UT Microfarm seed library aims to help students, staff reconnect with nature

Maya Wray, News Reporter

The Campus Environmental Center opened a new seed library within its Microfarm at the end of last semester to provide more ways for students, faculty and staff to get in touch with nature after spending a school year online.

A seed library is a way for people to swap, leave or pick up new seeds to grow plants and food. Plans for the Microfarm initiative, designed to promote and teach sustainable agriculture practices to the UT community, began in October 2020. Now, the seed library has a physical location near the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center on the first floor of the UT Tower. One year later, seed library manager Claire Bradley said it provides an accessible way for people to start planting their own gardens. 

“A couple weeks ago, I restocked it with 50 seeds, and then I checked three days later and over half of them were gone,” Bradley said. “The fact that these seeds are free and accessible to everyone is a really good way to encourage people to start growing their own food.”

Available seeds include root and ground vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers, Bradley said. The chemistry freshman also said herbs seem to be the most popular seeds.

“Herbs are a very great place for people to start because they’re simple. It’s not like you’re growing an entire crop, and it’s easy to take care of,” Bradley said. “I think it gives people sort of a foundation for growing your own things to cook with.” 

Nikki Hammond, one of the Microfarm project team leaders, said the Microfarm provides a way for the UT community to get out into nature and learn something new about sustainability and farming practices.

“People want to get out, and organizations want to have things for their members to do, and we’re happy to offer that space for them to provide a community-building activity, as well as educate them about sustainable agriculture,” said Hammond, a communication and leadership junior.

Mathematics senior Kaelen Saythongkham said she started working at the Microfarm as a volunteer leader in fall 2019 and feels rewarded seeing people learn something new from the tours volunteers give.

“I think that’s the most rewarding thing, just teaching people about sustainability and kind of bettering themselves in the community, farm-wise,” Saythongkham said.