ASU librarian who runs university's free seed library helps organize 'Defend Our Food' panel to help people rethink their view of food
How does one eat part of a mesquite tree or a cactus?
That’s the question that one panelist will be addressing at the Nov. 7 “Defend Our Food” panel at Arizona State University, focusing on how to ensure diversity in our food and access to it in the future.
“The Sonoran Desert really is a massive grocery store of stuff,” said Melissa Kruse-Peeples, an educator with Native Seeds/SEARCHNative Seeds/SEARCH is a nonprofit that, according to its mission statement, “seeks to find, protect, and preserve the seeds of the people of the Greater Southwest so that these arid adapted crops may benefit all peoples and nourish a changing world.” and an ASU alumna. “Where campus is, is ancient farm land and people have been growing food along the Salt River for nearly 4,000 years, and many of those same varieties still exist today.”
Kruse-Peeples will be one of four panelists talking about everything from urban agriculture to climate adaption of crops. Other panelists are Kenny Barrett, owner and manager of the Roosevelt Growhouse, and Netra Chhetri and Christopher Wharton of ASU's Food Systems Transformation Initiative. ASU Library, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and Defend Our Future, a nonprofit focused on environmental defense, helped organize the panel.
For Rene Tanner, Noble Science Library life sciences librarian and unofficial keeper of ASU’s first seed library, organizing the panel was an opportunity to connect experts with those students interested in change.
“It’s not like we’re going to put our capes on and figure out how to solve this whole thing,” said Tanner, “but there are things that we can do that improve the world, improve our health and improve local communities.”
Tanner started the seed library — which officially began in 2014 — as a way to make it easier and affordable for students and staff to start their own gardens.
“I thought it would be a really nice thing to bring here to ASU because we have students who are doing gardening, and there are gardening clubs on campus,” she said. “This was a way for them to get seeds for free, and if they have a bountiful harvest they can bring seeds back — but I’m really focused on providing seeds so people can grow things.”
At any given time, the seed library contains dozens of varieties that are ready to go into the ground immediately. Tanner keeps it updated to what’s in season, including pollinators, vegetables and some fruits.
She keeps the seed library in her office; those interested should email her at Rene.Tanner@asu.edu to set up a time to visit.
One of the library’s most regular users? The Barrett Sustainability Club for its members and for any Barrett student that uses the honors college’s rooftop garden. Global health sophomore Syeda Umar is one of these students, using the seeds in her family’s garden plots in South Phoenix.