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Check out the seeds at your library

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Photo by Tamie Meck Mark Waltermire with Thistle Whistle Farm in Hotchkiss was among about a dozen volunteers who packaged seeds for the Delta County Library Seed Library last Wednesday. Library card holders can check out packets of open-pollinated fruit,

The Delta County Libraries offer some great collections: books for all ages and interests, videos, reference resources and state parks backpacks.

Last week about a dozen volunteers gathered at the Hotchkiss Library to package seeds for the seed library. They sorted through bags of corn and beans and marigold seeds, tiny turnip, parsnip, beet and cilantro seeds. When asked about a jar of big Purple Guatemalan fava beans, Mark Waltermire with Whistle Thistle Farm in Hotchkiss described them as "a really nice variety" of bean from Avondale Seed Farm.

About halfway through the two-hour session, more than a thousand small envelopes had been labeled, filled, sealed and bundled into sets of 50. "We rely heavily on volunteers to do this," said Hotchkiss librarian Sarah Pope, who has nurtured the program since its inception.

The program sprouted up in 2013 as the North Fork Seed Library after being awarded a People's Choice grant from the North Fork Heart and Soul Project. Several companies and community members donated seeds to help get the project going.

The seed program supports conservation and cultivation and helps maintain a diverse selection of plant varieties, said Pope. She explained that all seeds available through the program are open-pollinated, and many are heirloom varieties with a long history of being harvested from season to season and year to year. Seed banks help ensure the genetic diversity of plants and increase the plant's ability to resist disease and increase yields by adapting to the area's soils and climate conditions.

Library patrons can check out seed packets similar to how they check out a book. Rather than return them, patrons are encouraged, but not required, to collect, dry and label seeds collected from the plants and return them to the library to be packaged for the next year. "When we start these community projects it's really important to keep them sustainable," said Pope.

While the program started at the Hotchkiss library, seed libraries are now at all five Delta County libraries. Libraries also offer literature on the program, seed-saving techniques and tips, and related books and documentaries. Gardeners can begin checking out seeds this spring.

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North Fork
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