NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Since spring 2020, more people have stayed at home due to COVID-19. This increased interest in gardening. In public libraries across the state offering seed library programs, community demand for vegetables, herbs, and flowers has grown.
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The Public Library of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County’s ABQ-BernCo Seed Library initiative is a year-round program that allows each resident to receive educational resources about growing gardens, as well as seed packets with their library card. Sheila Reece of the South Broadway Library, where the seed library is located, said they had a total of around 5,000 packets of seeds in circulation for just the months of January and February. “There are definitely more people coming in and saying they’re starting their own gardens now,” said Reece.
Currently, the library uses an online method that allows people to email their orders and pick them up at the nearest branch of the public library. Anyone with a good library card can check out 30 packets of seeds each year to grow in a home garden.
While interest in gardening projects to keep home busy has increased over the past year, members of the Las Cruces community are concerned with providing their families with food. Brita Sauer, library director of the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in Las Cruces, said there was a short time in the face of the recent severe winter storm when trucks carrying groceries to their grocery stores could not drive and many shelves were empty for an hour a week . She said the program will have a lot more interest and appreciation for local agriculture afterwards, which is part of her goal with the seed library called Tierra Sagrada.
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The other goal of their seed library is to ultimately fill the library with locally grown seeds that meet the needs of the community. “The other goal of our seed library is to get other people to save their own seeds and possibly contribute to the seed library so that our library represents the community a little bit more,” said Sauer. “It’s a community sharing project, we just provide the space and hopefully people can participate.”
Christine Salem of the Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners is the director of the seed library at the Santa Fe Public Library. Producing locally grown seeds can help plants adapt to the weather caused by climate change, much like the winter storm Sauer spoke of. “Growing from seeds and creating your own locally adapted seed contribute to genetic diversity and local adaptation. When we experience global changes and things like that, the seeds are really smart and they have the ability to express or suppress certain genetic traits that make them more adaptable to these localized weather situations, ”said Salem.
In addition to their seed library, Salem said, they also provide education and resources for gardeners, particularly regarding the history of agriculture in this part of the state. Due to COVID-19 closures affecting libraries, the Santa Fe Seed Library will hold 11 “mini seed libraries” across the county from March through May or while seed supplies last.