It’s a wooden cabinet with several drawers, the index cards inside reminiscent of the kind used when libraries still had card catalogs.
But this cabinet doesn’t hold cards telling visitors where to find books. Instead, it holds cards separating packages of seeds.
These aren’t just any seeds, however. They’re called heirloom seeds, and some of them had their start back in the 1800s, said Ara McLeod, who works at Morningstar Fishermen, a business in Dade City that promotes sustainable living.
Unlike most seeds that are planted in today’s fields and gardens, these heirloom seeds have not been genetically altered. Instead, they have been saved and passed along for generations.
And now, through Morningstar Fishermen’s new seed library, they are available to seed library members for free.
There is a catch. Those joining the seed library must agree to use only organic fertilizer on the vegetables and flowers they grow with these seeds. And they are asked to let some of their plants go to seed, so they can help to restock the seed library.
McLeod, who oversees the seed library, is thrilled that she’s leading this new venture, which aims to help people produce their own food.
“Here at Morningstar, we are about teaching people about sustainability,” McLeod said.
The company, located at 3336 Old St. Joe Road, has been teaching people about aquaponics for years. Aquaponics is essentially the marriage between hydroponics and aquaculture, allowing people to raise fish, veggies and plants at the same time.
It decided to branch out to help people become sustainable in other ways, too.
“We wanted to start a seed library here to help our community to have access to good, quality food,” McLeod said. “It’s really, really important for communities to have access to good seeds. With it being free, it really doesn’t matter what your economic status is.”
So far, fewer than a dozen people have signed up for the seed library. But McLeod’s enthusiasm for the program has not dimmed.
“We have to start somewhere,” she said, clearly passionate about the project. “Seeds are life. The soil is life. Without good quality seeds, our food is not of good quality, so, when we eat it, it doesn’t sustain our bodies.”
She estimates about 200 varieties of seeds in the library, mostly donated by Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Seeds and some local families.
When people come to Morningstar Fishermen’s shop, they can look through the cabinet drawers to choose seeds.
“All of the drawers are divided out into families. In gardening, there’s nine different families,” McLeod explained. “In each family, you have the different types of vegetables or flowers.
“You just see what type of plant you want to grow. You open the drawer and you thumb through it. You can see the bean that you want to grow. There’s a little packet behind it. There’s the growing information on the back of it.”
Once they find their packet, they bring it up to a desk, fill out a form, and head home to start planting.
“You grow it. Save some of the seeds for yourself and some for the library and bring them back,” McLeod said.
Some people may have no earthly idea how to begin, but there are books, online information and low-cost classes that can help, she said.
Nobody should feel intimidated.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything,” McLeod said. “The only thing that you need to start is a desire.”
Published June 4, 2014