, every year the season will bring out something new, something changed in the plants we are growing. The seeds become true products of Hamilton–from gardens at the base of the escarpment, east, west, to the bay-front and our own hands–our childhoods, our stories.

The Hamilton Seed Library began with these purposes in mind. HSL has been building their collection for the past year and a half, has attended Seedy Saturday events each year, and brought their mobile seed library cart around to events such as the 2015 May Day celebrations in Beasley Park.

The Seed Library in Hamilton is: One branch, one large box of seeds, seven volunteers, one cart to visit with, an email address, and a Facebook Page.

If you’d like to know more, are starting or continuing your garden, or have seeds from your own garden you’d like to share with the city community, please contact the HSL at the information below.

Hamilton Seed Library @ The Tower, Hamilton’s Anarchist Social Centre located at 281 Cannon St. East

Open Hours: SUN 11am-5pm, THURS 4-9pm
J’Accuse has worked and lived in Hamilton for the past two years and fallen in love with it’s gregarious people and wild wild natural spaces.

 

Want more? Continue reading The Food Issue

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