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Como Community Seed Library hosts their spring event

Posted on 05 June 2017 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Dawn Lamm and Bill Nieber (photo right) are dedicated to empowering local people to grow their own food. They are avid seed savers, part of a growing movement of gardeners who contribute to diversifying the worldwide food system. Residents of the Como neighborhood, the couple created the Como Community Seed Library four years ago and hosted their second large-scale community event on Sat., May 21 at the Orchard Rec Center.

Nearly 100 gardeners attended the event, which opened with an educational presentation on lawn care practices. Lamm and Nieber envision each of their community events as having an educational component followed by an informal time for swapping plants, exchanging seeds, and telling stories.

Seed saving is the practice of saving seeds or other reproductive material from vegetables, grains, herbs, and flowers. This is the traditional way that farms and gardens have been maintained through the ages. In the last 50 years, there has been a significant shift toward buying seed from commercial seed suppliers. Much of the seed-saving activity today is done on a small scale by home gardeners.

There are some seed libraries that have opened up across Minnesota in recent years. The Como Community Seed Library is unique among those in that it is mobile.

“We wanted to be able to bring our library out into the community,” Lamm said, “rather than being attached to a physical site. A gardener can see what kind of vegetable and flower seeds we have, take a few packets with them, leave their contact information and, if they like, bring seeds back to us in the next growing season. Not everyone ‘shares back,’ but many people do. We’re still building the seed community in this area through sowing, growing, and sharing seeds.”

Lamm, a historian by training, is as interested in the stories of the plants as she is in the seeds themselves. She said, “There was a woman who spoke at our presentation today, and she told a story of heirloom butternut squash seeds that have been passed down through her family for four generations.”

Photo left: A portion of the mobile Como Community Seed Library, where gardeners can check out seeds to sow, grow, and share.

What is an heirloom variety? According to the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, “’Heirloom’ describes a seed’s heritage, specifically a documented heritage of being passed down within a family or community. An heirloom variety of fruit, vegetable, or flower must be pollinated by natural means, and retain its original traits from one generation to the next.”

What is an heirloom variety? According to the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, “’Heirloom’ describes a seed’s heritage, specifically a documented heritage of being passed down within a family or community. An heirloom variety of fruit, vegetable, or flower must be pollinated by natural means, and retain its original traits from one generation to the next.”

Every seed holds a connection to the future and the past. The stories of seeds connect us to our history, our culture, our family, and our sense of who we are.

Lamb explained, “These seed-saving traditions are so important because 75% of our food crop diversity has disappeared in the last 100 years. The trend in agribusiness is toward planting mono-cultures, but why should we have the same tomatoes and potatoes all across the different regions of our country?”

The Como Community Seed Library is available for appearances at block clubs, faith-based organizations, community gardens or any other plant-related events. Lamm and Nieber can be reached by email at comoseedsavers@gmail.com, or through Facebook at www.facebook.com/comocommunityseedlibrary. There is no cost to join the seed library or to have them participate in a community event.

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