Saturday, April 27, 2019

Keeping The Seeds Alive


I have this quote from Martin Prechtel as a footer on my emails. It is from his book "An Uneasy 
Peace at Cuchumaquic," an amazing book which took me about a year to read. I kept fighting
with his reality when it didn't conform with mine. In the end, surrendered to what he 
was saying and I believe this message is the most important, and eye opening, message 
from the book: 


This is what is at the core of keeping the seeds alive and 
must be done physically for years to comprehend and make 
happen. It cannot be thought into reality; it can only be done 
with work. And because “seed” culture has been discarded 
from the “progress” -oriented  world, keeping this kind of seed 
consciousness alive in one's life can look somewhat like 
planting olive trees in an active warzone, a psychological war 
going on within ourselves, where like olives that don't bear for 
a long while we must nevertheless continue to cultivate with 
the faith of seeds that we are actually planting for a time 
beyond our own.  
– Martín Prechtel, An Uneasy Peace at Cuchumaquic

These last few years, with so much divisiveness in our public lives, without a common 
discourse from the Left and the Right, affirms Prechtel's words, that "we must nevertheless 
continue with the faith of seeds." 

The concept that we we are planting seeds not for us, but for future generations can be an 
intellectual exercise, but Prechtel, is concise when he says we must do the "work" of saving
seed, over and over and over again until we can know what "saving seed" means. Our little 
work in our little seed library is dwarfed by this understanding. 

It is very important that we do this. We will know we are making progress when we can hold
a seed in our hands and think of future generations, in that time beyond our own," blessed 
with the nutrition and flavors that we refused to let die.

david


Sunday, April 21, 2019

A Look At The History Of The Seed Library of Los Angeles

For the sake of history, here is the initial request for folks to come out and start the Seed Library of Los Angeles. More to come!!
November 29, 2010
From: David King, greenteach@gmail.com
To those addressed:
This informal mailer is being sent to folks who have expressed interest in starting a seed library. This is not a mailing list, although we will hope to have one soon. If you are a list keeper, please circulate to anyone on your list you feel would love to be a decision maker in forming a vibrant and viable seed library for the citizens of Los Angeles.
Our first planning meeting will take place at The Learning Garden of Venice High School, December 4th at 2:30 PM (until about 4:00 PM) - dress warmly although we hope to be inside, all of our buildings are poorly heated!
***If you have thoughts about what should be addressed, please send them to me ASAP for consideration.****
This is a foundational meeting to lead us to an ideal seed library. What is your vision of a seed library? Do we charge for membership? We will be a not for profit under the umbrella of The Learning Garden - or do we want to be our own organization just located at The Learning Garden? Or do we have a better place to be? What items need to be a part of our database? What do we do when someone fails to return seed? We can start where we are and change things as we go... But help us get started!
What is a seed library?
A seed library is a depository of seeds for the members of that library. Members come to the library and borrow seed for their garden. They grow the plants in their garden and at the end of the season, they leave a plant or two to 'go to seed.' From those plants, they collect seeds and return the same amount of seed (or more) as they borrowed at the beginning of the growing season. No cost for seeds.
What are some of the benefits of a seed library?
1. Seed can be kept fresh by many people growing it out rather than one person who could not grow out a large variety of seeds every year.
2. Over time the plants will change slightly in response to our local climate and soil and gradually through generations will become better seeds for our area.
3. You cannot collect seeds from hybrids or Genetically Modified Organisms because they won't come true to type thus insuring a food supply that is reproducible and uncontaminated with unproved technology and is independent on non-local inputs.
4. Participants in a seed bank become more attuned to and in tune with the natural cycle of the earth and find relief from the regimentation of an industrial society that has no respect for ebb and flow of a natural life that is cyclical and not linear. We protect our seed supply from intervention from Monsanto and other large corporations who wish to control most of our food supply and we cooperate with nature in carrying on valuable genetic material for future generations. We become engaged in the full-cycle of gardening and life.
Our Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) wish list includes:
1. a computer capable of running something like Windows XP (we have a keyboard and monitor attached to a W2K computer). Breaking news: We have been donated a Netbook computer that will serve all our needs!
2. license to a viable database program - I have been using the free Open Office Base to create a database prototype, but I'm no database person and I have no idea if this is flexible and powerful enough to handle all our needs. Much gratitude to Sarah Spitz for making this happen!
3. some kind of storage cabinet (actually several) or shelving (The Learning Garden is going to provide us with our first shelves.)
4. coin envelopes
5. some one with some database experience to help set up the database
6. Volunteers to give a Saturday afternoon a month to put all of this in place.
Seeds aren't going to be a problem, The Learning Garden will supply us with many, and we will have access to many more. Our initial collections will include vegetables, California Native plants and healing herbs from several different healing traditions (Chinese, Ayurvedic, Native American and Homeopathic).
This is a very unique and exciting opportunity for our community moving it towards genuine resiliency and durability. We will need volunteers and we would like to have you!
david
About this website
TLGDAILY.BLOGSPOT.COM
What is a seed library? A seed library is a depository of seeds held in trust for the members of that library. Members come to the libr...

