NPR launches seed exchange, community gardens

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city has gone to seed, literally.

New Port Richey officials launched the city’s seed exchange and community garden programs this week.

Patrons at New Port Richey Public Library can now check out seeds at the same time they might check out books. The drawers in the library’s seed catalog are labeled “easy,” “medium” and “advanced,” depending on how green a thumb patrons have when it comes to gardening ability.

The library holds the weekly Tasty Tuesday Organic Market where vendors offer fresh produce, baked goods, organic plant-based beauty products and flora.

“Grow, eat, share” is the theme of the new programs. People can take seeds to plant, harvest vegetables and then perhaps share seeds to replenish the library’s stock.

The first community garden is taking shape along Illinois Avenue, Dell deChant, chairman of the city’s environmental committee, said. Several other sites could set up soon in vacant lots. He believes the city is the first to start the programs, which he hopes other communities will copy.

Okra and sweet potatoes are two crops that grow best during Florida summers, deChant said. The prime growing season starts this fall when tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers and other plants thrive.

Awareness of the environment continues to rise among residents, deChant, a former city council member, said. The city sponsored its first cleanup campaign in 1987. He presented a vintage T-shirt from that 1987 event to Mayor Bob Consalvo.

Ann Scott, associate library director, acknowledged the hard work of many individuals to make the new initiatives possible.

Chris Marinec donated the materials and carpentry skills to build the seed cabinet at the library.

Stephanie Jones, information services librarian, developed a circulation management system for the seeds. Library volunteers, Barbara Sullo and Suncoast Co-op workers sorted seeds and filled the packets.

Donations of seeds came from national Seed suppliers, Seed Savers Exchange, Southern Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds and Baker Cree Heirloom Seeds.

Local suppliers also donated seeds, including Friendship Farms & Fare and Suncoast Co-op.

In addition to deChant, the environmental committee members are Vice Chair Rose Mohr, Secretary Kira Atkinson, Recording Secretary Jon Tietz, members Kacey Atkinson, Vera Gardner, Denise Houston, Sullo, and alternates Audrey Voss and Bonnie Jean Simmons.

Fleetwood Mullinax and other friends of longtime library volunteer Susan Vaughn, who died in July 2012, donated an eco-film collection in Vaughn’s memory.

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