News Update: Advocacy for Community-Based Seed Sharing

You may have heard or read about the Duluth Seed Library's visit from the Department of Agriculture on Minnesota Public Radio recently. Duluth has a library very similar to seed libraries in the Twin Cities, and they have been informed by the MN Dept. of Agriculture that they are in violation of the state Seed Law. You can read a detailed FAQ about the seed law and the actual violation on their website here.

Many gardeners have expressed concern about how this action and the MN Seed Law affects gardeners ability to save and share seeds in a community-based setting. 

In the last two weeks, a small group has been in conversation to talk about how to best advocate for positive change. The group includes:
Jamie Harvie, Institute for Sustainable Futures and Seed Library in Duluth
Carla Powers, Librarian at the Duluth Public Library
John Torgrimson, Seed Saver's Exchange
Neil Thapar, Sustainable Economies Law Center, offering legal support to states dealing with seed law challenges
Tamara Downs-Schwei, Local Food Policy Coordinator, City of Minneapolis
Sarah Foster, Seed Library in St. Paul

On December 18th, we were invited to attend a meeting of the Department of Agriculture's Seed Program Advisory Group meeting to dialogue about the challenges posed by the MN Seed Law and discuss potential ways to move forward. 

We thank the Department of Agriculture, and especially Steve Malone, for his transparency about the Seed Law and his willingness to talk about ways the Department of Agriculture can support community-based seed sharing. It is important to note that the Department of Agriculture has NO interest in exercising punitive measures (fining, shutting down, seizing seeds, etc) towards any community-based seed sharing activity. As a result of the actions so far, the Department of Agriculture is open to recommendations on how to appropriately amend the existing seed law.

In terms of future action, we expect to be able to circulate proposed language for legislative changes drafted by the Sustainable Economies Law Center very soon. Our goals are to:
(1) Change the definition of "sell" to exclude any non-commercial exchange of seeds
(2) To exempt community-based seed-sharing, including seed libraries, from the labelingtesting, and permitting sections of the law.

When there are hearings or opportunities for public comment, we will be sure to post those. This community input will be very important in influencing the final product of legislative action. We are hopeful that changes will be made this legislative session. 

On Monday, Dec. 15th, Duluth's City Council unanimously
approved a resolution in support of the Duluth seed library, as well as encouraging changes to the MN Seed Law to support seed libraries in legislation.  We encourage other city councils to pass resolutions of support. We are already working with the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to introduce these resolutions. 
Several organizations (Gardening Matters, Saint Paul/ Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Commission, and Homegrown Minneapolis) have already written letters of support for changes in the Seed Law. If you are part of an organization that would be willing to add a letter of support or sign-on  to Gardening Matters letter, please do so! You can base your letter of support on the letters linked here! Contact Nadja to sign on to Gardening Matters letter, or contact Jamie to submit a separate letter from your organization. 

Please also sign the online petition from the Sustainable Economies Law Center  - and share this with your networks and in organizational newsletters as appropriate. 

We will try to have the most up-to-date information here, so you can stay tuned to any other citizen action that may be helpful! 

2014 Annual Giving Campaign

Greetings fellow gardeners and farmers!

As we reflect back on 2014, could I share three numbers with you that have been giving me hope?

The first number is 269,849. This year, Gardening Matters estimates that our Local Foods Resource Hubs members sequestered 269,849 of carbon out of our atmosphere. 269,849 pounds!

The second number is 450,000. Our Hubs members are growing food on 20.6 acres in the Twin Cities. As a result, we calculate that space can grow approximately 450,000 pounds of food!

The third number is 900,000. The estimated value of that 450,000 pounds of locally grown food is upwards of $900,000.

It is no wonder that our new Executive Director, Susan Phillips, proclaims that gardening is a revolutionary act! I feel a thrill every time I hear her say it. We can start a real revolution right here to bring equity, justice, health and environmental resilience to our communities through that intimate relationship with the earth we call gardening.

In 2015, you will be seeing some new changes at Gardening Matters. First and foremost, we will be placing Food Justice at the core of our mission. To that end, we want to bring on a new Education Coordinator. We want this position to work with you to conceptualize, design, and implement education events related to gardening and organizing.

We want our Education Coordinator to help us grow better gardens and grow better communities to organize Food Justice.  While we have proposals out for grants and contracts to fund the majority of this position, we need your help!

We are setting an ambitious goal to raise $15,000 within one month, so that our new Education Coordinator can start right after the New Year! Please donate today to help us meet our goal! Gifts of all sizes are welcome! All donations are tax-deductible. If 300 people were to give $50, this fundraiser would be over in a day!

At Gardening Matters, we pride ourselves on being a nonprofit authentically connected to our communities. At our Fall Harvest Gathering, you told us that education for better gardens and community organizing should be our top priorities. We loved hearing that message and got to work on it right away. Help us launch this new Education Coordinator position by making your donation today! 

In solidarity,

John Parker – Der Boghossian
Chair, Board of Directors


Fall Gathering: Harvest of Ideas

Thank you to everyone who came and contributed to the ideas at our Fall Harvest Gathering! We had a great meal, and about 50 gardeners who shared their wisdom to help move us forward. Take a look at what we talked about (.pdf, and below)! Do you agree? Have something to add? Please send any comments or thoughts back to me! Also attached, the accomplishments from 2014. Be proud, gardeners. Be proud. You are doing amazing work. 

YOUR Support Connects Gardeners

Please watch for our December Giving appeal.  Your support helps grow the success of community gardens, gardeners and the good food movement. Individual donations are vital to sustaining Gardening Matters' community-based programs, and we thank you for your ongoing support!

Gardening Matters Kudos!
Gardening Matters was recently recognized in the 1st Annual Good Food Guide, sponsored by the Food Tank and the James Beard Foundation. The Guide highlights nonprofit organizations that are doing exemplary work in the United States in the areas of food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice. We are honored by the inclusion!
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