Leon County is encouraging residents to get their hands dirty and grow their own food. The seed cache at Leon County libraries is a budding addition for residents who want to learn their way around soil and trowels.
It’s nearly eight p.m., and the program room of Leroy Collins Public Library is packed. It’s hard to miss brown envelopes with seeds swinging from the ceiling and large green buckets filled with soil on tables. In front of the room, Trevor Hylton shares tips with the mostly first-time farmers.
"If you're purchasing seeds, one of the first things I would tell you is that make sure you buy from a reputable dealer,” Trevor Hylton tells the audience. “If you're buying your seed packets and you're paying, you know, fifty cents for an ounce of tomato, it may not be all tomato."
Hylton, a grower who works at Florida A&M University, shares several good sense tips with more than three dozen people. Many of them are children. Married couple Paco and Eva Fiallos-Diaz say they hope to turn that advice into a thriving home garden to feed their family.
"We got a lot of helpful hints for our backyard garden. We're trying to get some vegetables going this year, so we can spend less money on groceries," he says.
And Eva Fiallos-Diaz adds: "We haven't had a lot of success in the past, so we're hoping some of the stuff we've learned here today will improve on what we're already doing.”
Eva carries the couple’s son in a sling on her back; their four-year-old daughter roams between her parents’ legs, glancing at them while the adults talk. Eva says it is important for her daughter to learn farming and to value the Earth.
"We also compost at home, so she'll see how it all becomes cyclical basically," she says. "So, it's like what we put in the ground but then we also use the scraps to put them back in the compost, and then that helps us grow them again."
The talk is part of Leon County’s push to inspire residents to become food independent and grow more. County libraries now are filled with seed packets, and residents can check out three of them each month. Library Director Cay Hohmeister says there’s been plenty of enthusiasm since the project started last month.
"The response has been more overwhelming than I thought it would be. We went through 1,000 seed packets in the first couple days of the program. (pause) More than that. Almost all of our seeds were gone," Hohmeister says.
The library system will stock seeds for a while longer, offering more chances for residents to learn agriculture. Hohmeister says the library hopes to encourage people to grow seasonal vegetables at the best times.