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Seed library opens in south France to inspire local growth

A library in the south of France is to open a “seed library”, allowing borrowers to barter and exchange a wide variety of seeds, including for flowers, herbs, and vegetables.

The public multimedia library is to open the “grainothèque” (seed library or seed bank) in Place du Grand-Jardin in the town of Vence (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), from September 26.

It will be open from 09:00 to 17:00 on weekdays.

The project has been launched in partnership with local environmental association, Vence Initiative Environnement (VIE). With help from the public library, the seeds will be free, and donated by local gardening and food associations.

They will include seeds for plants, flowers, common herbs used in cooking, and vegetables. Individuals will be able to choose the seeds they take home using a bartering and exchange system.

The aim is to help town-dwellers to grow seeds on windowsills or plant pots, and to encourage conversations around the earth, growth, and plants.

The director of the media library, Claire Verrat, has already started giving packets of seeds to local plant lovers who have shown interest in the scheme.

She told local newspaper France3: “We take the seeds, and put in five per packet. This is about ‘culture’, in the noblest sense of the word.”

(Photo: Place du Grand-Jardin in Vence / / Mairie de Vence)


‘Without diversity, we do not exist'

VIE president Laurence Thiébaut explained that another aim of the seed library is to help show locals just how many different varieties of plant exist, to change the kinds of food we eat, and help encourage the diversity of the earth.

The association will also be giving some participants of the scheme an at-home composter to help them create compost out of their waste products and grow new plants in fresh soil, and begin the cycle again.

She explained: “The first thing is that [the seeds] are donated...thanks to [the support] of the public services, and thanks to our association, we are not privatising living things, such as the seeds that will be exchanged here. That is very important.

“And also, people need to know that of six thousand species of food plants, we only use about nine of them overall, to feed a third of the population worldwide [potatoes, tomatoes…]. So this is a way of saying that we have exceptional [different] varieties - even if they are maybe not as productive - and each of us can grow diversity.

“Without diversity, we do not exist. If we are only three people who are the same, we will go extinct. And when it comes to the earth, it’s exactly the same. So here, we have two experiences. We give seeds, we exchange them, we consume them, we produce them, and then we create compost [and start again].”

She added: “The principle of our association is to offer people the tools of change. Anyone who will take care of a composter at home, we hope that they will spread the good news and that other families will also get involved, and it will snowball from there. It's not charity, it’s to help people with practical tools.”

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