Environmentally mindful Orangeville man opens free seed library 

April 25, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Gail Powell

McCarthy Street resident Matthew Smith wants to share his love of backyard farming and sustainability with his Orangeville neighbours.

He’s an active member of the Facebook group called “Grow Your Own Food! Orangeville” and has been spreading his message of gardening, seed saving and seed swapping since he became a member of the Town of Orangeville’s sustainability committee a few years ago.

“During Covid, I was overseeing the Town’s seed library as member of the sustainability committee. I enjoyed speaking with fellow gardeners, answering their seed questions and building new friendships,” said Smith. 

“I wanted to give more people an opportunity to grow their own food, so instead of distributing 200 bean seeds to one person, I decided to start my own seed library where I could divide up those 200 bean seeds into smaller packages. Ten plants per person can still produce a lot of beans.”

Another goal for Smith to start this independent seed library is to encourage the people of Orangeville to grow food and then share that cultivated food with their neighbours who could also benefit from a bountiful harvest. 

Recently he connected with Westminster United Church on Broadway to offer some of his freshly grown, kale, sage and Swiss chard to plant in their front lawn growing initiative.

“I love to see people sharing food with their neighbours. Through food sharing and over-the-fence conversations, neighbours may then get to know each other better and this can help strengthen community ties.”

Smith also hopes some of the grown foods from the seeds will be donated to the Orangeville Food Bank.

“I’ve been volunteering with the Food Bank since 2023. I take great pride in knowing I’m playing a small role in helping to get food on the table for people who may be food insecure,” he said.

After watching a few YouTube videos on how to build a little book library this winter, Smith used that knowledge as inspiration to build his front lawn seed library. 

The structure itself is perched at the bottom of Smith’s driveway on McCarthy Street just behind the Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre. It’s fashioned from rough plywood, nails, screws, wood glue and caulking to help keep the seeds dry.

“I gave it a few coats of primer and paint and mounted it on a 4×4 post in a bucket of concrete,” Smith added.

The McCarthy Street seed library has been an instant success with neighbours generously donating seeds and Smith also supplementing the inventory. 

“I’m so grateful to the community who have already given seed donations,” Smith noted.

“Whatever seeds I receive, I continue to put out for people to borrow. I will also save the seeds from my garden this year and then put them into my library too,” he said.

Seed libraries depend on community involvement for success. Smith would like to see more independent seed libraries popping up all over town.

“It would be great if there was a large selection of locally grown foods and harvested seeds available each year so more people could benefit.”

For more information about Smith’s seed library project visit Smith’s Facebook blog page:

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