Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Spring has Sprung: Planting Seeds and Forming Community

As the weather warms up, plant-related activities and events are beginning to pop up around Whitman campus and Walla Walla. This includes the Walla Walla Public Library’s seed library, which launched March 16.

According to library technician Annie Yetmez, patrons can stop by the library and pick up free seed packets. The seeds come from Adaptive Seeds, an organic, open-pollinated and GMO-free seed farm based near Sweet Home, Oregon, and are packaged by volunteers.

“We’ve given away over 50 different varieties of vegetables, herbs and some flowers,” Yetmez said. 

Along with the seeds themselves, the seed library offers weekly plant-related education.

“We’ve got a good partnership with the Washington State University Extension Master Gardeners program, and they’re here every Saturday until the end of April when they start going out to the outdoor Farmers’ Market on Saturday … and that’s free to anybody in the community … even if you just want advice about your Aloe that you’re growing in your room,” Yetmez said.

Also available are various gardening guides, including resources through the Washington State University Extension.

The seed library was planned for a 2020 launch, but because of COVID-19, ended up not fully beginning until 2022. The seed library has launched in March every spring since.

“We always start with a big seed library launch, and we have a planting activity where anybody can plant beans, onions and some flowers. And then this year we had a hands-on demonstration on transplanting from the Master Gardeners,” Yetmez said.

Lindsay Tebeck, Collection Strategist Librarian at Penrose and former librarian at the Walla Walla Public Library, was behind the creation of the seed library.

“My interest really sprouted in the Rees and Sumach Community Garden, pun intended! Through the generous knowledge of community garden members, I learned how to manage my very first garden plot … During that same time, I was working at the Walla Walla Public Library as a Library Technician and saw a great deal of overlap between the sense of community at the garden and in the library … Many libraries were beginning to include more nontraditional items into their collections to meet the public’s interest and foster connection. So I thought, ‘Hey, in a small, agricultural town like Walla Walla … why not seeds?’” Tebeck said. 

Meanwhile on Whitman;s campus, the Environmental House (the Outhouse) hosted a seed bomb making event on the Fouts Sidelawn April 11. Outhouse resident Aneesah Sands explained what a seed bomb is.

“Basically, it’s like a little ball of substrate … And then you put some seeds in there … And then you can either plant it or kind of famously people will wet it down and just throw it somewhere,” Sands said.

This is the first time the Outhouse has put on this particular event.

“Last spring semester, [the Outhouse] started working on the native plant restoration site on Reid sidelawn … so I think that kickstarted a lot of the various native plant related programming that’s happening at the house … We wanted to make something that was a little more accessible [than the restoration site],” Sands said.

Another Outhouse resident, senior Lauren O’Rourke, explained the importance of native plant restoration.

“I think it’s really important … to have a large number of sites with native plants to support insect diversity on campus … [Planting native plants] can be a really effective way to do insect conservation. Insects are declining worldwide. This is a huge problem because they’re the base of almost every single ecosystem function,” O’Rourke said.

According to Sands, native plants also require less water since they’re accustomed to Walla Walla’s climate. 

“That’s important. I know a lot of folks on this campus are really worried about water,” Sands said.

Rachel Kennedy, a founding member and current president of the Native Plant Restoration Coalition and Outhouse resident, added that restoration is also a form of decolonization.

“One of our founding members for the Native Plant Restoration Coalition was very intent on the decolonial nature of [returning] native plants to the landscape. When you have a lot of invasive ornamental species, it kind of sends a message that that’s what you want your campus to look like,” Kennedy said.

Whitman students trickled in and out of the seed bomb event, which was as much a social gathering as a project. 

“Though my housemates and I would have liked some more participants, we were overall happy with how the event went,” Sands said.

When discussing the seed library, Tebeck emphasized the importance of community.

“If there’s one thing I want to share with the Whitman body, it’s that community is home grown. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your librarian,” Tebeck said. “Be sure to visit the Penrose Library after getting your seeds for the latest, greatest garden titles.”

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