Ensuring community access to seeds remains a vital issue, and the UA is among those hosting the first International Seed Library Forum, a four-day event that kicks off on Sunday.
In 1981, the nonprofit seed conservation organization Native Seed/SEARCH hosted the first national grassroots seed conference in Tucson to better meet the community’s need for access to quality seeds.
Thirty-five years later, ensuring community access to seeds remains a vital issue. In order to promote further dialogue and cooperative action, the University of Arizona is among those hosting the first International Seed Library Forum, from Sunday through Wednesday.
More than 150 people from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are expected to attend the forum, and the Pima County Commissioners have declared the first week in May as Seed Library Week.
The UA’s Kellogg Program for Food and Water Security in the Borderlands, housed in the Southwest Center, is one of the co-hosts of this collaborative event, and several UA researchers are involved as moderators and speakers, including Gary Nabhan of the Southwest Center; Laurel Bellante of the School of Geography and Development and the Southwest Center; Maribel Alvarez of the Southwest Center and the School of Anthropology; Ashley Stinnett of anthropology; Alison Deming of the Department of English; Moses Thompson and Morgan Apicella of the School Garden Program; and Cynthia Anson of the College of Science.
Nabhan, the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems in the Southwest Center, which is housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, is one of the organizers of the forum.
Nabhan, who co-founded Native Seed/SEARCH, is an internationally known nature writer and food and farming activist. He is a proponent of conserving the links between biodiversity and cultural diversity, and he has been honored as a pioneer and creative force in the “local food movement” and seed-saving community.
The event kicks off with a field trip to the Mission Garden, a living agricultural museum of Sonoran Desert-adapted heritage fruit trees, local heirloom crops and edible native plants.
Other events include a community seed swap and a screening of the documentary “Seeds of Time,” followed by a Q&A session with agricultural policy expert Cary Fowler. The closing event features a celebration to benefit the Jardin Botanico de Oaxaca and the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace with tamales and local music.
The goal of the four-day event is to bring together experts from public libraries, nonprofits, higher-education institutions and food banks in the U.S. and other countries to further improve access and management of local seed resources. The forum highlights the increasingly important role that seed libraries play in creating best practices for seed saving and seed sharing at the community level.
Panel discussions will cover a range of topics, including: increasing the quality and diversity of community seed resources; establishing seed library protocols; documenting the seed library movement; increasing access for low-income households; and nurturing the next generation of seed savers in school gardens. The forum also addresses recent regulatory challenges to seed-library operations in five states.
The event is being presented by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Edible Baja Arizona magazine, The Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Gardens, The Loft Cinema, Mercado de San Agustín, Native Seeds/SEARCH, the Pima County Public Library and the UA Southwest Center. Additional co-sponsors include Greenhorns, the National Young Farmers Association, the Seed Library Social Network, Seed Savers Exchange and the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. Artwork was created by Paul Mirocha Design.