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sacred

On a SLOLA business card this morning, my eyes were caught by the byline:

Saving Seed is a Sacred Trust

and I know why SLOLA has cards with that on it. 

Those of us who started the Seed Library of Los Angeles looked at the diminishing diversity of the seeds we were growing and were shocked at the disappearance of diversity in many different food families. This chart from National Geographic gives us an idea of the loss of diversity in the past century. There are many ways this chart could be better documented, but this is probably the least amount of lost diversity - we need another, more authoritative, study to base our work on.





The dwindling resources available to the common gardener were not impressive. We could order seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, some seeds from Pinetree Seeds, and Baker Creek had just begun to splash large on the seed saving world. The true catalytic event happened in Summer of 2009.

I'm going to tell the story in truth, including that I knew too little about seed saving and started the seed library with a wrong idea.  However mistaken I might have been, it served as the impetus for an email to everyone I thought might be interested to meet at The Learning Garden on December 4th.

Sometime in the waning days of Summer that year (2010), the Obama administration approved production of more GMOs - including sugar beets. I knew just enough to be dangerous. Beets are wind pollinated. Their pollen is released into the air from male flowers and must find female flowers in order to make seed. If it has to be airborne, it is light-weight and will travel far (our experience with corn has made us leery of the reported distance pollen can travel). I was already growing some beets for seed and I thought my seed was at risk for getting crossed with GMO sugar beets. Admittedly, I knew even then that the chances were low that any farm near me was growing sugar beets, but it was theoretically possible and I was already quite angry about GMO this and that.

I was wrong in that, farmers growing sugar beets as a commodity crop, were NOT going to allow their crop to get to the pollen stage - they were being harvested long before that time (beets are biennial, meaning they grow their roots the first year and in the second year produce pollen and go to seed). But still, ignorant as I might have been, a fire had been lit and I put in motion the beginnings of this adventure. Those people who showed up at that first meeting were the founders of the seed library and their wisdom and influence is still felt in our attention to our mission.

We are not the Free Seed Society of Los Angeles - it doesn't even come of the tongue as nicely as SLOLA. And it's not our purpose. Our goal is not to give away free seed. Our goal - read the Mission Statement - is to create seed saving gardeners. And why do we want seed saving gardeners? We want them, need them, to protect our wonderful resource of all these amazing edible plants and we - gardeners! - are the ones entrusted with this task!  We are the ones who can do it and therefore we are the ones who must do it! 

It is a sacred trust. Indigenous peoples have a stunning appreciation for the sacred in these seeds. We wish to cultivate that appreciation in ourselves and our society. We frown upon the hybridization of so many of our precious plants - hybridization equals corporate ownership - and it's my sense that they only care about money, not hungry people. So we choose those seeds that are not hybrid, from which we can save seeds and reasonably expect the seeds to grow the same crop year after year.

But "sacred" means so much more than that. One definition reads, "regarded with great respect and reverence by a particular religion, group, or individual." We wish to follow in the footsteps of those who regard their food and the land they grow it on, with "great respect" knowing that it is these seeds and that land that allows us our lives. There is nothing more important to a civilization than this and water. 

