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Fabulous Food Security: The Hudson Valley Seed Library in Accord, NY is at the Forefront of New York Resiliency
July 3, 2014
According to the Millenium Seed Bank Partnership, 60,000 to 100,000 Species of Plant are faced with the Threat of Extinction. The Hudson Valley Seed Library is doing something about it.
Despite how well known this grassroots effort has become, you could almost drive by the Hudson Valley Seed Library and not even notice it. The picture above is of the fields, set back way off the road, where plants are grown to seed and harvested in a labor intensive process to dry and package the heirloom seeds.
The Seed Squad at the Hudson Valley Seed Library is at the forefront of protecting plant diversity and saving seeds from heirloom plant varieties that are endangered with extinction. In addition to its mission of saving seeds from endangered plants, they test grow heirloom plants to see what thrives in the Hudson Valley.
The Seed Library states in its founding mission: "We started the Seed Library in 2004 as a way of keeping seeds out of the pockets of greedy corporations and in the dirty hands of caring gardeners...More and more seed sources are gobbled up by these multi-national corporations, we’re busy collecting, preserving, growing, offering, and celebrating seeds in all their diversity."
From a small, modest beginning as a part-time hobby just ten years ago, Ken Greene and his partner, Doug Muller, now work full time on the project. It is their overriding passion. Their operation now includes a staff of a half dozen or so like-minded enthusiasts.
When I spoke to Ken Greene, co-founder of the Seed Library, I asked him if he was surprised at the wonderful growth of the Seed Library and how great an impact he was having. Ken's effusive response included, "Yes! When I started the Seed Library I was working as a children's librarian at the Gardiner Library. I could never have imagined that 10 years later we would have grown into an independent regional seed company with our own seed farm. I also never imagined that we would inspire so many people to start seed library programs all over the country. I'm continually inspired by how much has changed. I'm glad we took the risk and followed our green hearts into this seedy adventure!"
Stu Dorris (left), main farmer, handy man, and seed packer with Ken Greene, co-founder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Behind them is balloon vine aka heart seed and in front is Merlot lettuce bolting/going to seed.
In the past decade, the flourishing Hudson Valley Seed Library has evolved into an online seed library focused on the Northeast and a full seed catalog for all gardeners. At the certified organic, twenty acre farm compound, open-pollinated seeds are grown, and the seeds are saved, dried and packed by hand. All seeds are heirloom and open-pollinated seeds i.e. no hybrids or genetically engineered seeds.
There are close to one thousand Seed Library members and thousands more buy The Seed Library's seeds online and read their newsletter which has helpful tips on gardening. They also promote local events and assist seasoned permacultursits and would be farmers alike in making connections to the local
Onions drying at the Hudson Valley Seed Library in Accord, NY
Naturally, like any good locavores, the team at the Library wants to know what will grow best in their own backyard and experiment to see what plants grow best in the Hudson Valley. To that end, they collaborate with some nearby farms such as Hollengold Farm to test grow the heirloom seeds on their land.
I asked Ken Greene what were some of his favorite plants which grow well in the Hudson Valley region? Ken offered: "My favorites are the seeds that get donated to us from local families. Stone Ridge Tomato and Upstate Oxheart Tomato are both distinctly awesome tomatoes that thrive in our area. We're always looking for new varieties from all kinds of sources and growing them in our trial gardens. Jade Sweet Corn came out of last year's trials- it's a beautiful blue sweet corn that can be grown in small spaces."
I have witnessed first hand the positive effects The Hudson Valley Seed Library's interaction with the local community is having on my hometown of Accord, NY and the surrounding region. I recently met Blake Arrowood, a young farmer originally from North Carolina, who interned at the Seed Library. Since then, he has moved to the area and is growing hops and medicinal herbs on a local farm just a short distance from the Hudson Valley Seed Library.
Blake wrote in a recent exchange: "Ken and the Library's mission to preserve heirloom varieties and open-pollinated seeds is an inspiration. Working with them led to one of the greatest opportunities in my life."
A pick-up truck spotted in the driveway of the Hudson Valley Seed Library.
Blake worked directly with Erin Enouen, the sales manager and trials-garden manager for the Hudson Valley Seed Libabry. Blake elaborated: "Our mission was to set-up growth trails for seeds we might potentially carry, comparative trials among varieties and quality control trials for varieties we currently offered. We had an on-site trial and also partnered with Hollengold Farm for our larger trials."
Like the Hudson Valley Seed Library, Blake's newly established Arrowood Farms is starting small and dreaming big. The first year's crop will consist of one acre of hops - 900 plants in four different varieties. They will be cultivated to supply locally-grown hops to the area's micro breweries and home brewers. Blake also plans to experiment with farm brews. And, Arrowood Farms will be installing a greenhouse this spring to produce micro greens and initiate an herb operation with medicinal, culinary, brewing and distilling purposes in mind.
Like the Seed Library, Arrowood Farms is geared towards openness with the surrounding community and supplying regional and local needs will play a major role in deciding how the farm moves forward.
Stu Dorris holding up a pack of seeds for Shanghai Baby Bok Choi. The art on the cover of the seed pack was designed by local resident, singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant.
Everyone needs to check out The Hudson Valley Seed Library on-line store and buy some seeds for the upcoming planting season. The seeds are also great gifts for friends and house warming treats when you are invited to a dinner party. The Art Packs, heirloom seeds and contemporary art combos, that the Hudson Valley Seed Library produces and sells are especially cool. Every pack has cover art from a different local artist.
Ken Greene, co-founder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, shared the exciting 2014 plan for the Art Packs: "Every year we commission new artists to interpret varieties from our seed catalog. Each work of art becomes a unique seed pack. We now have over 100 Art Packs in our collection. The gallery show of the originals, called Art of the Heirloom, travels all over and will be coming to the Philadelphia Flower Show, Horticultural Society of New York, Albany Airport, and the New York Botanic Gardens."