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Earth Notes: The Verde Valley Seed Library

Verde Valley Seed Library

New libraries are popping up all over the country—but they don’t have any books. They’re libraries for seeds.

At the Verde Valley Seed Library in Cottonwood, anyone can borrow five packets of seeds, take them home, and plant them. After the harvest, borrowers bring back fresh packets of seeds collected from their tomatoes, pumpkins and beans. It’s not just a way to exchange free seeds among neighbors. The library is a repository of heirloom seeds, protecting the fast-vanishing biodiversity of food crops.

Seed saving was once commonplace, but these days, most garden stores sell hybrid seeds that have to be bought fresh every year. Heirloom seeds, on the other hand, can be saved and over time become adapted to the unique climate, soil, and environment of the gardens where they’re grown.

At the Verde Valley library, seeds are labelled by location, so borrowers can choose seeds that were successfully grown in Rimrock, Sedona, Clarksdale, or Jerome. Some have survived droughts or other difficult conditions. The library’s catalog holds the secrets to resilience.

Richard Sidy (SID-ee) of Gardens for Humanity says the seed libraries preserve genetic biodiversity and also cultural heritage. They are gathering places for people to swap stories and gardening tips. It’s a way to tap into thousands of years of human history, not to mention, grow delicious food.

There are now hundreds of seed libraries worldwide. In Northern Arizona, you can find them in Cottonwood, Payson, Prescott, and Flagstaff.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.