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Released into the Wild

Local farmers and community plant growers gathered for the SMPL’s Little Free Seed Library installation. Photos by Jason Cook

Released into the Wild

Little Free Seed Library allows for exchange of seeds and planting knowledge between local farmers and growers
Sunday, October 24, 2021

Alexandra Walker began with the basics: one single seed. From it, she has helped to grow a whole community.

On the morning of Oct. 9 — before the San Marcos Public Library had even opened its doors — a small group of dedicated planters waited for the installation of the latest Seed Library, a place where enthusiasts of all levels can swap seeds with the local farming and growing community.

The SMPL Little Free Seed Library, painted by Andrea Gifford.

“The Seed Library idea was borne out of the desire to share with those who don’t have a lot of access,” Alexandra said as she and her husband, Charles, worked on setting up the installation. “It’s kind of a passion project,” she said. “We wanted to have art and access in our community, so these are small boxes of art and seeds in a rural area.”

Alexandra and Charles Walker first began their seed sharing efforts by joining a nonprofit organization called Share the Bounty. They soon learned that seed sharing was the most viable aspect of that project available to them.

“My husband and I are both from Austin,” Alexandra explained, “and we often think of Caldwell County as being very close to everything but still so far away.”

After studying the aspects of Share the Bounty, the Walkers started a nonprofit of their own called Dig Together, an organization created after they discovered significant gaps in environmental education and community food access. They started the process of lending garden tools to schools that wanted to participate in gardening programs but lacked the proper equipment. In addition, Dig Together cooperates with an international group of seed sharers to produce food in rural communities. Thus the seed library program took root.

Danzantes Mexicas performed at a community Indigenous People’s event held by Dig Together and the Martindale Community Library.

Though Dig Together is a small nonprofit organization run by the Walkers and a group of dedicated volunteers who restock the seed libraries and help pack seeds for distribution, they have been able to extend into the surrounding communities with seed library locations in Fentress, Maxwell, Martindale, Manchaca, San Antonio, Lockhart, McMahon and Prairie Lea, with one planned to go into Luling soon.

“Our goal was 10, initially,” Alexandra said. “This one [in San Marcos] is our seventh or eighth. We have one going in in Martindale later today. We have one mobile unit. It’s a newspaper stand that we repurposed. We call it our pop-up and I’ll call around and ask, ‘do you want us to show up today?’”

The Martindale Seed Library, painted by artist Augustin Gootz Chavez. Photos by Alex Walker

Each seed library is a small mounted box painted by a local artist and set up in a rural location.

“The seed library program has been very successful,” Charles said. “Community members start to bring in their own seeds. It’s a great way to build community interaction.”

“Some locations have a little community around them,” Alexandra added. “They even have plant swaps and raffles. Each box has a steward who comes to restock it. We do two refills each year in large batches where we share information about when and how to plant them.”

As for the types of seeds provided, it really depends on community involvement and the steward who is in charge of the particular box.

“It’s a mix of vegetable and flower seeds, depending on the steward in charge,” Alexandra said. “The person responsible for the one in Manchaca is an herbalist, so she provides native plants. Most are vegetables, but some get a specialized variety depending on the steward.”

All of the seeds are free, as is the information provided to the community on how and when to plant.

“It gives us an outlet to share plants and share our knowledge,” Alexandra said. “I think it’s for everyone. For me, it’s for the local community, those people who are looking into gardening.”

Cristen Andrews of Small Town Farm in Fentress was the first to donate seeds to the San Marcos Little Free Seed Library. “We painted the first seed library in Fentress,” she said. “I brought oats and senna alata, otherwise known as candlebush.”

The San Marcos and Martindale Seed Libraries went into their respective locations on Oct. 9, serendipitously combining with local celebrations of Indigenous Cultures. The Martindale Community Library hosted their seed library dedication in conjunction with an art show by Augustine Gootz Chavez and performances by Danzantes Mexicas.

The San Marcos Public Library installation went in on the same day, but the grand opening for the location is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. The Little Free Seed Libray was painted by Andrea Gifford of Lockhart, co-founder and director of Social Media and Communications for Progress Rural Enrichment Project, a nonprofit organization advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in rural areas.

Local seed and plant sharer Kristy Money will have 50 individual native plants to give away. “We also have a take-a-plant/leave-a-plant stand at home,” Money said. “We really hope to see more of those. It’s pretty fun, and the community sharing is fun.”

Community plant enthusiasts are encouraged to bring some seeds or take some as desired but seeds are not needed for participation. Adults and children are invited to paint rocks to help decorate the seed library’s post pot and other garden-related activities will take place in the children’s courtyard.

“We expect this to be a hotspot,” Charles said of the new San Marcos location “We’re trying to expand the seed library program. The trick of having a healthy society is having people get together and talk.”

This is the overarching goal of Dig Together: bringing communities together on the most basic level in order to achieve a healthier and more connected society.

Librarian Deborah Carter summed it up: “One thing we’ve learned from the pandemic is that we can be self-reliant,” she said, “but relying on our neighbors is a good thing. Also, knowing how to grow plants is a valuable skill, and also a fun one.”

In order to become involved in Dig Together and the seed library project, check out their website at “We need the community to participate,” Alexandra said. “There’s lots of little things that can be done.”

Seed Library Ribbon Cutting & Seed Swap

Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.

San Marcos Public Library, in the outdoor children’s courtyard.

Call 512-393-8200 for information

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666