Seed library takes root in northwest Toronto neighbourhood to help it tackle food insecurity

·3 min read
Christina Hoang, a community organizer in the Weston-Mount Dennis neighbourhood, left, stands with Kaltuma Haji, hub co-ordinator of The Community Place Hub, right. Both say the Weston Seed Library is helping the community. (Robert Krbavac/CBC - image credit)
Christina Hoang, a community organizer in the Weston-Mount Dennis neighbourhood, left, stands with Kaltuma Haji, hub co-ordinator of The Community Place Hub, right. Both say the Weston Seed Library is helping the community. (Robert Krbavac/CBC - image credit)

A community organizer has put together a seed library in the hopes of helping a northwest Toronto neighbourhood tackle food insecurity.

Christina Hoang, who works in the neighbourhood of Weston-Mount Dennis, said the Weston Seed Library contains packets of seeds organized on shelves and it is located at The Community Place Hub, 1765 Weston Rd. Free seeds can be picked up at the library in the hub from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

"It just started very organically," Hoang told CBC Toronto.

Hoang said members of the Weston Neighbourhood Gardeners Facebook group were talking about their extra seeds and what to do with them. The idea of the seed library grew out of that discussion. One packet can contain 200 seeds and gardeners only need a few of them, she said.

"We decided we might as well do something cool with it. The concept of a seed library isn't anything new. I'm not reinventing the wheel," she said.

"There's a Toronto Seed Library, it's a whole initiative itself, and it takes place in so many cities, and I decided I might as well bring that to Weston as a form of place-based care within this neighbourhood."

One friend of Hoang's who is good with woodworking built the library, while another friend who is an artist designed and painted the structure. Residents donated seeds and Hoang went around the neighbourhood to collect them. It came together within a few weeks, she said.

"It was just a lot of love and a lot of community care."

Christina Hoang, who works in the neighbourhood of Weston-Mount Dennis, says: 'Growing food is such a great way to tackle food security in a way you are empowered.'
Christina Hoang, who works in the neighbourhood of Weston-Mount Dennis, says: 'Growing food is such a great way to tackle food security in a way you are empowered.'(Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Most of the library consists of donations of heirloom seeds, which are seeds that can reproduce and be saved or collected for long periods of time. Hoang said she wanted seeds not older than 2019.

She said she is trying to work against the idea of the commoditization of seeds, in which a handful of companies control the global seed market and produce commercial seeds that cannot reproduce.

'There's just been so much gratitude for it'

"Growing food is such a great way to tackle food security in a way you are empowered," Hoang said. "I love Weston. I love this community and I want to see it grow in a beautiful way."

The seed library has been advertised on social media and in an online newspaper called The Weston Web. "There's just been so much gratitude for it," she said.

"Reconnecting with food and a just food system starts with a seed," Hoang wrote in a recent Instagram post.

Kaltuma Haji, hub co-ordinator of The Community Place Hub, said the hub agreed to host the seed library. Now people are coming to the hub to pick up seeds, she said. It helps the community of Weston-Mount Dennis, both residents and service providers, to navigate services.

"We've been having a bunch of people coming in to pick up seeds of interest. They're finding it very exciting," Haji said.

Haji said people who come to pick up seeds are already growers and they know what they want. "This is an amazing project," she said.

The seed library, in a green panel on display at the top, contains a few instructions.

People who pick up seeds are urged to follow public health measures, which means sanitize, wear a mask and physically distance. "Everything is free but take only what you need," it adds.

People are encouraged to take a photo of the seed growing instructions or visit the Farmer's Almanac website. Finally, they are urged to tag the seed library with the hashtag, #WestonRoadGrows, to see what others are growing.

The Weston Seed Library contains packets of seeds organized on shelves. It is located at The Community Place Hub, 1765 Weston Rd. 'Everything is free but take only what you need,' it reads.
The Weston Seed Library contains packets of seeds organized on shelves. It is located at The Community Place Hub, 1765 Weston Rd. 'Everything is free but take only what you need,' it reads.(Robert Krbavac/CBC)