Seed Librarians Newsletter
Cool Beans! Seed News
August 2014 - Issue #1
4th Annual Seed Librarians Summit
Wed. Sept. 10th 4-6PM 
Sonoma Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Held in conjunction with the National Heirloom Expo
Free for summit - Expo admissions $10/day

Opened a seed library? Interested in opening one? Come join us and meet other seed librarians. Share stories, successes & challenges. Conversation will continue over dinner for those interested. If you plan on attending (even if you emailed earlier), take a moment to fill in this form.   
The event is not an official part of the Expo. So the location will be determined on Sept. 10th. Check in with the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) or Hawaii Public Seed Initiative booths to find the location.

If you are attending and can volunteer at the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) booth and share information about seed libraries, that would be helpful. If you are available, email David King at

The Expo is a wonderful and inspiring event. Make a day of it!

Seed Law and Seed Libraries
Pennsylvania and Maryland Targeted

As many of you are aware, the Simpson Seed Library in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania (PA) received a letter from the PA Department of Agriculture (June 12, 2014)  informing them that they needed to have a seed license to comply with the PA Seed Act and Regulations. Mr. Johnny Zook, the Seed Control Official for the PA DOA, considered them a "seed distributor" and required that they purchase a seed license and label all seed at industry standard. "This includes, but is not limited to, such things as Germination Test date, Sell by date, lot #, Seed Kind, distributor's name and address." For more information on the original letter, the PA Seed Act (note that this is a state law, not federal) and the subsequent draft protocol issued by the PA DOA, visit the Simpson Seed Library webpage.

The suggested protocol requires the library to get new, commercially grown seed each year and to dispose of all seed at the end of each year. No locally grown seed can be stored in the seed library. The Joseph T. Simpson Library made an initial appeal to the PA DOA, but beyond their initial appeal they are choosing to comply with the protocol. Interestingly, failure to comply with the PA Seed Law is a "stop sale," which of course, can't be enforced since the seed library isn't selling seed. Also of interest is that under the protocol they are allowed to host seed swaps, which would have been the exact same seeds as would have been in the seed library. 

On Monday, August 18th Lois Capshaw, Maryland's Chief, Turf & Seed Section, wrote to the State Master Gardener Coordinator that they would like to "accommodate seed libraries and seed swaps while upholding MD's Seed Law, without burdening libraries to obtain permits." Citing the protocol drafted by Johnny Zook, the Pennsylvania Seed Program Supervisor, seed libraries in Maryland would have to purchase brand new, commercial seed each year and dispose of it at the end of each year.  "Returning any seeds to the library would not be allowed; meetings to swap harvested seeds are encouraged instead." 

Many people are concerned by these interpretations of well-intentioned laws, including the folks at and the Sustainable Economies Law Center.  Two SELC  lawyers partnered with Shareable to write this useful article entitled Setting the Record Straight on Seed Libraries.  We strongly encourage you to read this article. There is a Hackpad in the article where people can upload their own state seeds laws. There are other possible directions and approaches suggested as well. If you are interested in helping us to put together additional resources, please email us at

We've also created
talking points to help you answer questions if people want to know about how the law applies to seed libraries. These are working documents and can be strengthened by your input. So add your state seed law to the Hackpad and if you have comments on the talking points add them here.  We will be discussing this matter at the Seed Librarians Summit in September. However, if you do get a letter from the your state department of agriculture or regulating agency, please email

We would like to be proactive between accessing the laws, getting allies on board, and getting the word out about what we do and why we do it. Let us know if you can help.
We need to get a team of folks together to assess the situation and help with actions. If you haven't already done so, start to collect the names and emails of reporters that have covered your seed library. We'll be sending out some press releases soon. If you are a good writer and can help with that let us know. In the next Cool  Beans! issue will have strategies on how we can get the word out. Also be thinking about allies that we can bring on board. You can  forward this newsletter to allies and they can subscribe to receive future newsletters using the "Join our mailing list" button. 

Hopefully the discussions and press generated by these incidents will foster a deeper awareness of the value that seed libraries provide our communities. Locally grown and shared seeds needs to be encouraged  for the benefit of all. 
Seed Quality & Seed Protocol
In the last 100 years many people have lost the wisdom and knowledge of seed saving that we possessed for over 12,000 years. Share your ideas on how to provide quality seed to our communities by adding your thoughts to the Forum page at The West County Community Seed Exchange in Sonoma County, Calif. uses the following protocol. If you have any protocol documents or comments on the below document, please email them to

We ask that when you bring seed to the West County Community Seed Exchange that you follow certain protocol. We want people who take seed to get what was on the label and we want to protect from passing on disease. The following is our basic protocol:
1. Save from healthy plants. Even if a disease does not get passed on through the seed, we do like to have some selection for disease resistance by only saving from healthy, strong plants.
2.   Save from a number of plants so that the seed has some genetic diversity in it. The quantity that is optimum depends on the type of plant, for self pollinating plants a minimum of 6 plants is necessary, for cross pollinating you want to save from much a larger population- see seed saving information sheets.
3.  If the plant cross pollinates you want to make sure you keep it isolated so it stays true. 
Check with a seed saving chart or book to get isolation distances.
4     When you bring seed to share at the Seed Bank please label with as much information as you can.
5.    We all save seed from a favorite that might not be from a number of plants or isn't super healthy, or maybe we like some interesting crosses. You are welcome to bring those seeds just make sure you write that down on the label so others know they are participating in your experiment.

Face, Place, Story
Pineschi Family Bean
One of the beauties of the seed library movement is that we are helping to reconnect our food with stories and with our ancestors who saved those seeds. Some of the seeds we have in our libraries have great importance to our communities and cultures. Encourage folks to share not only their seeds but the face, place and story behind the seeds.

David King from the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) was quoted in an article in the Cumberlink about how they were able to save a near extinct bean variety that had been grown locally since the 1800s. The Italian bean was from the Pineschi family and is being named in their honor. When David received the beans he  was given about 100 beans and they were 15 years old. Only 4 germinated, but that was enough to save this variety from extinction!

Imagine if all of the things we purchase and share have a face, place and story. We would live in a world where we honor the people, the land and all beings.
David King, Seed Library of Los Angeles

Articles needed for Cool Beans!
We'd love to hear your Face, Place, Story pieces. Let's create a movement - a new/old cultural ethic! If you have something else you'd like to share in the Cool Beans! newsletter about your seed library or seed saving or you'd like to be a regular contributor, please email

It would be great to have a core group of folks doing the newsletter as that would ensure that more newsletters are sent out. It would be helpful to keep everyone up to date on the great work you are doing in your communities. Many hands make for light work.
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Image courtesy of Keri Keifer, Seedfolks Seed Library, Oakland, CA