Seeds of security

As diversity loses out to genetically uniform crops, LiveWell Montezuma takes steps to preserve seeds

Gretchen Groenke holds native seeds from the Mancos Seed Library, which has its home at the Mancos Public Library. Enlargephoto

Gretchen Groenke holds native seeds from the Mancos Seed Library, which has its home at the Mancos Public Library.

Preserving seed diversity has become an international issue as large companies have come to dominate the industry. Locally, LiveWell Montezuma is taking steps to preserve and develop seeds adapted to the area through the Mancos Seed Library.

The Mancos Seed Library, which has its home in the town library, was started three years ago by Midge Kirk. It was revitalized through seed donations and several seed workshops in March, said Gretchen Groenke a community health organizer for LiveWell Montezuma.

Ingrid Lincoln helped host the workshops and sees a growing desire in the community to get involved in saving seeds. Lincoln had worked at a seed business several years ago, and that germinated her passion for seed and food security. So when she moved to Mancos, she volunteered to help with the library.

In her opinion, preserving seed genetics is important because so much plant diversity has been lost to industrial agriculture, which emphases high-input and chemical-dependent crops.

About 75 percent of plant genetic diversity worldwide has been lost because farmers have started producing genetically uniform crops, according to data from the United Nations.

“If there is little to no diversity, individual varieties can be wiped out. Keeping and growing diversity within our seeds is the key in the face of ever-changing climate instability, diseases, and pests,” Lincoln said.

The Seed Library has been helpful to local people moving to the area. Darlene Evans used the library when she moved here about three years ago to get her garden started and was charmed by the box displaying varieties of flowers and vegetables in the library. She was impressed with the handwritten labels on each package.

“You see that love went into writing about their experience with this particular flower or vegetable,” Evans said.

The Seed Library is free and anyone may take seeds to plant. But, as with any library, the organizers ask that you return what you borrow. The library is placing a greater emphasis on encouraging participants to return the seeds their plants produce in the fall so that the library can develop a larger selection of seeds that are adapted to the climate. The library requires organically grown seeds to be returned.

For new gardeners, Lincoln recommends starting with tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, peas, and some flowers such as marigolds, calendula, cosmos, and sunflowers.

There are also seed libraries at the Durango Discovery Museum and the Cortez Public Library on Saturday mornings.

Two-year-old Eddy Custer plants peas in a greenhouse. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/Mancos Times photos

Two-year-old Eddy Custer plants peas in a greenhouse.