Dozens of volunteers over the weekend laid the seeds of a new collection at the Rochester Public Library.

More accurately, volunteers packed seeds for the Rochester Public Library’s new seed library. Volunteers spent hours filling almost 6,000 seed packets for the collection, which will go public March 2.

The thousands of seeds will be packaged, labeled and available for check out to anyone with a Minnesota library card. Many of the seeds were purchased from the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah.

The idea took root last spring as Kelly Kirkpatrick, owner of Green Spirit Garden Design, and Heidi Kass, a member of Backyard Bounty Urban Homesteading, brainstormed ways to help people plant gardens and grow their own food. They approached the library, which began pursuing funding. Kass and Kirkpatrick then worked to determine what seeds would most likely be used.

The selection includes varieties seen at farmers markets and popular with minority groups in Rochester. Volunteers took surveys at the Rochester Farmers Market to see what might be popular to grow that isn’t widely available. Seeds include a Hmong Cucumber, Opo, an African gourd, and Hmong bitter melon, along with some other varieties of produce.

“We really reached out to the community to get their input because it’s a community project,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kass and Kirkpatrick saved seeds for the Hmong cucumber themselves and added them to the library.

Keri Ostby, head of library’s technical services, said the project is a perfect fit for the library.

“It’s not just about books anymore,” Ostby said.

The library will help new growers connect to people and organizations, such as the University of Minnesota Extension office and area master gardeners, for gardening tips.

“That’s why we’re here,” said Beth Plaetzer, master gardener.

Plaetzer tends the garden at the History Center of Olmsted County. It features a variety of heirloom plants for planting the next year. People are asked to recover seeds, if possible, to help replenish the library at the end of the growing season.

“If they can, that would be welcome,” Kass said, adding some varieties of plants will be easier to recover and save seeds from than others.

“There are certain things you have to grow over two seasons to get seeds,” Kass said.

Plaetzer said she hopes to be part of the effort in sustaining the seed library in addition to offering gardening help.

“I feel so much hope and so much promise in this project,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of people questioning the prices of seeds and a lot of people who want to address hunger.”

People are also more interested in knowing where their food comes from, Plaetzer added.

Seed information will be written in multiple languages. So far, signage is available in Spanish, Arabic and Somali.

“We’ll add languages as we can,” Ostby added.

Grant funding for the seeds came from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and We Give 365 and the Rochester Area Foundation.

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