By Stephani Dingreville

The Corrales Community Library has historically been a place for villagers to find seeds of knowledge within its deep literary collection. But beginning February 2022, villagers will be able to borrow a different kind of seed, one that can actually be planted in the ground. Sandra Baldonado, Corrales’ adult services librarian, is the author of this new program. It all started one day when Library Volunteer Dar Brady shared seeds from her home garden with Baldonado. As she planted the seeds in her own garden, an idea was being planted in Baldonado’s mind, one for a program that would encourage this kind of seed sharing within the Corrales Community. She began to research a way the library could facilitate such an effort.

Baldonado brought her idea to the Friends of the Corrales Library, (FOCL) the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has supported the library for over 50 years. Baldonado said the FOCL then “generously funded the seed packet cabinet and seeds.”

The seeds will be displayed in a beautiful, wall-mounted, wooden repository made by local woodworker Bob Serier. This furniture was donated by FOCL years ago and previously used as a display for pamphlets. The new seed cabinet will fit underneath, and both will be in the adult computer room located just to the left (east) of the main check-out desk. The box for seed donations now sits under the display. The FOCL will also be funding any additional program expenses.

Baldonado then contacted Sam Thompson with  the Sandoval Extension Master Gardener local chapter  (SEMG), who was helpful with resources and information.

Together, Thompson and Baldonado brainstormed ways SEMG could participate in the Corrales program. Baldonado recalled “The Sandoval Master Gardener handbook is available in the library, the SEMG has information for patrons on their website, and I would also like to have ongoing programs in collaboration with [SEMG] to provide education and resources in 2022.”

The Corrales Community Seed Library was then selected to receive donations of seeds by the Herman’s Garden Seed Donation Program, part of Seed Savers Exchange. According to its website, Seed Savers Exchange “houses the nation’s largest non-governmental seed bank of its kind, where thousands of rare, heirloom varieties are safeguarded for generations to come.”

Each year Seed Savers Exchange donates more than 60,000 packets of seed to more than 600 gardens worldwide through the Herman’s Garden program.

Thanks to these efforts by Baldonado and so many others, beginning in February, library patrons will be able to borrow up to 15 seed packets per year. These they can take home, plant, care for and cultivate into full-grown plants that make seeds of their own. Then the borrower can return these seeds to the library, labeled carefully, for other patrons to check out.

Of course there aren’t any guarantees that any individual borrower will be able to successfully bring seeds back, but the advantages of the program far outweigh the risks.

“The benefits of a seed lending library are many. It is a way to build community with fellow gardeners and support people who are new to the world of gardening,” Baldonado said.  “It also preserves rare, heirloom or open pollinated seeds and encourages our community to save quality seeds that are suitable to our growing area.”

In her book Saving More Than Seeds: Practices and Politics of Seed Saving, University of Melbourne Faculty Member Catherine Phillips says: “Seeds are indispensable as a means of reproducing food, as food themselves, as part of ecosystems that support and constrain us, and as part of our cultural heritages. Seeds (and their plants) are part of the socionatural challenges we face in loss of biodiversity, maintaining food security, adapting to climate change and sustaining rural and urban livelihoods. The histories and destinies of both seeds and people have become entwined.“

Corrales history is preserved in the seeds that have proliferated here, saved from generation to generation. Baldonado tells the story of one gentleman who responded to a library Facebook post about the Seed Library, saying he had two special seed varieties to donate, both collected from late Corrales farmer Annie Chavez.

One called “Esperanza de Oro” (Cucumis Melo), is a mostly smooth-skinned native melon, interbred for years with Crenshaw melons. These melons were selected and bred for their size and sweetness by a Corrales farmer, and named for his family business.

The other is called “Corrales Azafrán” (Carthamus tinctorius). “Azafrán” is a Spanish word meaning saffron in English, and this red/orange thistle-like flower, although unrelated, was used as a saffron substitute in the Spanish colonies. Corrales’ Annie Chavez was known for the beautiful wreaths she made from this and other flowers that grew on her farm.  Both of these seed varieties are available on the website NativeSeeds.org, and they will soon be available in the Corrales Seed Library as well.

The Seed Library is looking for more donations of rare, heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. These would be seeds villagers have grown year after year, or purchased seeds that are not hybridized or genetically modified. They also do not want seeds that are labeled “PVP,” indicating they are protected by an intellectual copyright and should not be shared. 

Seed donations can be placed in the seed donation box at the library, with as much information as possible about the seeds and growing methods attached. Seeds can also be mailed to the library at 84 W. La Entrada / P.O. Box 1868. Corrales NM 87048.

“I’m so grateful for community participation,” Baldonado added. “Volunteers have been packaging seeds and so many community members have brought in local seed varieties to share.”

Villagers can sign up to volunteer labeling and packaging seeds for the program by sending an email to Sandra@corraleslibrary.org, or inquiring at the circulation desk.

Through the seed library, villagers will have an exciting new way to cultivate more than just the ground outside their houses, but also Corrales’ rural heritage. By borrowing, saving and returning their most successful seeds, Corraleños can help protect, preserve, and evolve the rich biodiversity that defines our village.

In 2014, the Albuquerque Library established a seed library, now housed at its South Broadway branch.

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