Shen Seed Library in the planning stages

Mrs. Martin’s horticulture class at Shenandoah High School begin the process of writing a business plan for the Shenandoah Library Seed Library project. (Photo Heidi Hertensen/Valley News)

Known as the seed and nursery capital of America, it is fitting to have a seed library in Shenandoah.

Still in the planning stages, Carrie Falk, Director at the Shenandoah Public Library and Sarah Martin, the Horticulture Class teacher at Shenandoah High School, are working together to have a seed library available to the community.

“I’ve wanted to do this forever,” said Falk. “I just haven’t known how to go about it. So I was really glad to have Sarah take the wheel with it.”

Seed libraries function by sharing and lending seeds with the community. Lending works by people checking out seeds from the library at the beginning of the season. They will grow them, and then a portion of the new crop of seeds can be donated back to the library for other members of the community.

Falk said commercial seed packets could also be donated to the seed library.

The selection of seeds available in a seed library typically consist of heirloom seeds. Falk explained heirloom seeds could be dried and brought back to redistribute.

Falk said she gave a presentation to Martin’s horticulture class about the aspects of a seed library. She has turned the project over to the students, and they are working on a plan of how to create the seed library.

“I’m really looking forward to see what the kids come up with,” said Falk. “I know there is interest, and I’m glad I have someone like Sarah who really knows what she is doing to help be in charge of this and to fill in all the gaps for stuff I don’t know.”

Martin had her students begin by writing a mission statement.

“The students thought that was a hard process because it has to be a clear mission statement,” said Martin.

The mission will be to educate the community about the seed saver library. The students also came up with a goal to have a simple, easy to use electronic distribution system for the library to use.

The students said working on this project is a good fit for them as they had already been learning about seeds in class leading up to this project. They also hope to learn how to get a business started.

The students in Martin’s class will write a business plan for the project.

“One of the hardest things is to understand how a business works,” said Martin.

Martin has split the class into six committees to work on the project. The six committees are advertising, education, management, logistics, distribution and seed care.

The students will work on why the community will benefit from a seed library, how they will market it, how the seeds will be collected, distributed, sorted and stored and what classes and education they are going to offer to the community. They will also determine if funding will be needed to keep the seed library growing.

The students plan to start the seed library with seeds donated by a local business and donations from members of the community who give seeds to the horticulture class each year. They were also given a list of resources to contact for seeds for the library but hope to get the majority of seeds from the local community.

“Sorting will depend on the collection,” said Martin. “For our purpose, I think probably the best thing to do is keep it simple, so people understand what they are getting.”

The students will determine how to categorize them once they see what seeds are being donated.

“We talked about the education part,” said Martin. “It’s not going to make a whole lot of sense to have seeds at the library and never teach anybody how to grow them.”

The students will give basic presentations at the library on how to take care of seeds, how to plant them, labels and how to prepare seeds for the next year.

PJ Heilen, a student in the horticulture class, said he is looking forward to seeing how the community reacts to the seed library and hopes to educate the community about growing seeds.

Martin said they hope to have the seed library set up at the Shenandoah Public Library by January for the community to start checking out seeds. Each semester the current horticulture class will take over the project and work with the library.

“I think it’s a good idea that the library asked us to help with this project,” said Lucy Martin. “We are the horticulture class, and we are learning about seeds, and it will be good interaction for the community.”

Martin said the students have to go out and ask the community to believe in them and for them to believe in the community for the seed library to be successful.

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