Bedford library's garden program takes root


TEMPERANCE — A unique program in several Monroe County Library System branches is growing — literally.

Linnea Vicari, youth services technician at the Bedford Branch Library in Temperance, created a library garden program last year using a grant from the Monroe County Environmental Fund. Bedford and four other branches in Carleton, Dundee, Luna Pier, and Newport installed small vegetable gardens and worked them into various summer programs.

“I am passionate about connecting people to their food, and my family has a small environmentally friendly farm,” Miss Vicari said. “There’s research that shows that directly interacting with the environment changes how you think about it. Something as simple as playing in the dirt at the library can have a big impact.”

This year, the Bedford branch is expanding its efforts and created a garden loan program and seed library. The library installed six 4-by-8-foot garden plots on the property, three of which the library staff is using for programming. The remaining plots are available to be claimed for the season by library patrons.

“It’s just like a library book. It’s literally checked out on your library card,” Miss Vicari said, adding that one of the plots is already spoken for. Gardeners also can use the library’s tools, compost, and rain barrel. “We’re capable of installing more plots if there’s more interest,” she said.

The seed library is an old card catalog with free packets of donated seeds for gardeners.

“You check out the seeds, save the seeds when the plant grows, and return seeds from the plant you grew,” Miss Vicari said.

Bedford is the only branch loaning out plots and providing seeds, but the others may do so if patrons show interest. For now, the four simply are planning to replant their gardens from last year.

“We always like to come up with something new and different. If it’s educational and healthy, all the better,” said Shannen McMahon, head librarian at the Rasey Memorial Branch Library in Luna Pier. “You try and reach people in all different ways. Everybody learns differently. Sometimes doing it is a lot better than reading a book.”

Miss Vicari said the Bedford branch’s garden-to-table program with its garden last year was well-received. Children went out to the garden, learned about and harvested vegetables, then prepared and ate snacks with the produce they gathered.

In Luna Pier, the library allowed children to harvest and taste vegetables before opening the garden up to patrons wishing to partake of the produce.

“This year, we’re going to try getting into more of the kids planting and weeding and so on and so forth,” Mrs. McMahon said. “We’re going to have a summer lunch program here feeding the children lunch, so we’re hoping to add it into that curriculum.”

She noted the community also is trying to start a farmer’s market, so the library is hopeful its garden can help spark interest in that effort as well.

Contact Alexandra Mester at: amester@theblade.com419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.