We tend our plants, our seeds, with respect and honor for them and those who came before that saved this seed and passed them down to us. They are not patented (how can you possibly condone patenting life?) and they are not tampered with at the molecular level. We are joyful to give seeds so people can grow at least a part of their diet, but we are much more concerned with keeping these varieties of vegetables alive for future generations. Next time you check out seeds at SLOLA, choose one type of seed that doesn't need cross pollination to produce viable seeds - in summer, that includes most tomatoes, beans of types and lettuces. Just choose one and plant more than you'll need. Save seeds from the best plants and when it's dry, return it to your SLOLA branch. You'll be amazed how easy it can be and feel the reward of a job well done. 


You will have been the curator of your own batch of seeds. You don't have to save seeds from all the seeds you check out, but start with the selfing types of seed (those I noted above) and you'll be so proud of your little seed empire! 


And remember, there are experienced seed savers who are happy to help you do the right thing! We ALL had to learn and, what's more true, we are still all learning!


david

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Follow Up On Yesterday's Board Meeting

Yesterday's Board meeting for SLOLA was one of the busiest meetings I've ever seen there. We cut all the reports very short and charged into the twelve measures I proposed before the next election. They all passed with amendments - it is important that all points of view are considered and I consider written in democracy that compromise is the only way we make progress.

The agenda I presented yesterday and outcomes are below. Please note, this might not be a comprehensive list as my memory is not all that good an I can't write legibly enough to read it if I try to write fast enough to get every thing down before we move onto the next point. The original is in brown (default setting in my word processor) and the update is in black (my blog default).


Motions that are included in this paper include:

  1. I ask it to be moved and voted: Elections will be held at once and established to be held in January of odd numbered years – each satellite branch will have an elected Representative to the SLOLA Board in Venice and a chair. (This person can also be the chair of the chapter or it may be two different people. Elected officials in any SLOLA branch will serve for two years and can be elected for two terms of two years. The seed librarian is appointed by this person.)  This was amended to April and we'll use April in odd-numbered years as our official election from here on out.
  2. I ask it to be moved and voted: That no one is allowed to vote in our general elections without signing the Safe Seed Pledge document as written on our official membership application. Approved. We agreed that everyone who votes, is given a copy of our original Safe Seed Pledge Membership Application to sign every time they vote.
  3. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each branch to elect their own “chair” person though we do not care what it is called as long as it is printable. Each SLOLA branch other than Venice, will designate one person to be their representative of that group, allowing that authority can be transferred to another individual if necessary, to insure that branch will be represented. While more than one person may be designated to be the representative, only one can vote for each branch. As this is currently already happening, we all agreed. This codifies our procedures as "official procedure."
  4. I ask it to be moved and voted: The current SLOLA elections going forward are held in our tradition, as follows – SLOLA Venice will elect the Chair for Venice and all other officers as Venice has had in the past. This was approved for this year only - that we will thoughtfully try to find a compromise for ongoing elections. 
  5. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each individual SLOLA group will elect their office holders, in conjunction with Venice's election schedule - the format and composition is up to that branch, we suggest at minimum a Chair who also serves as the representative to the Venice Board. This again, just codifies current procedure as official procedure.
  6. I ask it to be moved and voted: SLOLA Venice creates an ambassador position that will coordinate between all the branches to be appointed by the Venice Chair. Agreed. 
  7. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each branch will have it's own inventory – though branches may trade seeds between branches and and they use the SLOLA inventory system. This also codifies what we are doing now - it also drew attention that each seed library should order their own seeds - seeds should not be simply taken from an existing library to create a new inventory - the new inventory should be fitted to the new library by gardeners who know the area and what does well there. 
  8. I ask it to be moved and voted: Branches without an inventory should draw a request up and submit it as an expense which SLOLA will pay for (the initial inventory should cost somewhere in the $100 and $150 range – this vote should include the figure agreed upon at the meeting this comes up for approval). This affirms that libraries can get their first working library reasonable and preferred sources rather than depend on donations - although donations might make a portion of the library. 
  9. I ask it to be moved and voted: Librarians stocking inventory do diligent work in finding local seed companies and companies that are wholly organic. It is preferred to use companies that do not sell F1 hybrids which should never be in our inventories. It is further suggested that librarians look for OSSI certified seeds (Open Sourced Seed Initiative). I will offer a list of such companies in short order. Just a cry to stay as local as we can!  
  10. I ask it to be moved and voted: That each officer of every branch has the phone numbers and email addresses of every other office in every SLOLA branch to facilitate more cooperation and communication. Lack of ability to have contact has caused problems in the past. We did pass this, but no one was appointed to make it happen, so it'll have to start with someone. That will be me, I suppose.
My project for the coming month will be to create a Seed Librarian's Basic Procedures and Policies.  Look for bits and pieces in this blog soon.

