Seed library offers chance for local gardeners to give back
By Lori C. Adler
A couple of years ago, Cindy Weddle, librarian assistant at Rhinelander District Library, and Mike Haasl, founder of the Northwoods Homesteading Club and member of the Master Gardeners of the North club, were discussing the idea of starting a seed library which would allow local gardeners to help in the preservation of varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers considered to be heirlooms.
At about the same time, local ethno-botanist Samantha Martinez approached Weddle about including funding for a seed library in a grant application she was submitting to the Northern Arts Council. Just two years later, Martinez was awarded the grant and the seed library in Rhinelander was born. The seed library is located at Rhinelander District Library and will open this week.
The idea of a seed library is simple. Patrons check out seeds at the library, grow them, save seeds, and then return some of the saved seeds back to the library. What this accomplishes is preserving many varieties of plants, ensuring those considered heirloom or rare remain available for future generations. A seed library also helps these varieties evolve naturally to become more suitable for the local climate and growing conditions. In addition, community gardeners are working together toward a common goal. It’s a way, according to Martinez, for “people to feel like they’re giving back.”
The seed library currently contains about 500 packets of seeds, many donated by heirloom seed companies. Patrons will be able to check out up to five packets of seeds, with the hope that the gardeners will be successful in their seed saving and return some of the seeds to the library after the growing season. There will be no charge to use the seed library.
Saving seeds is relatively simple for most varieties, but to help gardeners further understand how seed saving works, Martinez will conduct a workshop 1-3 p.m., Friday, April 26, at the Rhinelander District Library. Both Weddle and Haasl will also be available to provide further assistance and answer questions. Those attending the workshop will learn more about plant genetics and pollination, as well as how to grow to keep the seed pure and how to harvest and store the different types of seeds. Workshop attendees will get first choice of seeds in the library, and then after the workshop, the seed library will be open to everyone.
Martinez, Weddle and Haasl say they hope the new seed library will give gardeners a chance to try different plant varieties, to learn about the importance of seed saving, to gain new skills, and to experience a sense of community. For more information on the seed library and/or the seed saving workshop, please contact Rhinelander District Library at 715-365-1070 or rhinelanderlibrary.org.