Grow a Row Program
1. Look through donated seed for rare, unusual or culturally significant varieties. Pull these out of the general collection to be grown in bulk and feed back into the seed lending library. You may even decide to purchase unusual varieties that you would like to steward.
2. If addressing food security is an intention, then look through donations and get varieties that will be easy to grow in your region and provide a lot of nutrition such as beans and squash.
3. One idea is to have two categories of seed: home gardener and urban ag (or farmer, if you're rural). Home gardeners have smaller spaces and thus will be more able and willing to grow out "super easy" plants such as tomatoes, peas, beans and lettuce since these don't need the large population sizes. Urban ag folks will be able to grow things such as carrots and squash and perhaps some corn and brassicas.
4. Another strategy is to have several folks grow out the same variety and then borrowers can take some seed from each grower to increase the genetic diversity of what they are growing.
5. Create a system to get members of your community to grow seed out and to track them.
6. Provide resources and mentors to connect with new seed savers. (Here again, having folks start with "super easy" plants allows more folks to get involved and increases the likelihood that you will get large quantities of quality seed.)
7. If possible have pre-printed labels available for ease of return and to ensure that folks that are borrowing these seeds are aware of specifics, such as that the plant has been grown in your area for 26 years.
8. Get community gardens and schools to choose to grow a crop and make this part of their stewardship and gift to the community.
9. Reach out to Master Gardeners, garden clubs, permaculture guilds and local horticulture departments to see if they are willing to curate crops and also encourage their members to do the same for the benefit of the community.
10. Make a stamp or special envelope indicating plants that are rare or unique so that people that are borrowing them know to be mindful with them and to make sure they do their best to return some.
94% of the old varieties of crops have been lost in the last 100 years, but you can change the trend. Start a Grow a Row program as part of your seed lending library. What's a Grow a Row program? Selected varieties are grown out by volunteers for the benefit of the community. The varieties selected could be to ensure a large amount of seed is available for food security purposes or could be for the genetic preservation of varieties that are rare, unique or have cultural significance to your community or it could be a genetically diverse seed to increase climate resilience. You get to choose. Preserve rare varieties while increasing food security!
Here are some forms. Take them. Tweak them. Make them your own... and if you come across a great idea, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add it to this site for the benefit of all.