West County Community Seed Exchange

  • 180 varieties available from the seed library
  • All locally grown
  • 50% of seeds come from on-site seed garden
  • Open once a month for free training, resource sharing and a seed and plant exchange

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Amaranth seeds drying in the sun

Brief History

Sara McCamant and a small group of local gardeners first established the West County Community Seed Exchange in 2009. The group were involved in the Transition movement and were concerned about building a more resilient food system, They decided to establish a community seed bank as a means to provide Sonoma County gardeners with free, locally-grown, open-pollinated seeds. They approached a nearby church with an empty plot of land and asked about turning it to productive use. The seed garden and seed library have been housed at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church ever since. In their early stages, they received a generous donation from a private sponsor, and have been using this for their minimal expenses ever since. Plans are underway to extend the seed garden and improve its infrastructure.


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A variety of corn grown at the seed garden. 

How it Works

The project is entirely run by volunteers. The seed bank is open once per month on a Saturday morning when people come to collect or donate seeds. The Saturday sessions include a work session in the Seed Garden and a free workshop, so visitors can learn the skills to save their own seeds. Information about seed saving is readily available and there are always volunteers on-hand to answer people’s questions. Everyone who takes seeds is encouraged to return seeds to the bank, however in practice, there are only a small number of experienced gardeners who contribute seeds. About 50% of the seeds in the bank come from the seed garden, where volunteers meet once a week to work. The seed garden relies on the hard work of a small core group of volunteers. They focus on growing what grows well in the region and try and incorporate varieties which are at risk whenever they can.


 

Comments

This is one of the only seed banks in the US where nearly all of the seeds are locally grown. There is no doubt that this makes it in to an exceptionally rare and precious resource, particularly for Sonoma County gardeners. The restricted opening hours mean that it is less easily accessible than other seed libraries, which are typically open 5 or 6 days per week, however on the flip side, this means that visitors receive advice and normally some training before they take any seeds.


More info

http://westcountyseedbank.blogspot.com/ – includes seed saving resources

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