david



Friday, February 15, 2019

Membership Forms and The Safe Seed Pledge


New Member Accord
THE SAFE SEED PLEDGE
Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative,
I pledge that I do not knowingly buy, grow, share or trade
genetically engineered seeds or plants
.
The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. I feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, I wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately people and communities.

Additionally, as a member of the Seed Library of Los Angeles, I pledge to grow plants according to best practices and save the seeds of those plants according to best practices to insure that I return viable seed that will produce seeds true to the variety I label them to be. If I do not know how to properly follow the Library's published 'best practices,' I will contact someone with the Library to help me. I understand I am dealing with a living thing and the responsibility that comes with this. I pledge to participate in this project and acknowledge the sacred bond between the seeds, the other members of the Library and myself and will be honest and forthright in all my dealings with the seeds, the other members of the Library and the Library itself.

__________________________________________________ _________________________________
SLOLA Member Signature                                                                              Date
The Safe Seed Pledge originated with The Council for Responsible Genetics founded in 1983, ... comprised of scientists, lawyers, public health advocates and citizens concerned about the social, ethical and environmental impact of new genetic technologies. SLOLA did not create it, but adopted it as a standard for our organization.

Print Name: ______________________________________________________________________________________________

Address __________________________________________________________________________________________________

Garden Site _______________________________________________________________________________________________
If not at your home address...
Phone Number _____________________ Email Address _______________________________________________________
Please do NOT list me in the 'members only' directory
For Office Use Only:
Payment: ____ Cash _____ Check (#_____)
Date Received:
Member Number:
Received by:
Input Date
Entered by


Background & Motions For Integration of Branches and Elections


With the whole of the Seed Library of Los Angeles and its future depending on us, let us all hold ourselves not to “who's right” but to “what's right.” Especially “what's right for the seeds.” This sentiment is expressed in our Mission Statement, which is read at the beginning of every Venice meeting (and we encourage reading at all meetings of SLOLA branches). It is hoped that all consider the preservation of these seeds as our first directive. It is the reason SLOLA was created in the first place.

This wide assortment of proposals could pass on a single vote, but I think we'll find that we have to consider it in parts. Initially I provide everyone with SLOLA's history, especially as it concerns elections and how we have worked in the past. I also explore other ideas that I would like us to put into place in order to better achieve the goals of our Mission Statement.

This paper is to provide details on the integration of our new branches and the delineation of the paths of communication and the responsibilities between branches. There are changes to SLOLA's bylaws and this paper presupposes the bylaws will be changed eventually to support these new circumstances. Such changes to the bylaws will be presented in a separate proposal later this year. It costs money to change our bylaws and so I suggest that when we have decided a number of different changes, we then move to amend our bylaws and handle them all at once.

SLOLA Venice
Venice is the home of the organization, housing the Board for SLOLA as a whole, yet we rely on, and honor, input from other groups of SLOLA members, which we are calling “branches.” The officers at Venice, comprising “The Board” of the Seed Library of Los Angeles are, as follows:

Elected:
Chair
Vice chair
Treasurer
Secretary
The bylaws also provides for the Immediate Past Chair to be a voting Board Member to provide continuity to the organization.

The elected officers and the Immediate Past Chair are the only board members that count toward quorum, except as we would amend below. Every motion can be debated by everyone. More input is more desirable than less .

