One of The Artful Living Blog’s favorite ways to celebrate the season is by planting a few seeds. When planting your garden this Spring, why not do it with seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. An accessible, affordable source of regionally adapted seeds that are packaged in gift-quality seed packets -available individually and as seed collections. Each variety of seed packet features original artwork that celebrates the beauty and diversity of heirloom gardening. The packets are so cleverly and beautifully designed to unfold like petals of a flower revealing not only the inner seed packet, but planting instructions and artwork, you’ll want to frame these little works of art after you plant the seeds! The Hudson Valley Seed Library helps farmers and gardeners to “understand where seeds come from, how they are grown, who grows them, and why seed saving is more important than ever.”
The Hudson Valley Seeds Library offers heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for vegetable, flower, and herb varieties. Many of these seeds are produced on their own small farm; the rest they source from other local farmers, farmers in other regions, and from trustworthy wholesale seed houses that are not owned by or affiliated with multi-national biotech companies. They have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, and adhere to Vandana Shiva’s Declaration of Seed Freedom. As of May 2013, they are both a Certified Organic farm and a Certified Organic Handler.
Hudson Valley Seed Catalog 2014, A full seed catalog for all gardeners offering hardy, affordable seeds that are rooted in the history and soils of New York, where you will find only the finest rare and unique Organic, Non-GMO seeds. Just browsing the catalog is such a pleasure, reading about all the vegetable, flower & herb varieties including their backstory, their cultural significance, with an artful graphic that accompanies the actual seeds.
The Hudson Valley Seed Library was started by Doug Muller and Ken Greene, two young farmers with a dream of creating an accessible and affordable source of regionally-adapted seeds that is maintained by a community of caring gardeners. They sell seeds grown on the seed library’s farm and by other local farmers and gardeners, but they also encourage people to save their own seed and share it. If you pay $20 to become a member of the seed library, you get discounts on seed packets and events and 10 packets of seed of your choice. And members who save seeds, can return them to the seed library in exchange for a discount on the following season’s membership fee. If you’re a novice seed saver, no worries. The seed library offers classes, workshops, and information on seed saving. There is a full online catalog where anyone -member or not- can purchase seeds. Such a brilliant idea. Would be great if the concept caught on across the country -a seed of an idea in bloom!
Tom Thumb Pea Hudson Valley Seed Library, Heirloom seeds are distinguished from modern hybrids by replicating themselves faithfully. Thus, if you save the seeds of an heirloom tomato or melon (or a radish or lettuce left to seed) one year, you can grow it the next. No one owns the seed, so it can be passed freely among gardeners. Such open access to a crop is the antithesis of the agribusiness biotech profit model, and heirloom seed saving is tied in to the local food movement and all its attendant aspects: environmental sustainability, food security and social justice.
New England Pie Pumpkin, Fox Cherry Tomato, and Painted Daisy Hudson Valley Seed Library, “Growing seed is the farming behind the farming,” Greene said. “Most gardeners don’t see the whole life cycle of the plant because you’re interrupting it to eat the fruit when it’s the most delicious. This is a much more intimate view of the plant’s life cycle.” As the text inside the seed packet notes, it’s a tribute to “the celebration of life and death which plays out in our gardens every year.” And in our lives, too.
Velvet Queen Sunflower Hudson Valley Seed Library, The seeds themselves have their own stories to tell. Many represent stories of struggle and displacement -a single variety of bean or flower for example, say, that has been passed down through the generations of one family. The genetic diversity it represents may hang by a thread or stand tall and endure as a hardy perennial.
The Art Pack Collection Hudson Valley Seed Library, The Hudson Valley Seed Library celebrates the genetic diversity of heirloom varieties by commissioning diverse art works, in diverse media, to put on their seed packets. Each year they issue a public call for art, and choose about twenty applicants to design and produce a unique work for a new variety. The newest Art Pack Collection, features 24 artists, using mediums including: Raku Pottery, Scratchboard, Etching, Collage, Stained Glass, Paper Cutting, Wood Sculpture, Watercolor, Embroidery, Ceramic, Linocut, and more. The artwork has become an event of its own, an annual exhibit called “The Art of The Heirloom,” was featured at The Philadelphia Flower Show, and this past March was on display at the Horticultural Society of New York.
The Hudson Valley Seed Library artists come mainly from the Northeast; many are avid gardeners. A selection of the original art they commission printed in limited edition, is also available. Each is signed and numbered by the artist. This includes Art Packs that are created with work done by Hudson Valley artists. “This is a way for us to say that arts are a part of everything,” Ken Greene says, “and to find our own way of supporting artists and including them in what we’re doing so other people can see some of the ways in which art is important in terms of culture.” He sees art as a way to convey the story of the seeds, but make it contemporary. “I love plants, I love art, I love education and I love thinking I’m making a difference,” he said. “So it’s kind of everything I’m passionate about wrapped up into one entity.” He adds, “I had no idea I would end up with such an amazing art collection when I decided I would be a seed farmer.”
Kaleidoscope Carrot Hudson Valley Seed Library, Artwork by Martha Lewis, Printed on Forestry Stewardship Council-certified recycled paper using vegetable-based inks, each Art Pack’s petal-like flaps “bloom” to reveal a sealed glassine envelope filled with seeds, along with sowing instructions printed neatly on the label. New Yorkers can buy the Seeds & Art Packs locally,Whole Foods carries them, as do places like ABC Home -a personal favorite. Visit Hudson Valley Seed Library to find a store in your area to purchase in person -sold in over 200 locations.
Ken Greene started the Seed Library in 2004 while working as a Librarian at the Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, New York. Having developed a strong interest in preserving heirloom seed varieties, he decided to add them to the library catalog so that patrons could “check them out,” grow them in their home gardens, and then “return” saved seed at the end of the season. The program was a small but successful endeavor -one of the first of its kind in the country. After four years of running the program at the library, Ken and his partner Doug decided to turn the library into a mission-driven, homestead-based small business -which it still is today.
The heart of the Seed Library is a small seed sanctuary farm in Accord, New York, located in the scenic Rondout Valley between the Catskill Mountains and the Shawangunk Ridge. Here, they cultivate about three acres of production and trial gardens, and produce hundreds of pounds of seed each year, learn about new varieties that they may like to offer in their catalog, and undertake breeding projects in the traditional methods of plant breeders. They have only ever used organic practices on the farm, and it became Certified Organic in May, 2013. They hold several events each year when the public is invited to tour the grounds.