Thanks to a new project by the Brownwood Public Library and Brownwood Area Community Garden, residents can grow produce with no substantial investment.

Daniel Graham, community garden director, said using the seed library in conjunction with the community garden could take a large bite out of families’ food expenses considering a typical resident would pay is $50 annually to rent a planter.

“It’s very low cost, very low cost,” Graham said. “These are raised beds. I call them deluxe raised beds that are about 20 feet long by 3 and a half feet wide. They already have group irrigation installed to lease one of those for a year is about $50. For residents of the housing authority, who we know have already passed the low income screening, it’s about $25 a year.”

In a seemingly symbolic gesture, the library converted the cabinet it once used for its now digitized card filing system and instead uses it to house dozens of seed varieties donated to the Brownwood Area Community Garden by Walmart. As part of the seed library program, library patrons can search through the cabinet and checkout seeds the same as they would a book or DVD.

“Traditionally, libraries have lent books,” BPL Director Becky Isbell said. “Over the years, the internet came along and people said ‘libraries are going to go extinct,’ but libraries changed themselves to go with the times. They offered computers, printers and things like that. Libraries have always been, but especially currently, they are a place to share community resources - books, computers.  And seeds are another thing.”

Anyone with a Brownwood library card can pick up seeds free of charge and plant them in his or her garden or the community garden. Those interested in checking out seeds must be 18 years old and have a library card, which is free to anyone with government issued identification and a proof of residency.

Librarians ask patrons to check in the seeds once the new crop comes in, sometime in the late summer or early fall. Library and community garden officials plan to collaborate once again, but this time on classes regarding seed savings and other gardening topics.

“It is a little advanced, saving seeds,” Isbell said. “It’s a project the Brownwood community garden and the library talked about for a while … It’s a great partnership to encourage people to garden.”

As the program moves forward, Isbell said she hopes to bring in heartier, heirloom seeds that can last more than two or three generations and eventually carry varieties more suited to the area’s climate.

“It’s food security. We have so much fewer varieties of foods these days, fewer plants than we used to,” Isbell said. “Having all of those varieties suited for each region helps us. If there is a natural catastrophe, a volcano, global warming, we don’t know what the future will hold. Having those varieties suited to certain regions will help us preserve our food. That is one of the reasons people have seed libraries.”

For more information, contact Graham at (325) 641-9029 or Isbell at (325) 646-5800.