Appointed – or, more usually, Volunteers
Seed Librarian
Best Practices Chair
Outreach Chair
Membership Chair
Branch Chair(s)
While these “appointed positions” are on the board, their lack of presence does not affect the quorum. They may vote on all propositions that are not fiduciary in essence (i.e. disbursing funds). Although, both chairs that SLOLA has had so far, have been open to hearing from these other board members and have allowed them to vote on all measures, including money matters, although strictly speaking, the bylaws require only the votes of those elected for money matters. It is assumed that these appointed positions are also for a two year span, but lack of qualified volunteers has kept people at these positions for years.

Proposed new officer: Library coordinator The concept of this position is keeping communication open between all the branches. For example, people in WSFV should know about special events at the other branches. Our current situation has made it painfully clear that counting on the chair to exclusively deal with the branch collectively can lead to burnout engulfing the chair in assorted distractions. As I write this, I am considering the appointee as Venice person, but any branch could supply the person.

The Library Coordinator would be an appointed position. They will attend meetings at all branches, help with inventory needs, and see that seeds are being saved according to SLOLA's Best Practices and that meetings act within and to the heart of the SLOLA Mission Statement. The concept is that this position provides guidance and suggestions as regards seeds, best practices and other details that can be helpful. This person would be in addition to the Branch Representatives, discussed next.

Each branch may determine what offices they need and may have more than the following list, but in no case less than:

Seed Librarian(s)
Representative to the SLOLA Board or the Branch Chair

The Representative from each branches will attend meetings on the 3rd Saturday of each month at the Venice branch. They will be voting members of the Board voting for the benefit of their membership, a point which will require a change in our bylaws. This person will need to be elected as they should be able to vote on fiduciary matters. Furthermore, this person must appoint a second for themselves (or the branch could make it another elected position), in order that illness or other dispensations that prevent the Representative from attending the regular meeting, there is a designated person to represent that constituency. Because this would then be the only person to carry the branch's needs to the whole board, this back up person will be given the right to vote when the elected person is unavailable and only at those times. This would be another change to our bylaws.

These other branches may also have their own board of directors but how individual branches structure their own operation is not germane to this document. It is clear that a document is needed that should lay out some parameters to make this as transparent as possible.
Branches shall meet once per month, excepting December when Branches have the opportunity to be “dark” for the month. Note: the bylaws call for elections to be held in December, but since the Venice SLOLA does not meet in December, we will have to change something about that in the very near future. I suggest we make January or February in the odd years our election event. This will need to also be a part of our bylaw changes.

Elections
SLOLA Venice will elect their officers as soon as we can fix a date and the vote will be decided by whoever shows up – it was felt then, and I think there is merit to it, that those who show up are the ones interested in the affairs of SLOLA and therefore are the ones entitled to vote. I will move that we make this our voting method.

Because there have been a number of people who have joined and were not given a chance to sign the Safe Seed Pledge at that time, a dilemma has been created because the very definition in our bylaws of a “member” includes such a requirement, we can be solve this by every person who is allowed to vote is afforded the opportunity to sign the safe seed pledge. Because this document contains the very essence of our jobs as seed savers, please ask folks to actually read the document rather than just glance at it.

Branches will have seeds on hand to be checked out, at the minimum, on the days of the meetings – and are encouraged to find ways of having additional checkouts on a regular basis.

In addition, a special Seed Librarian School is envisioned to fulfill the need of qualified librarians so they
A. Know the system we use and make inventory inquiries and can check in seeds
B. Understand the life cycles of our various plant families and be able to advise on selections for beginners
C. Keep accurate and precise information
D. Order seeds as needed and appropriately

Librarians are urged to consult with other librarians and experienced gardeners and seed savers in choosing the seeds they put in their libraries.

It is anticipated that different branches will assist other libraries and we will all work together as best as we can.

Seed Inventories and Librarians
(I will lay out a curriculum for seed librarians in another document to follow.) Each branch will have their own seed inventory. This needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Without separate seeds, we are not fulfilling our mission. Each branch should be developing their own inventory of seeds for their area. SLOLA funds should go toward purchasing seeds for each branch. Seeds to be in our inventories should be prioritized along these lines:
A. Locally grown seed
B. Seeds with a personal or familial story or connection
C. Seeds experienced growers in the area suggest as good OP varieties
D. Seeds from the Ark of Taste listing by Slow Food USA
E. Free seeds

Those seeds we are saving from the top three categories above, should never be allowed to run completely out because they might be in limited supply, they even might be the very last of that variety. If seeds in short supply are given out, they must be given only to people who understand the importance of these seeds who have a track record and will bring back more than they are given. Even then, back ups should be kept.

