Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library

One community takes on the challenge…
Seed Lending Library

Just as one seed can produce many seeds, one idea can change many lives.  Free public libraries were revolutionary in their time because they provided access to books and knowledge that had not previously been available to a large segment of the population. 

A free seed lending library gives people a chance to transform their lives and communities by providing access to fresh, healthy food that may not otherwise be available.

Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library is just such an opportunity with its free seed lending library. Local residents can “borrow” seeds to grow a garden. The seed library is actually located in the main branch of the Richmond Public Library in Richmond, Calif. The collection contains a significant inventory of edibles, with a growing volume of regional adapted-varieties, plus herbs and ornamentals.


For new members, a half hour in-person orientation or convenient on-line orientation is the first step.  The orientation covers what is the seed lending library, how is the library organized and what does it means to “borrow” seeds. Seed saving and returning seeds back to the library for others to “borrow” is an essential aspect of the seed library’s continued success. The expectation is that some of the plants that are grown are allowed to go to seed and that a portion of those seeds are returned to the library to help create a resilient community and to allow the library to be self-sustaining.

The intention of the seed library is to create a community of people who share their skills, maintain heirloom varieties that are locally-adapted, provide food assurance and be a resource for others interested in replicating the idea in their community. Reskilling people on seed saving is an important aspect of the project. In addition to their “How to Save Seeds” brochure that is distributed at all orientations and available at the library, they are also creating a number of videos on seed saving.

"The idea for the library was inspired by the work of BASIL (the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library) in Berkeley’s Ecology Center. I worked with them this year on organizing their library, writing their brochures and organizing their seed swap,” says Rebecca Newburn, founder and co-coordinator of the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library. “I am indebted to their inspiration, expertise and commitment. When I first discovered the seed lending library concept, I knew I wanted to see it in available to a wider audience. Having a seed lending library in the public library felt like the perfect fit!”

Rebecca’s efforts to have the seed lending library concept adopted in other communities inspired  her to develop a Create A Library page on their website. “The page includes all of our brochures, organizational material, orientation material and an outline of our process to support other communities in starting seed lending libraries,” she continues.

With her determination, spirit and uber-organizational skills, this little seed of an idea looks like it’s on its way to becoming a flourishing garden.

The Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library is open to local residents at no charge. It’s maintained by volunteers, financed by donations and grown by community support.

The Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library is project of the Richmond Rivets, in collaboration with the Richmond Public Library. For more information about the program, visit

Plant. Grow. Eat. Enjoy. Save some seeds. 

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