What do the Santa Barbara Zoo in Southern California, the Menominee County Library in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the 100-year-old Acequia Sancochada in Dixon, New Mexico have in common? They’re all saving seeds.
The zoo, the library, and the acequia are participants in Seed Savers Exchange’s Community Seed Resource Program (CSRP). The CSRP is a collaboration between Seed Matters and Seed Savers Exchange that provides tools and guidance to community groups interested in creating seed-focused events, exchanges, libraries, and gardens. From small town libraries to big name universities, seed leaders from around the country are utilizing the CSRP to jumpstart community seed projects.
Although the CSRP participants are working on unique projects, they are all focused on the common goal of saving seeds. The Santa Barbara Zoo, for example, wants to use the CSRP toolkit to expand the teaching garden at their zoo. Trent Barnhart, the zoo’s Animal Nutritionist, is excited about the project: “Several zoos throughout the country have small gardens where they grow additional food items for their animals, but ours is one of the few, if any, that are developing an entire educational program around our garden.”
From the sunny coast of California to the breezy shores of the Great Lakes, seed saving can be found everywhere. Tony Hirn, with the Menominee County Library in Michigan, is the newest participant in the CSRP. Tony writes , “We have learned that saving seeds from year to year has given our family varieties that are better adapted to our soil and simply do better. I would like others in the community to help grow and maintain a diverse seed library to enjoy now and for future generations.”
Seed saving can be a force for empowering communities to protect shared resources. One example of the power of seeds is the Acequia Sancochada project, led by Loretta Sandoval. Loretta is one link in a chain of water stewards who stretch back over 100 years in her community. She hopes that revived interest in gardening and seed saving can help save farmers’ access to water. Loretta says:
Traditional farmers that have been growing food in the region for more than 100 years are the main stakeholders in this project. In the last few years the local farmers have been disappearing either because of retirement or their children leave the area to work in other areas in New Mexico. What has happened to the crop seed such as melons, peppers, corn, and beans is the elderly farmers are growing smaller plots or have abandoned farms and the seed banks altogether. This trend has the potential to impact our ability to use the water rights if we are not as a group farming any longer.
Loretta hopes to keep farmers and gardeners on the land so that the water rights can remain in the hands of local community members. In addition to her work on the acequia commission, Loretta maintains a seed bank of locally adapted varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation in her region. “We would like to stabilize our seed banks and create programs to encourage local families to use their land, water rights, and grow the traditional food that have been here for generations,” says Loretta. Hopefully, with inspiration from Loretta and the resources provided by the CSRP, the Acequia Sancochada can remain a fixture in the food system of northern New Mexico for many years to come.
Find Your Nearest Seed Library
Learn more about seed saving initiatives in your community by exploring our Community Seed Resource Program map.