Seed librarians are encouraged to meet with other librarians and discuss sources for seeds and solve inventory etc problems with input from experienced members. We would like some uniformity in terms of labeling and classifying seeds in a comprehensive manner (and there are problems that will need to be solved) , but each library should have an amount of money to spend on an initial order. I am suggesting $100 to 150, but this amount is arbitrary. Do note, that in the execution of your duties as an officer of SLOLA, you are entitled to be reimbursed up to $50 on SLOLA related expenditures. This would be a good way to keep your library stocked. It is important that you have seeds to give away, although we know that's not the real reason we are here! Librarians are encouraged to find free seeds from retailers or wholesalers. Free seeds must not make up a large percent of your inventory though. Those seeds were made available to you because they didn't sell and are not the best kind of seeds to try to create a sustainable seed library with. By our third year into the library, the prospect of thousands of rejected seeds filled me with dread and I am proud to say that a large percentage of our seeds are from returns or are seeds we have purchased. When we purchase seeds vs. free seeds, we get to stock what we think will do best here and that is much more in alignment with our mission statement.

Please note, at this time it is probably best if we give out some difficult to save seeds without an expectation that we will get viable seed back. At this time, Best Practices at Venice has decided to not expect seed returns from any Brassica or corn as both are extremely difficult to save even for experienced seed savers. Libraries are encouraged to communicate growing successes and problems with other branches.

Finally, in all of this, I see so much more cooperation needs to happen between branches especially between chairs and librarians.

I am not going to make the suggestion now that we have one or two meetings per year that take place at one branch at a time, where we can gather as a whole to “show off” our branch and make new SLOLA friends. But that time will have to come after our feet are on the ground.

Submitted 16 February, 2019,
David King, Founding Chair
Motions that are included in this paper include:

  1. I ask it to be moved and voted: Elections will be held at once and established to be held in January of odd numbered years – each satellite branch will have an elected Representative to the SLOLA Board in Venice and a chair. (This person can also be the chair of the chapter or it may be two different people. Elected officials in any SLOLA branch will serve for two years and can be elected for two terms of two years. The seed librarian is appointed by this person.)
  2. I ask it to be moved and voted: That no one is allowed to vote in our general elections without signing the Safe Seed Pledge document as written on our official membership application.
  3. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each branch to elect their own “chair” person though we do not care what it is called as long as it is printable. Each SLOLA branch other than Venice, will designate one person to be their representative of that group, allowing that authority can be transferred to another individual if necessary, to insure that branch will be represented. While more than one person may be designated to be the representative, only one can vote for each branch.
  4. I ask it to be moved and voted: The current SLOLA elections going forward are held in our tradition, as follows – SLOLA Venice will elect the Chair for Venice and all other officers as Venice has had in the past.
  5. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each individual SLOLA group will elect their office holders, in conjunction with Venice's election schedule - the format and composition is up to that branch, we suggest at minimum a Chair who also serves as the representative to the Venice Board.
  6. I ask it to be moved and voted: SLOLA Venice creates an ambassador position that will coordinate between all the branches to be appointed by the Venice Chair.
  7. I ask it to be moved and voted: Each branch will have it's own inventory – though branches may trade seeds between branches and and they use the SLOLA inventory system.
  8. I ask it to be moved and voted: Branches without an inventory should draw a request up and submit it as an expense which SLOLA will pay for (the initial inventory should cost somewhere in the $100 and $150 range – this vote should include the figure agreed upon at the meeting this comes up for approval).
  9. I ask it to be moved and voted: Librarians stocking inventory do diligent work in finding local seed companies and companies that are wholly organic. It is preferred to use companies that do not sell F1 hybrids which should never be in our inventories. It is further suggested that librarians look for OSSI certified seeds (Open Sourced Seed Initiative). I will offer a list of such companies in short order.
  10. I ask it to be moved and voted: That each officer of every branch has the phone numbers and email addresses of every other office in every SLOLA branch to facilitate more cooperation and communication.



