Seed-saver library sprouts in Richmond
Joe Eaton,Ron Sullivan, Special to The Chronicle
August 4, 2010 04:00 AM Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle
Calendula seeds can be found in the seed-lending library at the public library in Richmond.
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Hard times can incubate good ideas, and one of those is seed saving in home gardens. Nationally, Native Seeds/SEARCH and Seed Savers Exchange, and locally, Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) at the Berkeley Ecology Center have been doing this for some years.
The latest cultivar of the idea is the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in the main Richmond Public Library - such a logical pairing that it's surprising it seems to be the first anywhere.
An offshoot of Richmond Rivets, an organization building community resilience to climate change and fossil fuel shortages, Richmond Grows is part of a network of homegrown programs like Urban Tilth, which promotes food gardening in schools and on the Richmond Greenway (the repurposed former Southern Pacific right of way) and the Five Percent Local Coalition, pushing local food production. Richmond and Kennedy high schools operate urban farms; many elementary schools have their own gardens. Last year's urban homestead tour included 20 sites.
Everyone knows Richmond's got poverty, violence and industrial pollution, but it's also blessed with sunshine and usable space, including vacant lots. Raised-bed gardening avoids soil contaminants. The city's cultural diversity - African American, Latino, Southeast Asian - is a rich lode of gardening lore, kept alive by people who grow collards or peppers the way their grannies did.
People save seeds to preserve heirlooms; to step away from agribusiness, which lately tends toward monoculture; for "food security" - fresh produce where supermarkets are thin on the ground; and for the pure pleasure of growing your own.
Co-founders Catalin Kaser and Rebecca Newburn kicked off the library project this winter by asking seed companies for donations. One company, Missouri-based Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds came through with a thousand dollars' worth. Territorial Seeds and the Seed Savers' Exchange also chipped in.
Appropriately, a salvaged library card file and similarly repurposed cabinets house the seeds. The seeds are cataloged by plant family: "Sunflowers, sunchokes, cardoons and artichokes are all in the same drawer," Kaser said, showing us. Herbs and wildflowers have their own files. Seeds are further categorized by how easy or difficult they are to keep genetically stable.
As the library's bilingual brochures explain, self-pollinating plants like sunflowers, beans, tomatoes and peppers are the easiest. Because individual plants use their own pollen to fertilize seeds, there's little risk of getting a hybrid you don't want. Cross-pollinating, self-sterile plants like onions and parsley are rated more difficult. "Advanced" plants, pollinated by insects or wind and prone to crossbreeding, include cabbage and its relatives, melons and squashes, and corn and other grains.
"We think of a library as a place where you can borrow a book and bring it back," Kaser said. "The difference here is that you don't return the same seeds you take out." Library members start with seeds from the existing collection and are expected to return seeds they collect themselves from each crop, origins carefully tracked on the take-out envelopes: "We envision that more and more of the library will represent seeds actually grown here. Over the years we may start knowing which seeds are reliable."
"I believe saving seeds is key to growing our local foodshed," says Urban Tilth Executive Director Doria Robinson. "It helps us reconnect the whole cycle of planting, growing, harvesting and replanting without the need for exterior resources."
A couple dozen Richmond residents have already signed up to check out seed. Kaser describes them as "people from all the neighborhoods, not just middle-class urban gardeners." Some are apartment-dwellers with limited growing space. "We hope it becomes a way people can connect. I've seen people at the orientations offering to share cuttings." For some, it's as basic as food on the table. But Kaser knows a local gardener who doesn't like vegetables, and gives his crops away: "He grows his vegetables just because he can."
Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, at the Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza. (510) 620-6561; www.richmondgrows.org
Urban Tilth, (510) 778-5886; www.urbantilth.org
Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan are naturalists and freelance garden writers in Berkeley. Check out their Web site at www.selbornesurveys.com or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/04/DDDL1EA7VC.DTL#ixzz0wUk4cPL6
Free seed saving class on Monday, August 30th from 6-7:30 pm
Richmond Public Library
325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond
The class is an introduction to seed saving and will provide the basic knowledge and skills to save a variety of easy-to-save vegetable seeds. Register at http://richmondgrows.org.
Getting the information out about how to save seeds is a huge part of living more sustainably. That's why we are making four video shorts about seed saving. The videos will be available on-line for free to educate people about how to save seeds from the parsley, pea/bean, nightshade, and sunflower families. The benefit of having the information on videos is that they can be watched any time, and they will be available to people from other communities who are also interested in relearning the time-honored tradition of seed saving. We're doing the videos as a fundraiser to support the work we're doing at Richmond Grows. Consider donating to support the creation of these four fun and highly educational videos. Re-skilling people in seed saving
• makes any local seed lending library self-sustaining so we can continue to provide this free service,
• provides greater food security to our community,
• will lead to the selection of seeds that are adapted to our changing climate,
• connects us to the earth and our community by engaging us in this 12,000 year old tradition
Donations are tax-deductible and their rewards for your pledges:
• $10 or more: Rosie the Riveter "Local Resilience. We Can Do It!" magnet
• $25 or more: above + 2 seed packets with covers designed by local artists with seed saving directions on back
• $50 or more: above + acknowledgment on our website
• $100 or more: above + DVD with 4 videos
• $250 or more: above + acknowledgment on videos
• $500 or more: above + 15 seed packets with your information on them
We're also looking for a donation of frequent flyer miles to attend an 8-day seed saving course in Arizona. Contact RichmondGrows@gmail.com, if you have a flight that you could donate. The donation is tax-deductible.
Click here (http://kck.st/biGDAs) to support our campaign and our community!
If you want to donate, but prefer the traditional way, you can write a check payable to Urban Tilth (our fiscal sponsor) and send the check to:
c/o Rebecca Newburn
624 31st St.
Richmond, CA 94804
Please share this with people in our and other communities.
Co-Founder and Co-Coordinator