The roots are in place and the new Ocean Beach Seed Library is set to sprout, 1-4 p.m. Saturday, March 23 at the actual OB Library, 4801 Santa Monica Ave.
The Seed Library will work under the traditional library "borrowing" premise: you check out seeds, bring them home, plant and grow them, then bring seeds or cuttings from your plant back to the library for someone else to borrow.
San Diego County Master Gardeners (volunteers trained and supervised by University of California Cooperative Extension), are working in partnership with the OB Seed Library to ensure its success, and will be offering Beginning Vegetable Gardening Workshops once a month from April through September. The workshops are free and open to anyone interested.
As OB Library assistant Destiny Rivera explained: "One of the many reasons why public libraries are so essential in our day and age — and in our community — is because they are a great equalizer. Anyone can walk in the door and have access to the same services."
The idea for OB to start a seed library came from Rivera, who said she came across the concept after reading about them during her Library and Information Sciences studies. Currently, there are more than 660 seed libraries globally, operating out of libraries, seed banks, community spaces and gardening clubs. One of the goals behind seed libraries is to promote organic, locally-grown vegetables in a culture whose produce economy revolves around, as Rivera put it, "mono crops."
"We're encouraging people to grow their own foods, to take food sovereignty into their own hands," she explained. "It's an empowering experiment to grow your own food and grow food that's healthy."
The seeds up for grabs include some flowers, but are primarily vegetable seeds, with the variety available dependent on the season. Friends of OB Library membership chair Laura Dennison said people are welcome to donate their own plant or vegetable seeds, and described a woman who came up to her exclaiming: "Have I got milkweed seeds for you!"
In an effort to branch out from vegetables and flowers, Rivera has contacted the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council to gauge its interest in working together to begin circulating native plant seeds.
Having free and easy access to vegetable gardening classes promotes not only locally-grown food, but urban gardening as well — something that may appeal to OBeachians, who've encountered the challenges of planting in coastal regions with salt-saturated air. The classes are a way to get started, but if you get stuck along the way or find yourself wondering, "What in the world is that weird-looking bug crawling on my tomato plant?" the Master Gardeners will be here to help.
According Dennison, who was formerly a Master Gardener in New Mexico, the term "Master Gardener" is not used lightly. To be certified, you must take a series of 18 classes taught by agricultural experts, complete at least 50 hours of volunteer service within one year of being certified, pass a final exam, and more.
To put it simply — Master Gardeners know their stuff. They even have a hotline for any urgent gardening questions you might come up with. (858) 822-6910.
Similar to the way book libraries bring people together, seed libraries are a way for the community to form connections. OB Elementary, which has its own community garden, has a partnership with OB Seed Library, as does the Cabrillo Community Garden. Other partners include The Green Center, Wild Willow Farm & Education Center and The Mongol Tribe.
The Seed Library also comes in a portable version that library staff can bring to the OB Farmers Market, Wednesday evenings. so they can simultaneously promote library services and seed library services to the locals perusing the booths along Newport Avenue.
"That's really the heart of it; to make the OB Seed Library a community project," Rivera said, adding that she considers OB to have environmentally-conscious residents, an element the library hopes to tap into.
The OB Seed Library is funded by Friends of OB Library, who also underwrite other library events, raising money through book sales, fundraisers and accepting donations on behalf of the Seed Library.
These donations ensure the extra-curriculars, like the upcoming gardening workshops.