The Southwest Center's W.K. Kellogg Program in Food and Water Security recently co-hosted and sponsored the first International Seed Library Forum in Tucson from May 3-6 2015. More than 160 participants from eight countries discussed the emerging social movement of seed movement of free access seed libraries, which already includes 400 sites in public and school libraries, food banks, co-ops and ecology centers. Participants from Canada, the U.S., British Isles, Italy, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru and Chile shared success stories on both the horticultural and social management of these seed libraries, as fresh means of providing better access of diverse seed stocks to low-income households and communities where other venues for obtaining locally-adapted seeds of food crops are limited. The participants included not only librarians, but agricultural extension agents, food bank directors, university researchers, non-profit leaders, lawyers, oral historians and journalists. The forum took place exactly a third of a century after the University of Arizona and Tucson non-profits hosted the first-ever international forum on grassroots conservation and seed saving of heirloom and native food crops.
This year's meeting had a particular focus on addressing regulatory challenges that a few seed libraries have recently faced and a resolution was unanimously passed to re-frame the importance and professional integrity of seed libraries to state seed trade inspectors.
As is often the case, the Southwest Center successfully partnered with local co-sponsors to host the forum: the Pima County Public Library; the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona; Native Seeds/SEARCH; Edible Baja Arizona magazine; Friends of Tucson's Birthplace Mission Garden; Iskashitaa Refugee Network; the Loft Cinema; Mercado de San Agustin and Southwest Folklife Alliance.
Evening events included the first Arizona showing of the award-winning film Seeds of Time; an agrarian poetry reading by Alison Deming, Scott Chaskey and Gary Nabhan; and a tamalada in defense of native maize to benefit international exchanges between the Mission Garden and the Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca.
These events were featured in the Arizona Daily Star, Edible Baja Arizona magazine, the largest community food and farming magazine in the country, and Arizona Public Media radio stations.