In one corner of the High Prairie Library in Falcon, Colorado, is an extra card catalog, which offers seeds -- not the seeds of knowledge -- but real seeds for growing vegetable and ornamental plants. The High Prairie Seed Library is one of only two seed libraries in the Pikes Peak region.
The program is entering its second growing season, with almost triple the number of gardeners this year.
The seed library is the fruit of the labors of staff member Rhonda Curtis and her team of community volunteers. Gardeners can check out seeds from the library and plant them in their home gardens or landscape areas. The gardeners save seeds from the best-growing plants and return twice as many seeds as they checked out to the library.
Seed libraries do more than provide gardeners with free seeds. Over time, the seeds produce sub-varieties as they adapt to Colorado’s micro-climates and the altitude, Curtis said. “They will be the seeds that will handle the droughts, wind and the other things that are unique to us.”
Being able to try seeds without a cost is a benefit. “I think it brings people together and more interest to gardening,” said Linda Beaty, a Falcon gardener who used flower seeds from the library last year. “A lot of people won’t try to garden if they have to buy all the stuff. This way they can give it a go and see if it works.”
Even before the plant varieties develop genetic resistance to Falcon soils and climates, success in the seed library means the plant will likely grow well for the next gardener. “If the last gardener turned it back in, that means it grows here,” Beaty said. “Where a lot of the ones you get from the stores, they may carry it, but that doesn't mean it grows well here.”
The display and seed catalog near the front entrance of the library has piqued interest and attracted many more gardeners, as the 2016 season starts. “The first season we had 25 people ... we have well over 50 to 75 this year,” Curtis said.
New participants can check out seeds by filling out an agreement form and handing it to any of the librarians on duty. The person writes down what varieties and quantity of seeds he or she wants to check out.“The library is set up by 'very easy, easy and advanced' by difficulty of seed saving, not by how well something grows,” Curtis said.
The library hosts gardening classes on the fourth Saturday of each month to teach gardeners how to grow and save seeds from their plants. Unlike the rest of the library system, there are no due dates or fines in the seed library. “You're not penalized if it doesn't grow and you can't bring anything back,” Curtis said.
The original seeds in the library came from donations from seed companies, including Lake Valley Seed of Boulder. The library accepts seed donations to expand the varieties and the number of gardeners they serve. “If you use a half package and want to donate the other half, we'll take those donations,” Curtis said.
Market gardeners and small farms are out of luck, though. “They can't sell the seed, plants or the produce because of the original donation agreement,” Curtis said.
More information about the seed library, including hours of operation and upcoming classes, is online at http://ppld.org/high-prairie-library.
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Excerpts from "Death and Extinction of the Bees"
The Center for Research on Globalization referred to the loss of the honeybee population as the “biggest foreboding danger of all facing humans.” The March 7 article, “Death and Extinction of the Bees” by Joachim Hagopian, carried a daunting message. “Since no other single animal species plays a more significant role in producing the fruits and vegetables ... that humans commonly take for granted ... Albert Einstein once prophetically remarked, ‘Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years.’”
The article cited a statistic from Tom Vilsack, secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture: “More than 130 fruits and vegetables that make up a nutritious diet are cross pollinated by honeybees.”
“Commercial bees raised on farms and shipped to other farms in the country for pollination purposes, along with wild bees, are responsible for pollination of an estimated 80 percent of all food crops in the United States,” the article states.
“Every third bite a human eats is the result of bees and other pollinators.”
In his article, Hagopian writes that a new government study blames a number of factors for the bees’ demise: increased use of pesticides, especially in the U.S.; shrinking habitats; a myriad of viruses; poor nutrition and genetics and even cell phone towers. One major parasite called the Varroa is a mite that is resistant to insecticides beekeepers have used to control the mites inside the beehive. And insecticides developed to combat Varroa have proven harmful and even deadly to the bees.
A change in weather patterns has affected the honeybee population as well. For example, harsh winters in Iowa have destroyed the honeybee population by up to 70 percent. Drought in California has decreased California’s production of honey by almost half in the past six years. The Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Florida, the Midwest are top producers of honey, and all are seeing dwindling numbers of bees.
“In the last half decade alone, 30 percent of the national bee population has disappeared and nearly a third of all bee colonies in the U.S. have perished,” wrote Hagopian. The rate of depopulation is growing; last year, commercial bees that died last year added up to 42 percent more than the previous year. The monetary loss is estimated at $30 billion a year.
The USDA is providing $3 million in subsidies to persuade Midwest dairy farmers and cattle ranchers to reseed their fields with eco-friendly crops like alfalfa and clover for healthier bee habitats. The agriculture industry has increased profits by planting corn and soybeans, instead of the richer types of crops.
Also, fewer wildflower fields and shrinking natural land space in America have a part to play in the loss of bee habitats.