BASALT - Something unusual will be added to the mix in the collections of the Basalt Regional Library starting tonight.
Midvalley gardeners and local food proponents are starting a seed-lending library with the goals of building future generations better adapted to the elevation and temperatures of the Roaring Fork Valley and promoting genetic diversity.
Participants will be able to check out seeds with their library cards. They simply have to return seeds harvested from their own vegetables, fruits, flowers or herbs to the library within nine months, according to Stephanie Syson, institute manager at the Basalt-based Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. Syson is one of the founders of the seed-lending program, a collaboration among the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, the Basalt Regional Library and the Roaring Fork Food Policy Council.
Syson said a group of midvalley residents who support the idea of growing and raising more food locally meets once a week to discuss key issues and
programs they could start. They came up with the idea recently of starting the seed-lending library. Her research indicates that only 15 similar organizations exist in the country.
"Seeds are life, and they're public property," Syson said, adding that they should be put to public use. "Obviously we think it's important to grow your own food and know where it's coming from."
Interim library director Barbara Milnor embraced the idea and devised a plan to store the initial generation of seeds in the bookshelves next to the CD collection. Seeds were donated by seven seed companies as well as some local gardeners. There are at least 2,000 packets of seeds, Syson said.
The packets are marked in a special way to let borrowers know the degree of ease it will be to capture seeds when the plants mature in the summer or fall. They are coded the same way as ski trails: Green circles mean it's easy to harvest the first-year seeds; blue squares mean it's moderately easy to harvest first-year seeds but the plants cross-pollinate; and black diamonds mean its difficult for all but master gardeners.
Participants must agree to attend a workshop where they will be trained on how to harvest seeds.
Plants such as beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers are among those easy to harvest seeds from. Plants such as squash are moderately easy to get seeds from, and kale and broccoli are difficult to work with, according to Syson.
The founders are excited about the very real possibility of building seeds specially suited to the Roaring Fork Valley. Syson said the seeds the participants collect will likely come from the first plants to produce bounty or the hardiest. As soon as the first year, the seed stock is likely to improve, and after multiple generations, the seeds could be well-adapted to conditions in the valley.
A launch party for the new seed-lending library will be held today at the Basalt Regional Library at 5:30 p.m. All prospective participants and supporters are welcome.