A new kind of recycling, from the ground up
By Jared Raney
A new resource for the aspiring gardener is available in Eagle River: a ‘Seed Library.’
It’s pretty much exactly what is sounds like; you go in to the library, check out some seeds, and return them at the end of the season.
“The idea behind it is to save seeds that have been acclimated to our climate,” said Mary Ann Lambrecht, a master gardener and one of the minds behind the project. “There’s libraries like this all over the state of Wisconsin, all over the United States, in fact.”
The problem with buying seed from a catalogue or a big box store is that you rarely know where they came from. Even basic plants like tomatoes might not grow well here in Northern Wisconsin if the seed variety you buy is from Texas.
Heirloom seeds are what the library is looking for—basically seeds that, as Lambrecht said, have been acclimated to a certain area.
“We are starting with commercial seeds because it’s our first year,” said Debbie Jircik, who who was the driving force behind the library. “[heirloom seeds have] stories behind them, they might be connected to people in our area.”
Another goal of the project is to provide accessability and knowledge to those who would like to start gardening but may not know where to start.
“We are going to provide ongoing support, so there’s going to be classes in seed-saving,” Jircik said. “It’s about educating people about doing the process, and really making it a community project.”
The library, located at Olson Memorial Library in Eagle River, is joining a series of seed libraries throughout the Northwoods called the Seed Savers Alliance. This is the first library in the Alliance to be set up east of Iron County.
“Not everybody do we expect will return seeds. There’s no fines or anything, it’s the honor system, but of course to sustain the library we want people to return some seeds at the end of the season,” Jircik said.
Some heirloom seed have already made their way into the library, such as the Arikara Squash. This partiular seed variety was passed down through from the Arikara Tribe of North Dakota, and has now made it’s way into the Eagle River seed library.
“The idea is yes, we hope that we’ll be able to grow the collection, as interest in the community grows, and peoples’ education about the process of saving seed and gardening grows,” Jircik said.
More information can be found at olson.wislib.org under ‘Resources,’ or at seedsaversalliance.org. You can also contact Debbie Jircik at (715)479-9737, or the library itself at (715)479-8070.