“Helping Others Grow” is the motto of the Purdue Extension Master Gardener program. Montgomery County Master Gardener Association is taking that motto to heart by joining with the Crawfordsville District Public Library to start a local seed library.
A seed library is not a library in the traditional sense of checking something out and bringing something back. A seed library is a place to receive free seeds for community members to participate in growing their own food. Education and growing resources are also available for seed recipients through workshops, speaker series, handouts and reading material.
“The seed library will be a great opportunity for gardeners to sample seeds they’ve never grown before,” said Janella Nunan, Master Gardener and CDPL employee. “It will also give new gardeners a taste of what grows best in our community.”
Locally, Montgomery County falls somewhere in between a food desert and a food swamp. A food desert is defined as a place where it is not easy to buy fresh, healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, due to a lack of adequate grocery stores. With only two major grocery outlets available to Montgomery County residents, many live miles away from the nearest grocery store.
A food swamp describes an environment with an overabundance of unhealthy, less nutritious food choices. This includes food from fast food joints, convenience stores and gas stations. It also includes places where the poorer food choices are offered at discounted or bundled deals. It is easier to choose the quick, affordable “bad food” over the “good food” even though they threaten public health and can lead to obesity.
“We are helping put healthy choices back into the hands of the consumer,” said Master Gardener Andria Grady. “While we can’t change the retail stores, we can help the individual learn how to grow their own food and have fun doing it. We can shrink the size of the swamp.”
Seeds will become available to the public on March 1. It will include more than 50 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs. The seed library will be housed on the second floor of the library, near the reference desk. Patrons may select seed packets and sign up for garden activities at their leisure. While the seed library will have a wide range of seeds to choose from, the patron should keep in mind to limit their packets to about 10 per person for everyone to have the opportunity to have seeds.
“We are very excited about our partnership with the Master Gardeners and Purdue Extension,” said Ivette de Assis-Wilson Ph.D., head of reference and local history at CDPL. “A seed library will benefit our users, who can pick various seeds for free at CDPL. The modern library is more than just books; this is one more item we are happy to add to our collection. I hope our community takes advantage of this opportunity to grow local nutritious food at home.”
A component of the partnership includes a series of workshops and guest speakers held at the library. The first event is a hands-on seed starting workshop taught by Dr. Amanda Ingram, Wabash College professor of biology. Participants will have the opportunity to start a vegetable, an herb and an ornamental. The program is 6:30-7:30 p.m. March 9 in the Donnelley Room at the CDPL. Pre-registration is required.
On May 11, avid local gardener Kathy Brown will host a talk about best vegetables and varieties to grow in our area. Anne Viray-Sipahimalani will offer a session on sensational succulents on Aug. 10.
All programs are free and open to the public. Class size is limited. Check the library calendar for details and registration links.
Sponsorship for the project has come from many sources. Locally, funds have been received from Valero, Nucor, Hoosier Heartland State Bank, The Environmental Transformation Podcast, Growing Common Ground, BeeNeu and Potager and Petals.
The Master Gardener Seed Library has also been awarded products from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, High Mowing Seeds and Seed Saver’s Exchange. This year, it will be featured as one of Herman’s Gardens by Seed Saver’s Exchange.