Starting a Seed Bank in Santa Cruz

There was a really great article last month about how a UCSC college grad started up a seed bank in Santa Cruz to save heirloom seeds in the community.

The 21-year-old UC–Santa Cruz history major founded the UCSC Demeter Seed Library last year, spurred by his fascination with heirloom plant varieties and a $10,000 grant from the Strauss Foundation. After just one growing season, the seed library is a treasure trove of more than 250 locally adapted heirloom varieties, all donated by master gardeners and seasoned farmers in the area.

The seeds come in all shapes and sizes and are the progeny of familiar and well-loved produce like tomatoes, brassicas, beans and gourds, as well as rarities one would never expect to find thriving on the Central Coast—like the Ethiopian grain teff.

He also incorporated the often used seed exchange format, to help gardeners obtain seeds for free in exchange for giving seeds back at the end of the growing season, which were harvested from the seeds first recieved.

The seed library’s long term goal is to create a social network on the project’s website where members can record the progress of their grow outs, and which will form the basis of the library’s “open source encyclopedia of seed information and seed history.” It’s also completely free and open to the public, which Whitman says is a priority: “We believe that life shouldn’t be patented, that life shouldn’t be something that’s commodified.”

One thing I found interesting was the fact that three seed banks all started in Santa Cruz last year alone.  I wish other areas would also get such an interest in heirloom seeds that they would start a single seed bank, let alone three.  I did wonder if all three seed banks share amongst each other, or if gardeners are favoring one over the other, which could actually hurt seed saving efforts in that area.

You can read the full article here.

I am curious to know if others have situations where multiple seed banks in the same area were either sharing or competing for the heirloom seeds.

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