Community sharing project: Local interest in gardening grows across the state

Community Reports

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Since the early spring of 2020, more people have been staying home because of COVID-19. With that, brought an increase in interest in gardening. Public libraries all across the state that provide seed library programs have witnessed a rise in community demand for vegetables, herbs and flowers.

The Public Library of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County’s ABQ-BernCo Seed Library initiative is a year-round program where any resident can receive seed packs with their library card in addition to educational resources about growing gardens. Sheila Reece of the South Broadway Library, where the seed library is housed, said just for the months of January and February, they’ve circulated about 5,000 seed packets in total. “There’s definitely more people coming in and saying they’re starting their own gardens now,” Reece said.

Currently, the library has been using an online method for people to email in their orders and pick them up at their nearest public library branch. Each patron with a library card in good standing can check-out 30 packets of seeds each year to grow in a home garden.

While interest has risen over the past year for garden projects to keep busy at home, for Las Cruces community members, it’s about providing food for their families. Brita Sauer, library manager of the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in Las Cruces, said with the recent severe winter storm, there was a brief time when trucks hauling food items to their grocery stores couldn’t make the drive, leaving many shelves empty for a week. She said there was much more interest and appreciation for local agriculture in the program after that, which was part of their goal with the seed library, named Tierra Sagrada.

The other goal of their seed library is to ultimately fill the library with locally-grown seeds that will cater to the community’s needs. “The other goal of our seed library is to get other people start saving their own seeds and maybe contribute back to the seed library so that our library starts to represent the community a little bit more,” Sauer said. “It’s a community sharing project, we’re just providing the space and hopefully people can participate.”

Christine Salem of the Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners is the person spearheading the Santa Fe Public Library’s seed library, said producing locally-grown seeds can help plants adapt to climate change-induced weather, not unlike the winter storm that Sauer spoke about. “Growing from seed and creating your own locally-adapted seed contributes to genetic diversity and local adaptation. As we experience global change and things like that, the seeds are really smart and they have the ability to express or repress certain genetic characteristics that will make them more adaptable to these localized weather situations,” Salem said.

In addition to their seed library, Salem said they also provide education and resources for gardeners, especially relaying the history of agriculture in that part of the state. Because of COVID-19 closures that affect libraries, the Santa Fe Seed Library will hold 11 “mini seed libraries” throughout the county starting in March and continuing through May or as long as seed supplies last.

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