Saturday, 31 March 2018

A Cool Initiative

If you're here for a hockey article today, I'm going to let you down softly as there is no hockey here today. I'm going to talk a little bit about a cool initiative of which I hope Americans will take advantage because I've never seen it done here. For you see, local libraries in the United States have begun to catalogue and share seeds that one can plant in their own gardens! I really like this idea, and I'm hopeful that libraries in Canada start to do it because I think it's a great way to really promote local plant species and species that grow well in our environment!

Katherine Davis-Young of Atlas Obscura dug into the story of American public libraries and their caches of seeds. The Phoenix Public Library system has seen a keen interest in the program, and I think it would catch on in other parts of the continent as well.
"The Phoenix Public Library first put seeds on the shelves at one of its branches in 2014. Franklin says they were immediately in high demand. Now the library distributes an average of 1,000 seed packets per month across nine of its 17 branches. Franklin says the program has proven to be sustainable with minimal costs — around $300-$500 to bring a seed-sharing program to a new branch of the library. And, Franklin says, the organizational tasks of offering seeds fit seamlessly with the library's existing cataloguing system."
For the cost of a few marketing dollars, the Phoenix Public Library has seen a big upswing in its interactions with the public, meaning that they're getting more foot traffic into its nine current branches offering the program. For a library, that kind of traffic is huge and it could give libraries the shot in the arm that they need in this digital age.

"It's innovative, it's different, it's another way for people to interact with the library," says Lee Franklin, the library's spokesperson. "It's been really well received."

Some branches of libraries across the continent may not have the startup money, and that's ok too. Rebecca Newburn, co-founder of the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in Richmond, California, has a way to take some of the cost off the top while being a sustainable resource at the library.
"Some seed libraries just give seeds away, while others rely on participants to grow a plant to maturity, capture new seeds, and contribute back to the collection. Many seed libraries are run by nonprofits, clubs, or school groups, but Newburn says public libraries, with built-in resources for community outreach and educational programming, have become the most common place to find these programs."

As a home owner, planting a garden can be time-consuming, but the rewards are entirely worth it. The costs of seeds occasionally makes me cringe, and I'm not always certain that what I plant will respond well to the conditions in my garden. If one could potentially test a few seeds for free, one could make better decisions about the plants, fruits, and veggies that one will plant in future years. With better output from plants who produce well, one can return viable seeds to the program to keep it running! To me, this is a win-win for both the library and the library cardholder as the library also has lots of books on plants for researching growing methods and harvesting!

Ok, that stuff about the library having books on plants seems really obvious, so let's get back into Miss Davis-Young's findings. Newburn told Miss Davis-Young that "the common goal of seed libraries is to educate people on the unique plants and specific needs of the region, be it high-altitude, humid, urban, or rural. But each seed library is a little different."

As I stated above, the libraries are holding seeds for conditions in their immediate areas. It wouldn't make sense to plant palm trees in the arctic just as it wouldn't make sense to plant succulents in the desert. By doing this, the seeds are able to evolve and adapt over time to different conditions, something of which Joy Hought, executive director of Tucson-based seed preservation nonprofit, Native Seeds/SEARCH, is seeing less and less thanks, in part, to large agricultural companies producing vast amounts of food.
"As plant species reproduce, new generations develop unique adaptations to different environmental conditions, resulting in diverse heirloom varieties. But when large companies control most food production and seed distribution, and work to hybridize and streamline agriculture, those regional differences can disappear.

"'I don't see us as competing against large industrial seed producers, we just want to make sure that biodiversity is still available to people,' Hought says. She also notes that, as climate change alters the environment, she hopes access to more varieties of seeds will prepare food growers to cope with extreme conditions."
It's funny that Miss Hought stated that because I've planted several species of tomatoes in my garden with varying degrees of success. The Roma tomatoes and cherry tomatoes seem to thrive in my garden whereas species like the purple tomatoes haven't produced one piece of fruit. By working through these issues, I know what grows well in my garden for future plantings, but I wish I hadn't spent the time, garden space, and money on something that wasn't going to be viable. In any case, I now know for future gardens which tomatoes will thrive.

So I've talked up seed libraries for little bit, and you might be thinking that this is good idea for your own public library or perhaps a school library. Luckily, there's a how-to on starting a seed library from scratch that you should probably read. It's going to take some effort to get this going, but I'm pretty sure it will benefit many once it starts.

With the NHL having gone green in the month of March to promote sustainability, I may have waited until the last minute with this article, but I feel it should be shared. Sustainability doesn't just mean turning off a light or recycling plastic. It means re-using items that can and should be re-used. It means reducing emissions from cars, ice rinks, and other places that generate harmful gases that are released into the air. It means sustainability for the planet, not just humans, as we try to keep this world green on the ground and blue in the water.

One way we can help sustain humanity and, in turn, the planet? Planting and consuming more fruits and veggies.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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