Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The Washington Public Library’s seed exchange program has humble roots, started eight years ago by Washington Assistant Librarian LeAnn Kunz. While there are certainly other libraries with bigger exchanges, Kunz said she was happy with how far theirs had come.
“We have seed packets available for patrons for free, and we’re also hoping people will donate,” she said. “If you’ve got prepackaged seeds that are store bought, that’s fine. If you are a seed saver and at the end of the season you collect seeds, bring those in … the idea is to donate seeds and take seeds.”
While the program can be a lot of work, Kunz said it was worth it.
“The repackaging does take a lot of time,” she said. “However, I’ve felt a lot of joy from people who get excited about it. I’ve seen people come in and say, ‘Oh my gosh, you guys have seeds, I can have one of those for free?’”
Kunz said the cost-free seed exchange was a good option for people just trying out gardening for the first time.
“There’s not as much pressure, they can grab a packet of seeds (and) try,” she said. “And then the delight that you have when you actually grew something is rewarding in itself … People always think, ‘I have a green thumb, or I don’t,’ and I don’t think that’s true.”
The seed exchange is open every year from April to June, although donations are accepted year-round. Since its start, Kunz said the program has gone back and forth in popularity.
“There’s times where it kind of waned a little, of course, during COVID,” she said. “But then it came back last year, because I had a lot of donations last year from new people … usually if we get the word out, a lot of people can dig around and find some seed.”
Kuntz is a gardener herself, and frequently makes use of the seed exchange. Still, she said the program was intended for everyone, whether they could donate or not.
“I know one of our staff people have a three-year-old, and last year he grew a sunflower, and he was very excited,” she said. “I think it’s a good place for parents to come and get their kids started growing a little mini garden together or just something in a pot … it can also be for the elderly, for anybody that walks in.”