Bay Area Seed Interchange Library

  • One of the oldest seed libraries in America
  • Housed at the Berkeley Ecology Center
  • Annual seed swap attended by over 100 people
  • Mixture of donated commercial and locally-grown seed

Brief History

The Bay Area Seed Interchange Library and its annual seed swaps have been running since 2000 and have grown together over the years. Since inception, over 800 people have participated with its activities. The library is sponsored by the Berkeley Ecology Center, which provides a home for the collection, answers visitors enquiries, and hosts and co-ordinates activities. In the past the library has had external co-ordinators however no-one is filling this role at present (Summer 2015).

 How It Works

The library is currently housed at the Berkeley Ecology Centre where it is accessible to visitors 6 days per week. It operates on a self-service basis. Visitors fill in a membership form or sign up for the e-newsletter before checking out seeds of their choice. Volunteer days are held about 4 times a year to help sort and tidy the collection. The library is well-known (perhaps because of its long-standing history) and receives at least 5 visitors every week, despite minimal publicity. The majority of seeds are donated from seed companies however there are a decent number of locally-saved seeds (particularly beans). Most of these find their way to the library at the annual seed swap, which is attended by over 100 people, many of whom are experienced gardeners.


Seeds are graded as ‘Super Easy’, ‘Easy’ or ‘Difficult’ depending on the level of skill needed to save them



Whilst the library has seen greater periods of activity in the past, it continues to do its job, by making free seeds available to all those who ask. The annual seed swap is an effective way of keeping supplies topped up: getting rid of seeds before they expire is a greater concern than running out of seeds. As the library operates on a self-service basis, users need to show some independence. This means that the library needs little input to keep ticking over, however adversely, it also means that it’s easy to check out seeds without learning anything about seed saving.

More info –


The seed library is based at Berkeley Ecology Centre, a non-profit organisation which addresses environmental issues facing urban residents, through education and advocacy


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