Liberty Gardens Seed Project

  • Members sign a Promise to commit to returning seeds
  • Committee members are all active seed savers

Brief history

The Liberty Gardens Seed Project was founded in spring 2014 by life-long gardener Vicki Nowicki and a group of friends. The group received donations from the Seed Savers Exchange and Pepperfield Project including many heirloom and unusual varieties. The initial interest in the library was strong: over 100 people attended their first meeting. However not many people returned seeds and much smaller numbers attended events in 2015. The project is based in an affluent suburb of Chicago and the Vicki worries that they haven’t managed to maintain interest because their rich and sometimes complacent neighbours don’t see enough incentive to stay involved.

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The Downers Grove Museum sits amidst several acres of landscaped gardens


How it works

The seed library is housed in an historic home and museum, Downers Grove House, in an affluent suburb of West Chicago. On the surface, the museum with beautiful grounds and its own story to tell, provides the perfect location for this collection of heirloom varieties. However in reality, it has limited open hours and demand on its meeting rooms, which limits the group’s freedom to hold events there.

The committee members open up the library on Saturdays throughout spring and offer induction sessions to all new members so they can understand how it works and the basics of seed saving. Members are asked to sign a ‘Promise’ to encourage them to recognise the value of participating and to return seeds.

The group hold a seed swap once a year in autumn as way to bring members together and also replenish supplies for the library. All new seeds are screened before being allowed in to the collection: out-of-date, hydrids or seeds without enough information are not included.



This seed library benefits from a core group of committee members who are all passionate about seed saving and who are conscientiously developing their skills to seed save at home. At least three of the committee members are taking part in the Seed Savers Exchange Mem-Gen programme, in which members of the organisation, are asked to grow out rare varieties from the SSE collection and record their observations, as part of their Evaluation programme. In addition, lead member Vicki Nowicki has a stunning garden, where gently curving pathways lead you through arches abundantly draped in vegetation, past loosely arranged beds overflowing with native flowers and ornamental displays of vegetables. Vicki has led workshops at the garden before and her interest in and enthusiasm for heirloom varieties clearly makes it an excellent place to learn.


A native trailing Petunia forms a centre-piece in Vicki’s carefully-crafted, charming garden 

The group have a great deal of expertise and resources at their finger-tips. However so far they have been hindered by their relationship with the museum and other local partners, and by an apparent apathy amongst their well-to-do neighbours. They remain optimistic that the right people are out there; they just need to find them.

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