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! 

Intern and Volunteer Opportunities with Gardening Matters

Intern Opportunities 

Volunteer Opportunities 

Intern Opportunities (Winter, 2015): We have intern opportunities (unpaid) that take place in the office, either for academic credit or for valuable work experience. If you are interested in an internship opportunity, please follow the instructions for application on the internship posting. 

Events and Publicity Interns (2) 
The interns will help with the planning, publicity, and execution of these events that focus on building the capacity and connections of gardeners in the community. This means the interns may help: coordinate resources, communicate with a variety of stakeholders, drum up support and excitement through social media, conduct community outreach, coordinate volunteers, provide logistics support for staff members, and other tasks as necessary. We are a small but mighty organization; the intern will work closely with the staff to carry out these tasks.

Volunteer Opportunities: We have volunteer opportunities (unpaid) that take place in the office, and some that could take place off-site. All volunteers and interns will need to come to the Gardening Matters office for training during the normal business week. We are in South Minneapolis, near the 23, 11 and 18 bus lines.

Container Gardening Resource Volunteer

Our areas of current need: 

  • Data Entry and Administrative Support
    This is our #1 volunteer need! If numbers, spreadsheets, and organization is your thing, WE NEED YOU! This helps us keep our records up to do and get timely information out to the public about community gardens.
    Skills Desired: Experience with Access and Excel (Microsoft Office 2010), Salesforce, a good head for spreadsheets and data management, strong attention to detail

    Time Commitment: 2-4 hours per week 
  • Communications/Media
    Social media communications, website and email postings, drafting press releases, designing fliers and other communications tools. This would be a primarily in-office position.
    Skills desired: Communications skills, well-organized, graphic design

    Time commitment: at least 4 hours per week.   
  • Drupal/ Database Design and Maintenance
    Assist in functionality and design of our drupal-based website and database system.
    Skills desired: Significant drupal website experience, web design helpful

    Time commitment: As much as you can give us!
  • Research and data analysis
    Analyze focus group and survey data. Research community garden, urban agriculture, and/or public policy-related topics.  We have several research projects that this volunteer could assist with, depending in skill-set. This could be a long-term project, or a shorter-term update of existing Gardening Matters fact sheets. We usually only work with students who have a demonstrated skill set in a particular area and/or that are working with a professor or have outside supervision for their research project.
    Skills Desired: Strong writer, comfortable with online research, good phone and email skills 

    Time commitment: Project-dependent. 

    Other occasional volunteer needs:  
  • Translation
    We would like to develop a book of common garden signs translated in different languages. This book would be available to community gardens to copy and laminate as needed for their gardens. For this project, we need volunteers interested in calling gardens to see what signs and languages would be most helpful to them, and volunteers to translate (Hmong, Somali, Spanish, Russian, and more). An artistic volunteer could also create icons for signs (ie a picture showing “please do not pick the vegetables”, etc.)

    Skills Desired: Comfortable calling/emailing garden coordinators, fluent in a language other than English, art/graphic design
  • General Translation
    Gardening Matters periodically needs bilingual volunteers to help with translating materials and/or workshops and events. We would like to compile a list of interested bilingual volunteers to contact as opportunities arise.

    Skills Desired: Fluent in a language commonly spoken in the Twin Cities, comfortable with written and oral translation.
  • GIS Mapping
    We are interested in GIS mapping community gardens for acreage.

    Skills Desired: GIS map skills, willingness to teach others how to use GIS maps
  • Photo Organizing
    Gardening Matters has lots of great garden photos which need to be tagged and organized. We would like to develop a slideshow of the best photos, update photos on our website, and enter and tag photos in Flicker. This would primarily be an in-office project.

    Skills Desired: Proficiency in Flickr (or quick-learner!), organization, comfortable with some phone calling and emailing.
    Please contact us with your interest in any of these opportunities.
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