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Except For Their Progeny!

In the beginning of 2016, I and a number of other SLOLA members went to the State Capital Building in Sacramento to rally and lobby for changes to California's seed laws. It had rained like madness the night before and as we gathered with other seed libraries, it began to pour some more!  There were seed libraries from many different parts of the state as well as farmers and, despite the cold and the wet, spirits were good. After lunch, a few of us met with Governor Brown's lead assistant on agriculture policy and then over to the California Department of Agriculture and Forestry for a few moments of conversation. In both cases, we got a very positive response; in both cases we felt we had brought their attention to a problem they would be happy to solve. 

When we started the Seed Library of Los Angeles in 2009 we had no concern that a seed library could be illegal, but as events unfolded, guess what?  It was! 

Unlike Pennsylvania and Delaware where authorities went out to the locations of these seed libraries and gave them a warning, California's Department of Agriculture and Forestry issued a statement that they wouldn't prosecute anyone for trading seeds with people up to several miles away - at that point they thought they were doing us a big favor because the actual law was not specific, merely saying "neighbors" could trade seeds. They had taken "neighbors" to mean actual neighbors, and so, allowing seed sharing clear across town was mighty big of them. Even without a seed law change, it was my impression that catching seed librarians and throwing them into jail was not going to become an urgent issue anytime soon, we wanted to show that sharing seeds, creating libraries of locally grown seeds was an issue that deserved attention. Not arrests.

A sponsor was found through work by Richmond Grows Seed Library and The California Grange (as it was known at that time - now The California Guild) located a lawyer activist who wrote an actual law seed librarians would be pleased with That proposal was introduced to the state legislature sometime near March. It went through several committees successfully and finally was primed to go for the final vote which, if it won, would allow Governor Brown to sign it. 

It was a rainy day in Sacramento when we went up to
lobby for the new seed bill that finally did become
the law of the state - and no seed savers went to jail either!

In Southern California, these events were followed closely - we were kept informed and in touch through emails and phone calls with Diana Rudè, lobbyist for the California Guild (formerly the California Grange). Diana was our woman on the scene and of all the people that did work on this bill, I think we owe the most to her. She emailed me in early June with the final draft that would be voted on shortly and sent to the Governor for his signature There was no real organization opposed to the bill, it was sailing through, but when I read the "final" version, I was troubled. 

"Troubled" I say, because the language had tweaked us into another corner that was worse than the neighbor clause.The new proposed law read "Seed libraries can expect nothing of value in return for the seeds they dispense." Seeing as I see seeds as valuable, that would destroy the whole concept of a "library" - we wanted the seeds of our seeds back! 

I rewrote that sentence in the proposed law: 

"Seed libraries can expect nothing of value in return for the seeds they dispense, except for the progeny of the seeds they dispense."

And that's the way it reads today! 

My point is, that seed libraries too often are considered only as places where you get seeds, in truth, and what we fought for, was the right to get the next generation of seeds back from our members. In the beginning, this is the work that took up most of our intention. We chose to do our own lending, feeling we would get more seed returns if we gave seeds out ourselves, rather than relying on a local library to do that - we felt if we were the ones giving out the seeds, people could ask us how best to grow the seeds and how best to save them - we thought that would give us a much higher seed return percentage. Now, after almost ten years of hard labor, we are proud to announce that our model of seed library doesn't work much better than the other model of seed library.  However, we can report we've made more friends.

But we remain invested in getting the progeny of our seeds back. That is the only way we can build resilience into our seed libraries - the volunteers who keep this thing going can't grow out enough seeds - we need many different members to grow seeds and return seeds to the library. 

It may well be that all we want to do is save the seeds, but that turns out to be a "big whole" built on many smaller blocks. You can be one of those blocks - it's fun and not at all scary. Just ask at your next seed library meeting, how do I return seeds to the seed library?  We'll be honored to show you and together we can exercise that part of our new seed law.

david