CALS seed library lends seeds to future gardeners
The way the Central Arkansas Library System serves customers continues to grow. There are, of course, books, movies, and music available on loan, as well as fishing rods, toys, tools and now … seeds.
The CALS Seed Library, located at the Sidney S. McMath branch, 2100 John Barrow Road in Little Rock, was concerned about the sudden shortage of fresh produce in grocery stores at the start of the covid-19 pandemic last spring.
Vanessa Scroggins devised a plan that would allow people to “borrow” up to five types of seeds to create a vegetable, herb or flower garden in their homes and later “return” them – or rather, some. seed collected from anything grows from borrowed seeds.
“Basically people can go in and fill out a form and list all the seeds they take,” says Scroggins. “The idea is that after they harvest and cultivate their crops, they bring back seeds, so we keep the library going.”
The CALS Seed Library is modeled after the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in Richmond, Calif., Says Scroggins.
“We use a lot of their models,” she says. “The majority of the seeds were from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. They made a really nice donation for that. And then Ann Green Healing Waters, a local group, donated some things to us as well.”
THERE ARE OPTIONS
The seeds from the CALS seed library are organized in a reused card catalog. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Cary Jenkins)
Scroggins has a list of the easiest plants to use for learning how to collect seeds, but for those who think it’s beyond their capacity, there are options.
“We just ask them to donate a purchased seed packet, but that’s not a requirement,” says Scroggins. “We are asking that they be non-GMO and heirloom only, mainly due to patent issues.”
The seeds are kept in an unassuming card catalog by the front door in McMath, on a table next to two thick filing cabinets – one contains forms filled out by people who borrowed seeds and the other contains colorful packets showing some of the seeds that can be borrowed. from the library.
Few of the collected seeds have been returned to the library yet, possibly because the seed library started late last summer and the libraries were not fully operational throughout the pandemic.
“We have these little forms that appear on the front of every seed packet, and they have information like name, common name, date of harvest, and then any information I can provide on where they are. been cultivated, ”says Scroggins. “The ones that we’re giving out have a lot more detailed information, like spacing, and, you know, sound requirements and things like that. We just asked what information they could give us that we fill out on that sticker that is on it. on this package. “
The seed packets are kept in a binder with information about the plants that will grow from the seeds. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Cary Jenkins)
Patrice O’Donoghue, cataloging librarian at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library, borrowed seeds. She also donated seeds from some of the plants grown in this branch’s learning garden to the Seed Library.
“It makes me very happy because they are grown locally, so the plants are going to be more resistant. They’re going to be more used to our climate, ”says Scroggins.
Farm Corps member Katie Matthews, one of 17 serving in central Arkansas, works with O’Donoghue at the Children’s Library, and she has also borrowed seeds for personal use.
“The seed library is really cool,” she says. “I would love to see him get bigger and better known.”
The seed library and other CALS initiatives are part of the Farm Corps mission.
“Our three main components are agriculture, education and awareness,” says Matthews of Farm Corps, which works in schools, community centers and libraries to create gardens and learn how to cultivate and maintain gardens. and preparing meals from fresh produce. “I feel like Farm Corps has really connected much of the existing urban farming community that has already existed in Little Rock for so long.
Matthews says that with the addition of the Seed Library, CALS is poised to help people who otherwise might not have gotten to growing their own food.
“The most important things that keep low-income people from gardening are time, money, and finding resources like land and seeds, so it’s very useful,” she says.
Vanessa Scroggins shows how to plant seeds. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Cary Jenkins)
O’Donoghue, Scroggins and others offered advice on how to grow plants in containers people have already dragged along – hay bales, old tires, buckets, bags and more – as well as how to fold rolls of toilet paper or newspaper to create biodegradable products. pots that can be planted in the ground.
Rachel Partridge, a Farm Corps member assigned to Chicot Elementary School’s new garden in Little Rock, heard about Matthews’ seed library.
“We were really not sure [what] our budget would be or how to start with the garden in Chicot so we went to see what they had, “she said.” I think we had carrots and tomatoes, cosmos flowers, marigolds and a few more things . I also used some for my own garden. “
The budget allowed them to buy more seed than expected, Partridge says.
“I think we will have some left over and plan to donate some of everything we have collected to the seed library,” she said.
Partridge knows that there are meetings organized around the exchange of seeds and plants, although these are sometimes sporadic.
“You just have to know when these things are happening,” she says.
Plant Friends of Little Rock, for example, posts dating details on its Facebook page. It is run by KG Kiefer, now from Fayetteville, who has a passion for gardening after growing up on a farm and also learning about plants from his grandmother.
Vanessa Scroggins plants seeds from the Seed Library. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Cary Jenkins)
“You can bring as much as you want and we make plants, we make cuts, there really are no boundaries,” Kiefer says. “It’s more about networking than starting out, but there are always people ready to help.”
Partridge says the Seed Library, with its regular hours and location, is a good place to start for anyone interested in gardening and she is happy to see the library’s involvement in this area.
“I learned how much more the library does for the community than just books. They will print your documents, they will help you with your taxes … you can buy a musical instrument or use a 3D printer. And you can get seeds from the seed library and learn how to save seeds, which I think is even more [of a] a skill lost beyond just growing food, ”Partridge says.
“There were people who underestimated, I guess, libraries and what they can do, what they can provide to a community and what their purpose is, and adding gardening where it doesn’t. was maybe not before, has really enriched what libraries are. and the kind of community that these types of activities create. ”
Farm Corps members not only borrowed seeds from the Seed Library to start community gardens, like the new one at the Millie Brooks Library in Wrightsville, they also borrowed tools from the Dee Brown Library Tool Library. to do their job.
The Tool Library, says CALS staff member Rachel Tanner, is a “best kept secret,” providing customers with loans of up to five tools at a time.
‘WE HAVE SAFETY EQUIPMENT’
These herbs and flowers were grown from seeds from the CALS Seed Library. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Cary Jenkins)
“If you don’t have your own power drill, you can borrow one and all you need is wood and screws to assemble a raised garden bed,” she says. “Well, you’d want a power drill and a handsaw. You might want to borrow a tape measure, if you don’t have one. We have safety gear – gloves and goggles, and a shovel and a wheelbarrow. I suggested. We also have an electric tiller, if you just want to make a buried garden. “
Courtney Jones, CALS outreach coordinator, said Millie Brooks’ garden was built with the aim of tackling food insecurity in this area.
“In Wrightsville, the only place to buy food is the Dollar General, and they don’t offer any fresh produce,” Johnson says. “There is just a real void where there are healthy eating opportunities.”
The library grows vegetables to share with the community, Johnson says, but community residents can also reserve garden space for personal use.
“Not everyone has ideal growing conditions at home, and we pretty much created them there with the raised beds and really good soil,” she says.
There is, of course, a plethora of gardening books, videos and articles available on demand from all CALS branches, and Scroggins and other library staff are happy to share their knowledge on gardening.
“I love helping people,” says Scroggins. “I don’t want people to be intimidated. Some people might be more comfortable with seedlings instead of just planting seeds. So … we hope we can have a good amount of seedlings that people can. take them home if they wish. to try that. “
Jones says library staff also appreciate customer advice.
“We also have a lot to learn,” she says. “… there are wonderful gardeners in every community, so come teach us and all that too.”