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‘Seed libraries’ try to save the world’s plants

Kevin Hartnett, “Abasic principle of any library is that you return what you take out. By that standard, the new scheme at Hampshire College’s library is a roll of the dice. Since last November, librarians have been lending out packets of seeds, allowing people to plant them, and checking them back in if—and only if—the borrower manages to grow thriving plants in the meantime. The Hampshire College project is part of a small but growing group of “seed libraries” across the country, local centers that aim to promote heirloom gardening and revive a more grass-roots approach to seed breeding. The circulating-library model might seem like a strange fit with gardening. When you check out books and DVDs, you’re supposed to bring them back so others can use them, but with seeds, there’s a strong chance nothing will come back at all. And, in a world where fruit and vegetable seeds are available for just a few dollars a packet, free seeds aren’t a pressing need most places. But libraries have another goal as well, archiving and preserving knowledge. On this front, seed libraries see themselves as an important part of a bigger movement, to bring the issue of global plant diversity down to the community level, where many believe it belongs.”

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