Seed Library

In 2024, the Topsfield Town Library is excited to re-launch our Seed Library! View our Seed Library Brochure here.

Our Vision

The Topsfield Town Library Seed Library is another way the Library continues to push the boundaries on the definition of “library,” while remembering and acknowledging Topsfield’s roots as an agricultural town. The seed library is free to use for the entire community.

Visit our Library of Things page for other “non-traditional” items that can be borrowed from the library, including a Seed Spreader and Soil Tester.

What is a Seed Library?

The concept of the seed lending library works like this: patrons “borrow” seeds from the library, plant them in a pot, in their home garden, or in a community garden. Then, the borrowers can save the resulting seeds from their harvest and bring them to the library for others to use. Simple, right? While we have a wide variety of seeds in our seed library, we encourage our patrons to consider returning harvested seeds from plants that are considered easy to moderate difficulty to save, if you are able. This will help us in our goal of creating a self-sustaining program.

The time honored tradition of seed saving promotes biodiversity and nurtures locally adapted plants varieties. Saving seed increases our community’s capacity to feed itself wholesome food by encouraging gardening and the cultivation of open pollinated and heirloom seeds.

Topsfield Town Library Seed Library logo

Current Seed Catalog

The Topsfield Town Library collects heirloom, organic, non-GMO seeds, seeds for popular vegetables, wildflowers native to this area of Massachusetts, and plants that attract pollinators. Our Seed Catalog below lists the available seeds at our Library. Come in and pick up available packets of seeds!

A special thanks to the organizations that donated seeds to our library: High Mowing Organic Seeds and Herman’s Garden Seeds.

To check out seeds for our seed library, simply fill out our paper form near the Seed Library cabinet (the form asks the names/varieties of packets taken, number of packets taken, and date) and drop it into the box. Staff will periodically update our Seed Library catalog so it reflects what is available. 

How To Donate Seeds to our Seed Library

We accept commercial seed packages, both unopened or leftover, but please provide the original packaging when bringing items to the Seed Library. Heirloom or open-pollinated varieties are strongly preferred. Hybrids cannot be used for seed-saving purposes. Drop these packets off in the Incoming Seeds bin next to the Seed Library; staff will then place these seeds in the Seed Catalog.

Donating Saved Seeds

The Seed Library will provide clear packets for you to package seeds. Once you have prepped seeds for saving, place seeds in the packet, and write all the information for the seeds you want to donate on the Seed Donation Sticker on the packet. Then place the packet in the bin labeled Incoming Seeds; staff will then place these seeds in the Seed Catalog.

Why a Seed Library?

• Increases the genetic diversity of your own seed stock
• Develops a seed stock that is more resilient and better adapted to our particular climate and soil
• Perpetuating the knowledge and culture of seed saving/gardening
• Foster community resilience, self-reliance, and a culture of sharing
• Providing seed to others in our community
• Become closer to nature
• Preserve and nurture locally adapted plant varieties
• Save money on seeds
• Encourages gardening and the cultivation of open pollinated and heirloom seeds
• Grow organic produce
• Explore plant history
• Avoid genetically modified foods
• Increases our ability to feed ourselves wholesome food
• Celebrate biodiversity

Food Insecurity in the Tri-Town and the Produce for the Pantry Program

The Produce for the Pantry (launched by the Topsfield Agricultural Commission) program encourages local gardeners to contribute their excess produce; all of the donated produce is taken to Haven from Hunger for their food pantry and communal meals program. Nearly 13% of US households suffer from food insecurity. Use the Topsfield Town Library Seed Library and grow produce this year to help support those in or near the Tri-Town with food security concerns.

When to Plant in Massachusetts

Seed Saving Workshop with Gretel Anspach

On April 3, 2024, the Topsfield Town Library hosted Gretel Anspach to discuss seed saving. Gretel Anspach is a Trustee of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and a Lifetime Master Gardener with the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association.

See the slides from the workshop here.

Looking for Books on Seed Saving or Gardening?

Visit the Second Floor of the library, which houses our non-fiction collection, and check out call numbers beginning with 631.5 and 635.

Gardening and Seed Saving Resources

UMASS Amherst Vegetable Planting Chart
Planning a new or larger vegetable garden this year? This chart helps plan when to sow seeds to set out seedlings.

Farmer’s Almanac
You’ll find hundreds of individual guides to common vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers, shrubs, and houseplants. All advice is written for the home gardener by the gardening editors at The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

USDA National Agricultural Library
The National Agricultural Library (NAL) is one of five national libraries of the United States. It houses one of the world’s largest collections devoted to agriculture and its related sciences.

National Gardening Association
We help gardeners research information through the continuous development of the world’s largest database of plants.

Seedsavers: How To Save Seeds
Whether you’re new to seed saving or want to brush up on the time-honored practice, these seed-saving basics are a smart place to start.

Seed Exchange
We’re a community of gardeners and seed stewards, sharing and swapping rare seeds you might not find anywhere else.

Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter (NOFA)
Established in 1982, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts chapter (NOFA/Mass) is a membership-funded non-profit organization. We welcome anyone who cares about the environment and our food system to join over 1000 other members and/or engage with our educational programs and advocacy efforts.

Massachusetts Master Gardener Association
he Massachusetts Master Gardener Association is available to answer your gardening questions. In partnership with two of Massachusetts’s most respected horticultural organizations – Massachusetts Horticultural Society and New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill – certified Master Gardeners staff two free Helplines.

New England Vegetable Management Guide
New England Vegetable Management Guide is a comprehensive guide to current production and pest management techniques for commercial vegetable crops.

Native Seeds: Seed Saving Instructions
For most of agricultural history, seed saving was a necessity. Gardeners and farmers carefully selected and stored the best seeds from their harvests, ensuring they had seed for planting in subsequent years. The knowledge of pollination, purity, harvesting and storage of seeds was all part of survival and learned within the family and community.

Seed Saving Difficulty Sheet
This handout highlights what seeds are relatively easy to save- and which are difficult.

Topsfield Agricultural Commission
The Agricultural Commission’s mission is to preserve, revitalize and sustain Topsfield’s agricultural industry and to promote agricultural-based economic opportunities. Activities include, but are not limited, to the following: serving as facilitators for encouraging the pursuit of agriculture in Topsfield; promoting agricultural-based economic opportunities in Town; acting as advocates and educators on farming issues; working for preservation of prime agricultural lands; and pursuing all initiatives appropriate to creating a sustainable agricultural community.

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