Free Seed Library Comes to the Island City

Birgitt Evans &nbsp&nbsp Locals can make use of the seeds at the Alameda Backyard Growers’ seed library on San Jose Avenue. Available seeds include Glass-gem popcorn, Straight-Eight cucumbers and collards.

Free Seed Library Comes to the Island City

Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) was founded 10 years ago by Amanda MacLean Bruemmer and Janice Edwards in response to the economic meltdown as a way to build community, learn about growing food and give back to those in the community in need. Food security in a time of need was one of ABG’s founding principles and we have expanded upon that mission in the decade since, harvesting and delivering 38,988 pounds of Alameda-grown fruit to the Alameda Food Bank and offering free education meetings that teach people how to grow food.

In response to this economic crisis, ABG continues to focus on our foundational principles and has gone even further to expand on them through these unpredictable times. We believe that everyone is entitled to fresh, healthy food. How else does a child go to school prepared to learn, an adult makes the best decisions at work or an older person fight off cancer? This spring saw a giant hiccup in our food supply and delivery system and, as a result, the stress of food insecurity is at an all-time high.

In response, many people decided to grow some of their own food, except that — again — the seedlings, seeds and supplies were not always available or affordable. In response, ABG held a low-cost plant sale for the community and donated remaining plants to school gardens and non-profit organizations. We also created a monthly online newsletter to educate beginning and advanced gardeners and to offer activities for parents to do with their children.

For our most recent endeavor, thanks to generous donations from the Alameda community, ABG is opening a Free Seed Library. It will be similar to the Free Seed Exchange at the Alameda Free Library, which is currently closed. Community members can select six packets of vegetables and flowers per month. The seeds will be curated by season, and we will offer online support to anyone who needs it. The first Seed Library is located at 2829 San Jose Ave., between Versailles and Mound.

The second library will be coming to Alameda’s West End later this fall, thanks to a generous homeowner and an Eagle Scout who is building the library. We have received donations of seeds from a number of seed companies and are saving as much of our own seed as possible. In the future we hope to offer seed saving workshops and seed swaps.

Everyone can grow some of their own food, even if it is only a couple of pots of greens, peas and herbs on a sunny balcony. The act of cultivating food can help relieve anxiety and stress. Studies show that contact with the garden soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, actually triggers the release of serotonin in our brains, making gardening healthy on many levels.

However, seeds don’t grow overnight and no matter how big the garden, some families will need additional resources. If you need help putting food on the table, contact CalFresh to sign up for the SNAP program (aka food stamps) at www.getcalfresh.org. Also contact the Alameda Food Bank at www.alamedafoodbank.org.

Residents can pick up weekly food boxes at their warehouse at Alameda Point. In addition, Christ Episcopal Church (www.christchurchalameda.org) has a food pantry program and City Slicker Farms (www.cityslickerfarms.org) has a pay-as-you-can produce stand at their farm in West Oakland. Finally, contact the Alameda Unified School District to apply for reduced cost meals for school age children (schoolnutritionandfitness.com/index.php?sid=1571761233982).

Here at ABG, we hope that the Free Seed Libraries will help close a gap and assist neighbors in their attempts to grow food. Stop by periodically as the offerings will change with the seasons.

ABG is dedicated to teaching our neighbors how to grow food. During this difficult time, our education program has moved online. Visit www.alamedabackyardgrowers.org to join the mailing list and receive timely gardening information. ABG’s Project Pick is always looking for fruit trees to pick and volunteers to help pick them so we can deliver more fresh fruit to the Alameda Food Bank. To sign up, email info@alamedabackyardgrowers.org.

Birgitt Evans writes on behalf of Alameda Backyard Growers.