Richmond 'seedbank' encourages urban farming


"If left to my own devices, I could spend all day out here, but it's not required," said backyard gardener Kelli Barram.

Barram grows more than a hundred species of plants in her Richmond back yard -- from the beautiful to the edible. Until about four months ago, getting seed was an inconvenient process of shopping at local nurseries, begging friends or leafing through catalogues. But, now getting access to new plants is as close as a trip to the Richmond library.

"I think it takes and connects a lot of dots for me -- it's creating community. People are coming together and we're sharing our resources and sharing out skills," said seedbank founder Rebecca Newburn.

The seedbank at the Richmond library is the brainchild of school teacher Rebecca Newburn. But, it's just one component in a national movement to get urban neighbors to begin growing more of their own food -- especially in areas with lots of fast food restaurants like Richmond.

"If we as a community can grow more of our own food locally and promote the health of that food from within the community not from without, I think it has the potential to change things for the better," said Barram.

The result is healthy, locally grown food at a much reduced cost -- a real plus in an economically challenged area like Richmond.

The seeds are rented at no cost, but you do have to fill out the correct forms and attend a small workshop. Information on each type of plant is typed on index cards and color-coded to show how hard or easy they are to grow. The seeds may be free, but that doesn't mean you get them for nothing. At the end of the growing season you have to bring back your new seeds, so somebody else can borrow them and keep the idea passing forward.

"If you have seed, you have food, you have all of this. You have the potential of all of this," said Barram.

"We've been doing seed saving as a culture for 12,000 years and in the last hundred years we've completely lost the knowledge base. It's bringing people back to something that's just such a part of being," said Newburn.

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