In a corner of the Frisco Public Library, wood boxes sit on shelves holding food for the future.
From corn to carrots, squash to salad greens, hundreds of seed packets await eager gardeners.
On April 1, the Summit County seed library opens.
Anyone with a local library card can check out up to five packets of seeds a year for free. And, unlike the regular library, the seed checkout won’t have return dates or late fees.
“We just want people out there playing in the dirt,” said Cassidy Callahan, community programs coordinator with the High Country Conservation Center.
Elizabeth Darst, 10, eyed the packets of corn seeds Thursday and said she would try to grow them because corn is her second-favorite food.
When asked what her first favorite was, the Summit Cove resident and her 8-year-old brother Christopher both jumped up and yelled, “Rice!”
These kids’ favorite foods might be hard to grow here, but cold-loving crops like lettuces and greens thrive. And through seed saving, the Summit County community can produce more and more crops and flowers that love the high alpine environment.
WHY SAVE SEEDS?
The point of seed saving, Callahan said, is to develop plant varieties that are more geographically specialized.
The conservation center describes saving seeds specific to Summit County as an important step in strengthening the local food system. The seeds will be more resilient and regionally suited to the soil and microclimate.
Saving seeds also makes gardeners more self-sufficient and less dependent on large food corporations.
Holle Vliet, this year’s Summit Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmer, said she’s excited for the seed library because she’ll be able to get crop varieties she likes without the expense of buying them. She called seed saving a “chaotic experiment.”
Producing new varieties “leaves so much up to chance,” she said, “and the magic of how nature works is that chance factor, which we usually take out of it.”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The library’s seeds are mostly edible herbs and vegetables. Callahan said it has a great variety of cold-tolerant, organic and heirloom crops and plans to add more ornamentals.
If someone grows a tomato plant that produces two tomatoes, she said, eat one and save the seeds from the other to return to the library.
Callahan said she doesn’t expect a high return rate in the library’s first year.
The seed library will accept all kinds of seeds. But when patrons return seeds they have grown locally, they will label them with the plant’s variety and their town or neighborhood. Over time, this could lead to some varieties that flourish in Breckenridge and others that blossom in Silverthorne.
Last year’s Summit CSA interns created the seed library. Botanical Interests and other seed companies donated seeds. Then about 30 volunteers split the seeds into smaller packets, students at the Peak School finished labeling them, and three librarians catalogued and put barcodes on them.
All the packets are coded to show how easy or difficult it will be to save seeds from that plant. Like ski slopes, a green circle indicates an easier plant for seed saving. A blue square is intermediate, and a black diamond means difficult, but still doable.
Gardeners can browse and check out books on seed saving placed next to the seed library.
The High Country Conservation Center will offer gardening workshops throughout the summer, from beginner to advanced levels, which will be videotaped and available free online.