You’ll soon be able to check out seeds from the Mount Pleasant Seed Library. And unlike with most library materials, you get to keep them! The seed library pilot program, launching Sept. 11, encourages District residents to grow their own food. It’s a partnership between the Friends of the Mount Pleasant Library and Share a Seed, which launched in March to address seed shortages and inspire greater participation in urban agriculture.
“The goal of Share a Seed has always been to get more people growing, to expand access and interest in gardening, and to connect with the land,” says founder Reana Kovalcik, who also sits on the Slow Food DC board. Working with a public library to disseminate seeds gathered through Share a Seed and other avenues makes sense. “A library has low barriers to access, is a welcoming space, and there are no income barriers or anything like that,” she says.
Kovalcik says she did a test run a couple of months ago when she put together summer seed kits with seed trays, bags of soil, and two or three varieties of seeds. “We had about 30 families sign up,” she says. “They ran out immediately.”
According to Liliana Garcia, a Mount Pleasant Seed Library volunteer, the process starts by visiting the Mount Pleasant Seed Library website. From there, you click on a link to fill out a form—available in English and Spanish—and select up to five seed varieties. To start, there’s everything from butternut squash and carrots to microgreens that can be grown indoors. Many of them come from local farms.
Once you’ve reserved your seeds and gotten a confirmation email, you pick them up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays at the Friends of the Mount Pleasant Library table at the neighborhood farmers market. Depending on availability, you might be able to bring home seeds without reserving them online first.
“Once it gets started, it’ll be really cool to see how many folks start gardens in their small plot or their apartments,” says Friends of the Mount Pleasant Library President Carlos Izurieta. He also organizes around food justice issues with DC Fair Food. “The fun thing about this is for a lot of families with kids, this might be their first exposure to growing things since they live in a city. It’s very cool to see where your food comes from.”
Izurieta thinks the seed library could expand to other libraries throughout D.C. should it go well. “It promotes a shared community experience and sustainability, which are things that, for us, the library represents,” he says. “Just having this as a pilot program, I think it could help show the power of the seed library and others could replicate it. Libraries are somewhere anyone can go and they’re free and accessible to all.”