Shelter Island is getting a seed library

Kurt Erickson, Sylvester Manor's Vegetable Field Manager, sowing winter rye and hairy vetch seed in the Windmill Field in September of 2015. (Credit: Maggie Higby)

Kurt Erickson, Sylvester Manor’s Vegetable Field Manager, sowing winter rye and hairy vetch seed in the Windmill Field in September of 2015. (Credit: Maggie Higby)

What is a seed library? The Shelter Island Seed Library will allow anyone with a Shelter Island Library card to check out a variety of flower, herb and vegetable seeds. At the end of the growing season, borrowers are encouraged to save seeds and donate them back to the library.

“An Introduction to Seeds and Seed Saving,” is the timely topic of the April 15 Friday Night Dialogues at the Library that will present this new project being launched in a partnership between the Shelter Island Public Library and Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

The endeavor is the brainchild of Maggie Higby and Kurt Erickson, Assistant Vegetable Field Manager and Vegetable Field Manager, respectively, at the Manor, and Jocelyn Ozolins, Adult Services Librarian and Master Gardener.

“Kurt and I had discussed the potential of such a project about six months ago,” Ms. Higby said. “The relative isolation of Shelter Island makes it an ideal location for regional seed adaptation, and the fact that we have so many enthusiastic backyard gardeners made it seem like a great idea. When we met Jocelyn and witnessed her passion for such a project, we knew that the collaboration of our organizations could make this idea a reality.”

In addition to sharing a primer on the basics of saving seeds, Higby and Erickson will also cover various seed types and how they differ for seed-saving techniques, and give an introduction to the modern, global seed movements and their importance in promoting bio-diversity.

According to Higby, “The Shelter Island Seed Library hopes to present an opportunity for island residents to engage in seed ‘re-diversification’ by planting, tending, and harvesting their own delicious, nutrient-rich food and flowers.”

The three founders hope this long-term initiative will encourage the involvement of community members of all ages to build interest in our local food system from the ground up. “With this project, we seek to enhance regional biodiversity and engage local families through educational presentations and increased accessibility to clean seeds.”

This is the second year at Sylvester Manor for Ms. Higby and Mr. Erickson. Ms. Higby, a graduate of Kenyon College, worked in publicity for Simon & Schuster and on farms in Siena, Italy and Vermont before joining the Manor staff last year. Mr. Erickson was a facility inspector and port control examiner with the Coast Guard before turning to farming at Clearbrook Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont and Stone Barns in Tarrytown, N.Y. He wrote the organic gardening column for the Reporter during summer 2015.

The presentation will take place at 7 p.m. in the library’s lower level. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated. For more information call the Library at 749-0042.

Next up: On Friday April 22nd at 7 p.m., Paul McDowell and Lawrence Landry will recount their adventures on the Prospector during the 2015 Transatlantic Race.