Mary Cosman of the Fernie seed library with a ‘drunken woman lettuce’ - an example of a plant that has become more suitable for the Elk Valley climate over a time. Pictured here in the Fernie EcoGarden in July 2022. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Mary Cosman of the Fernie seed library with a ‘drunken woman lettuce’ - an example of a plant that has become more suitable for the Elk Valley climate over a time. Pictured here in the Fernie EcoGarden in July 2022. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Local seed library building a more secure food source in the Elk Valley

The library is a long-term effort to acclimatize plants to the cooler Elk Valley conditions

The Elk Valley has it’s very own seed library, designed to help locals grow more resilient plants, and reduce dependence on outside suppliers.

The “Cold Climate Seed Library” which is run by Wildsight and based out of the Local Store in Fernie has been around since 2017.

Mary Cosman, who helps coordinate the program explained that the library depends on having more local growers check out seeds, grow them until they go to seed and then return those seeds back to the library before the next season so that eventually, the library is made up of seeds that are acclimatised to the colder conditions of the Elk Valley.

“We’ve found that once we take seeds from somewhere else and grow them out here year after year for a few years they do acclimatize themselves,” said Cosman.

“They will for instance mature a little faster because they need to.

“It’s distressing for gardeners trying it for the first time, to have the lettuce seed almost ready, and then it gets hammered by frost at the end of August.”

Day length, the amount of sunlight that hits the valley floor, soil conditions and the length of the growing season make the Elk Valley unique as a place to grow food, requiring a local touch.

The purpose of the library was more than just helping growers succeed in their gardens by sharing knowledge – it was part of a wider Wildsight mandate to encourage food security.

“If we can get more and more people producing their own seeds, saving them and replanting them – that’s one less thing that they have to depend upon.”

The Elk Valley seed library is based out of the Local Store in Fernie, where they have purchased a storage cabinet which provides the ideal conditions for storing seeds – cool, dark and dry.

To become involved with the seed library or learn more, you can find Mary Cosman at the Fernie Mountain Market on Sundays through summer at the Wildsight table, or email her directly at garden.fernie@gmail.com.

READ MORE: Fernie Community Garden expansion nears completion



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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