The Providence Seed Library Opens a New Page on Gardening

Providence Community Library hosts winter programming on food system justice, seed starting, and more

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In the same way you might go to your neighborhood branch of Providence Community Library to check out a book, the Providence Seed Library is encouraging gardeners with a card catalog cabinet of tiny satchels of seeds to sow at home.

“Spearheaded by Fatema Maswood while they were an artist-in-residence at the PVD Office of Sustainability, the Providence Seed Library offers free access to a variety of culturally relevant seeds and advances BIPOC-led food justice and environmental justice efforts,” says Lee Smith, adult services librarian at PCL. He and library manager Aimee Fontaine have helped further these goals by supporting programming, like this month’s virtual Seedlings workshops, on practical skills like starting seeds in the winter but also topics like food system inequities.

“Food justice is a central pillar of the series. Healthy food starts with healthy soil, yet soil contaminants such as lead are found disproportionately in communities of color,” says Smith, who also notes that only 1.4 percent of agricultural producers in the country are Black farmers. A January seminar led by Brown University environmental scientist Summer Gonsalves delved into soil remediation and prompted participants to envision what a more just food system would look like to address these inequities.

As the seasonal programming, offered throughout the year to align with the growing cycle, fosters community among novice and experienced planters alike, the Providence Seed Library provides the starters to try techniques learned in their own urban gardens. Says Fontaine, “[It’s] a living collection of open-pollinated, heirloom and culturally resonant seeds,” from vegetables to flowers, all sustained by local gardeners and housed at Knight Memorial, Mount Pleasant, Rochambeau, and Washington Park libraries.

“At the end of the growing season, gardeners are encouraged to return any seeds they have saved back to the library in order to sustain and expand the Seed Library,” Fontaine explains. “Additionally, saving and sharing seeds increases biodiversity – improving soil conditions, preserving important food crop varieties, and mitigating the increasing risks of pests, diseases, and climate change.”

Remaining Seedling workshops for the winter session include African Diasporic Seeds & Seed Keeping on February 10, “which entails not only saving seeds but also passing down culturally significant seed stories,” explains Smith. For those itching to start planting this month, Indoor Seed Starting takes place February 17, followed by Outdoor Seed Starting & Transplanting March 3 – both led by URI Master Gardener Sue Scotti – and finally a workshop in Spanish on food sovereignty on March 24. Visit ProvComLib.org/seedlings to register and watch for spring and summer series to be announced.

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