New seed library for WNY opens; it’s free!

new seed library in Amherst NY 2019 by Stofko

You can borrow seeds from the new WNY Seed Library, housed at the Audubon Branch Library in Amherst. Rich Peters, left, librarian at that branch, and Brenda Snyder, founder of the WNY Seed Library, prepare to place envelopes of seeds into their proper drawers in a former card catalog. You don’t need a library card to borrow seeds. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

The WNY Seed Library–the first free seed library of its kind in Western New York– has opened in Amherst.

“There was no place in Western New York where you can get seeds for free,” said Brenda Snyder, who started working on the WNY Seed Library in June 2018. Food security is one of her goals. She feels that no one should go without food because they can’t afford it.

The seed library aims to provide heirloom organic vegetables, herbs and flowers. Beans get their own category because the seed library has so many varieties of beans. You can see all the varieties of seeds here.

The WNY Seed Library is housed at the Audubon Branch Library, 350 John James Audubon Pkwy., Amherst.

An old card catalog has been repurposed to hold the seed packets. The small envelopes of seeds fit neatly into the narrow drawers. (A card catalog was how people used to look up books before we had computers.)

Rich Peters, librarian at the Audubon Library, was able to get the card catalog for the seed library. He is also the coordinator of the Holistic Lecture Series there.

How to borrow seeds

You don’t need a library card to borrow seeds.

The WNY Seed Library is located in the wooden card catalog behind the librarians’ desk at the Audubon Library. On top of the card catalog, you’ll find the sheet you need to fill out to show what seeds you are borrowing.

To decide which plants you’d like to grow, look through the binder that is also on top of the card catalog. It contains pictures and descriptions of the plants, as well as whether they are easy, moderate or difficult to grow from seed.

The binder also includes instructions on how to plant the different varieties of seeds. Use your phone to snap a photo of the instructions to use at home. Or you can remove the page and copy it at the photocopier located nearby. (Please return the page to the binder.)

Volunteers Gabe, left, and Marcie Fischer package donated seeds for the WNY Seed Library while MaryBeth McDonnell, also a volunteer, logs the information about each variety.

Help keep the seed library stocked

The WNY Seed Library uses the term “borrowing” seeds because the organizers hope that when your plants are mature, you will save the seeds and donate some back to the seed library.

You can also donate seeds that you saved from plants you grew previously. And if you have seeds that you purchased, but haven’t used, the seed library can use those, too.

Even if the seeds are several years old, they may still be viable. Volunteers will test them to see if the seeds will germinate.

There is a box underneath the card catalog for seed donations. Please make sure the seeds are labeled.

Not all of the donated seeds are given away. Some seeds of each variety are set aside so that if none of the seeds are returned, there will still be a supply to grow more plants and get more seeds.

If you want to help out, contact Snyder through the WNY Seed Library Facebook page.

Volunteers Brett Andrzejewski, left, and Shawn Wornica check the seed packets they have filled for the WNY Seed Library. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Other ways you can help the WNY Seed Library

In addition to donating seeds, here are some ways you can help the WNY Seed Library:

  • Volunteers are needed to do germination testing on seeds. It’s easy to do. You put several seeds on a wet paper towel and place the towel in a resealable plastic bag. You check to see how many of the seeds germinate. If half of the seeds sprouted, you have a 50 percent germination rate. This information is included for each batch of seeds. A beginning gardener may want to stick with seeds that have a high germination rate, while other gardeners may be willing to take a chance with seeds that have a lower germination rate.
  • Snyder hopes to eventually have branches of the seed library at other locations throughout Western New York. Maybe you can locate a public space and round up volunteers for the next branch.
  • While the costs of the WNY Seed Library are low, monetary donations would be appreciated for things like envelopes.

If you want to help out, contact Snyder through the WNY Seed Library Facebook page.

12 Comments on “New seed library for WNY opens; it’s free!

  1. This is not the first free seed library in Western New York. The ARTseeds program of the University Heights Arts Association, which donated seeds to this effort when they started, has been in existence for more than four years. ARTseeds offers approximately 80 types of seeds, year round

  2. I know the ARTseeds program does give away free seeds, but I didn’t know there was a place that people could go to year round. How can people get seeds?

  3. I work at the High Mowing Organic Seed Company. They have a huge section where they ship out donations, which is 5 pockets of seed in bundles of 25. They would be more than happy to send out some. Its free but there is a shipping charge. I highly recommend! Give them a call

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