A solid model for community building with seeds emerges the closer I get to the launch of my first seed library. It's been a fascinating process, and it provides a good path forward future seed libraries. Each community is different, and this model is guide that could be adapted to reflect the community the seed library will serve.
This seed library in Pitman, New Jersey started out as a seed library for lending and collecting seeds. As libraries have evolved into community centers in the digital age, seed libraries offer an opportunity for community building. As I explored the possibilities of building the Library Seed Bank into a more comprehensive project beyond the lending and collecting of seeds, one of the more intriguing part of this story so far is Pitman's location to a couple major seed farms that existed in the area in the early 1900s. Pitman is within a 40 mile radius of where the seed farms for Wm, H. Maule, Stokes Seed Farm, and Burpee were, and just three miles from a farming supply company, Orol Leden and Son, that had a wonderful seed room. Researching the catalogs from these companies led me to the fact that a lot of authentic Jersey tomatoes were bred around here. It seemed only natural to me that the seed library reflect this with the Authentic Jersey Tomato Seed Collection.
Since this seed library will be the first in New Jersey, and house this unique collection of seeds, also the first of its kind, I wanted to celebrate this with art. I approached the local school district with a suggestion for an art contest. It would be a good way to foster a relationship between the school or schools that would participate, and the library. The contest will let the parents of the kids who would participate know about the seed library. I broached the subject of art contest with the school district, and intended to collaborate with the teachers about the specifics. Let the teachers teach. They are the professionals in education, I respect that, and what they could offer would be best for their students.
As it turns out. the teacher that I'm working had a wonderful suggestion for a contest for the seed package design at the seed library. SInce we're celebrating the Authentic Jersey Tomato Seed Collection, that's worthy of original art for the package. We're having a contest with 3rd to 5th graders for a generic seed library package design, and a design for the Authentic Jersey Tomato Seed Collection. I'm a graphic designer by trade, so this opportunity to work with young artists is a real gift to me.
An art contest need judges. Another opportunity for community building. The submissions for the art contest will be on display at the launch of the seed bank. Let the community vote for their choice. It's their seed library. It also adds to celebration of the what we're doing with the Seed Library. For the launch, generic coin envelopes will hold the seeds until the labels for the envelopes are printed with the art contest winners.
Will there be prizes? Yes, there will. We have a local hobby shop here that sells hobby and art supplies, so the prizes will be gift certificates from there. This brings a local business into the community fold. I should ask if we could display the art in the windows of the store after the exhibit is done at the library. There is a long section windows on the main street that are used for displays, and the store is right across the street from the library. See what the story did there. It presented that opportunity while I was telling it.
We had a soft launch of the Seed Library at the end of September at a book sale during an annual Craft Show. I got good feedback from the community. During my conversations with residents, they told me their ideas of what they wanted from the seed library. To follow up on that, we're having a listening session in the beginning of January 2014 for more feedback. The local community has already donated seeds. We've been embraced already, and we're just getting started.
We have a garden club here too, and they've been invited to participate with the Seed Library. To recap, we have the library, the town elementary school, a local business, a community group and some residents already involved. For a town of less than 10,000 residents, and less than 3 miles in diameter, that's a good reflection on the community here, and it creates the model for future seed libraries. Perhaps, I can figure out a way to get produce locally grown from seeds from the seed library to supply the food bank, and restaurants here. Perhaps the local V.F.W. chapter can use seeds to help their members. See, the story did it again. It gave me more possibilities I love possibilities. They make my day. That's why I listen to the story for the possibilities it has. It knows so much more about it them then I do. I'm just the lucky guy who makes them happen.