Take a seed, return a seed
C/O Green Venture
Green Venture’s Backyard Garden program is helping to turn Hamilton into a greener, more sustainable community
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, many turned to gardening, as seen by the tomatoes, lettuce and beans which have become a popular find in people’s backyards. Additionally, with discussions of the climate crisis taking greater precedence in the media, climate anxiety has been on the rise. In recognition of this and to support urban and community gardening in Hamilton, Green Venture, a not-for-profit environmental education and outreach organization, launched the Hamilton Seed Library project last summer.
“As the community continued to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, we were really inspired by the local community, how the resilient movement was taking place and the more need for backyard gardens,” explained Sheila Gutierrez, the garden program coordinator at Green Venture.
The Hamilton Seed Library was a joint project created in partnership with the Little Free Library, a not-for-profit book-exchange organization. It was created in keeping with their goal of maintaining biodiversity in Hamilton and helping the local community to become more self-reliant.
The rules and conditions of the Seed Library operate the same as the Little Free Library’s book-sharing boxes. Open 24/7, the seed library offers free fruit and vegetable seeds for anyone to take. There are no membership fees involved, nor set limits on how many seeds one can take, although users of the library should be mindful this is a shared resource for the benefit of the larger community.
Those who borrow the seeds are encouraged to save any remaining or harvested seeds and return them to the library at the end of the season. Just like any community resource, the seed library relies heavily on honest and fair use to maintain its supply. Other ways to support include monetary donations to Green Venture.
Currently, the seed libraries can be found outside of the Green Venture EcoHouse and six Little Free Library’s box locations across Hamilton. These include the libraries on Cannon Street, Wexford Avenue South, Jackson Street West, London Street, Salem Avenue and Kensington Avenue North. More information about each library can be found on their website.
Although the kinds of available seeds change every season, this fall users can expect to find native pollinator plants, such as black-eyed Susan and blazing star, and other veggies such as spinach and radishes.
More than ever, access to fresh food became important as people attempted to reduce outside trips, including grocery shopping trips. So, it came as no surprise that the introduction of the Hamilton Seed Library was met with so much positivity and praise.
“We know that the community is keen because when we put out the seeds, they are gone quickly. The community’s uptake [has been] very responsive,” Gutierrez said.
Additionally, alongside the Seed Library Green Venture started the Grow a Row program to better support the cultivation of a healthier, greener community in Hamilton. It was launched as part of its Backyard Garden Project, the organization’s COVID-19 resilience project. More broadly, the Backyard Garden Project strives to help Hamiltonians “build a greener, more sustainable and climate friendly future”.
“We were inspired at Green Venture to keep connecting our community and connecting them with more nature. [We are] giving them access to those skills and what they need to continue to learning their skills….So we took that, and then we came up with the Backyard Garden Project to support the urban growing and community gardening, to facilitate the sharing and knowledge of local growing and garden maintenance,” said Gutierrez.
The Grow a Row program is for home gardeners who have excess land in their backyard to commit a row of produce to share and donate. The harvested produce is then transferred to community fridges and Neighbour to Neighbour Hamilton, an organization aimed to address food insecurity in communities. The centre currently supports 3,500 individuals in Hamilton every month.
This year, in just 10 weeks, Green Venture received over 445 pounds of produce donations through the Grow a Row program. The donations will help to ensure more people have access to fresh and healthy food, especially during these challenging times.
Aside from the Hamilton Seed Library and Grow a Row project, Seedy Saturday is another event supporting local gardening. Green Venture’s Seedy Saturday is an annual seed exchange and workshop event. Different gardeners and farmers are invited to host the workshops on seed saving, history of seeds in Hamilton and garden designing each year. In past years, Green Venture has collaborated with Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm, McQuesten Urban Farm and Dundurn castle. Although this year’s event has already passed, those who are interested can look forward to the next one coming up in early 2022.
In the meantime, Green Venture still has many more exciting upcoming projects and events. Few examples include Depave Paradise in which volunteers take a piece of land covered in asphalt concrete and replace it with green infrastructure and regular volunteering Tuesday at EcoHouse.
The opportunities to get involved in climate and environment action are endless at Green Venture. From sharing seeds to planting trees, Green Venture offers programs to spread messages of environmental accountability and activism and teach how to live more sustainably.
“Start where you are—there is so much information out there. And it can be overwhelming because climate anxiety is really real, it is our reality. But just take a step back and start where you are and do what you can do. Whether it’s using a reusable mug or volunteering with us at Green Venture, small steps and small action really do end up making a big impact,” said Gutierrez.