Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SeedBroadcasting from Seed Library Week and Seed Celebration in Silver City, New Mexico

On April 10, the Grant County Seed Library and Volunteer Center of Silver City hosted a public Seed Celebration and Seed Exchange. For a short but packed two hours a multi-generational group of Silver residents gathered to swap and talk seeds, read poetry, bake horno fresh pizzas to eat, tour the gardens, and talk about the year ahead growing food and feeding a community in need. Local kids were making a seed mural out of beans and squash seeds and they were excited by the prospect of displaying the mural at the Center.

The swap included a wide variety of locally saved seeds including flowers, different herbs, beans, corn, squash, melons, onions, and greens. Most came from the surrounding area, including Carl Barne’s Glass Gem Corn and several special bean varieties which are grown by seed keeper Greg Schoen outside of town in the mountains. There was a large mason jar of Glass Gem seeds that were returning to the exchange after being planted out in town as a small population. The woman bringing these back got a great yield of saved seed and was returning them to the community to support the creation of a truly unique and biodivese Silver City variety.

Many of theses seed seekers are planting out small backyard gardens within the city. This makes it a challenge to grow enough plants of one variety to keep diversity strong as they cross and commingle their genes, while building memories that are deep and varied. Genetic diversity is the most important aspect of encouraging resilience in everything, let alone plants. But, there are several solutions for this…and one such tried and true method is sharing. After growing out seed with a small number of plants, you can find seed from neighbors in your region to include in future grows of your saved seed. And you give some of your seed to your neighbors to help build their populations.

Earlier this year, Grant County, New Mexico declared a proclamation to make every year during April 4 – 10, Grant County Seed Library Week. The seed library was founded in February 2015 in partnership with the Volunteer Center of Grant County, High Desert Organic Gardeners, and the Silver City Co-op to help local residents grow gardens, fight hunger, and eventually develop locally adapted seed varieties to be saved, shared, and redistributed. It was founded by Azima Lila Forest and she says it is growing slowly, but more seeds show up whenever she checks in to see how the library is going. So far it seems that Silver City has many bean growers and the varieties showing up at the library are incredible. She is hoping to expand the seed library and create a branch at the local public library.

The week of dedication and celebration brings with it a feeling of commitment by local political leaders in support of meaningful ways to build a healthy, sustainable, and resilient community. This is special, in that it seems that very few politicos actually support the practice of small scale, people to people agricultural efforts, which aim to build free systems based on generosity, hard work, and the local. Instead they typically import outside solutions that favor the commodification of community knowledge, practice, and well-being, while extracting these for money. But you cannot eat money.

Speaking with local city council-woman, Lynda Aiman-Smith, she talked about how Silver City was also on a path to support city sustainability and resiliency. They even have a thirty year program dedicated to recycling and reuse and developing lasting and meaningful solutions to fight poverty and hunger in this southwestern New Mexican food desert. She pointed to the Volunteer Center as a perfect example.

The Volunteer Center is an ambassador for building partnerships across Silver City. It brings together people, projects, and other organizations across the county by providing a beautiful space for gathering, learning, and sharing. At its core is the Common Center for Food Security and Sustainability in conjunction with the Food Pantry, Partners for Seniors, Alimento Para El Ñino, Nuevos Camienzos par las Mujeres, and the Seed Library. At the center, there is a beautiful soalr powered building with meeting space and commercial kitchen. It is surrounded by gardens, a newly planted orchard, outdoor kitchen and gathering space. On the street is a colorful mosaic mural with tiles in the shape of vegetables and fruits, and the words, “Hunger is not an issue of charity, it is an issue of justice. El hambre no es una cuestión de caridad , es una cuestión de justicia,” a quote by Jacques Diouf, Food and Agricultural Organization Director-general. Even though the center is officially endorsed by the county, the city, and many sponsors, the heart of this venture are people, not politics. It is run almost entirely by volunteers and people that use the space and its purpose is to fight for justice through food, health, and cooperative community.

Here are some of the Seed Stories shared with us during the Seed Celebration:

Renee Pierpont shares her story about the importance of school gardens and parent involvement

Tiger Lily Warner shares her poem "Sunflowers", that was inspired by her mother.

Kristin Lundgren, the gardener at the Commons Center for Food Security in Silver City, shares her story about seeds and food justice.

Andrea Warner shares her love of working with children and seeds.

Lynda Aiman - Smith talks about building a sustainable and resilient Silver City and the tremendous work that the Volunteer Center and the Grant County Seed Library do to tackle huge issues of hunger, poverty, and oncoming climate change through education and practice.

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