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Arts & Life

Get A Library Card, Grow A Garden

Luke Runyon
Aspen Public Radio

The Basalt Public Library is trying something new this spring: a seed collection. With a library card in hand, you can check the seeds out, grow the plants, and within nine months, harvest the new seeds and bring them back.

Knee-high shelves filled with small seed packets are a new addition to the library.

Stephanie Syson works for the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, a sustainable agriculture nonprofit in Basalt. On a recent morning, Stephanie and her 4-year-old daughter Gray are just finishing a book with a white rabbit on the front cover.

The little bunny is probably why when Gray approaches the seed-filled shelves she zeroes in on a packet labeled “rainbow carrots.”

“We just read two books about bunnies so we’ve got bunnies on the brain,” Stephanie says.

Stephanie flips through a wicker bin labeled “carrots.” She passes over other options like “atomic red” and “cosmic purple.”

Here’s how it works. A library card gets you a packet of seeds. You then grow the fruits and vegetables and harvest the new seeds from the biggest and best.

Stephanie says tending a garden in Western Colorado can be frustrating. The dry climate, alkaline soils and short growing season keep many novices from starting. She’ll take seeds from the plants that withstand pests and persevere through drought.

“If you save seed from those plants, already in one generation you will now be able to grow a plant that has those traits,” Stephanie says.

The seed packets are a novelty within the library’s more mainstream collection of books, CDs and DVDs. The library’s director Barbara Milnor says in the age of digital, downloadable books and magazines, the tangible seed packets are another way to draw people in.

“You have to be fleet of foot if you’re going to stay relevant, and that’s what the big problem is with a lot of libraries is relevancy,” Milnor says.

Milnor says while a library may seem like an odd location for a project like this, seeds and plants should be open to everyone. That makes a public library the perfect home for a seed collection. Milnor says seeds could be just the start.

At the front desk, four-year-old Gray Syson places her seed packets for rainbow carrots on the counter.

Stephanie says the library has always been a place for her daughter to learn. The seeds are now just another added lesson.

“For her to see a little pot of dirt and to plant a seed into it and then thirty days later to be able to eat something from it is really exciting for her. She really enjoys seeing that whole process,” Syson says.

She’ll just need to remember to save the seeds and check them back in for the next gardener.

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