Library farm at Onondaga Public Library in Cicero, New York. Introduction:







Full text


Timothy Burkhart LIBR 287

November 23, 2014

Library farm at Onondaga Public Library in Cicero, New York. Introduction:

Public libraries are at a crossroads in the 21st century, trying to keep up with the accelerating pace of information as well as focusing on trends in local communities to stay connected with patrons. There are those who see the imminent demise of libraries but thankfully there are others who see the glass as half full and welcome the challenge


that libraries face as an opportunity to further community engagement. (ALA,2014). Libraries have had to look beyond traditional approaches in serving their citizens by looking at trends locally and nationally and one movement is the library farm. The purpose of this brief is to discuss establishing a library farm at the Solano County Library-Vacaville Cultural Center location.


The 2009 California Health Survey indicated that Solano County had the highest obesity rate in the State of California. (California HealthLine.2012). According to the 2010

Obesity Prevention Plan established by the California Department of Health Services, while obesity levels in California have leveled, one in every nine children, one in three teens and over half of adults are overweight in California. (, 2010). The report noted the epidemic spread across all economic, ethnic, disability, age and

educational groups. The ensuing economic crisis brought severe budget cuts across the state and therefore funds for essential health programs were heavily impacted and in many places cut altogether. A soda tax was considered in the State of California which potentially could have raised $15.50 million for Solano County but ultimately the bill failed in the State Legislature.(, 2011). A recent article in the Times Herald indicated the availability of junk food and proliferation of fast food

restaurants have contributed to the high rate of obesity on Solano County. (Rohrs, 2014). Nearly over 39 percent of youth in Solano County are obese and according to Health Officer Dr. Bela T. Matyas of Solano County's Health Division of Health and Social Services, people living in low income areas are at high risk because they lack the means of transportation to obtain healthier foods. Consequently food literacy is sorely needed not just for children but for all age groups in all walks of life.


The Paul Memorial Library Community Garden in Newfields, New Hampshire. Research:

Library farms are not necessarily a new phenomenon. Back in 1979 the San Francisco Public Library took a $12,500 federal community development grant and transformed a neglected lot into a cultivated community garden. (American Libraries, 1979).

Farm workers, San Francisco Public Library 1979.

Years later the San Francisco Public Library joined other libraries in Northern California in starting a seed library. (, 2011) The seed exchange program

operated under the premise that a patron would look in catalog of vegetable seeds and take the seeds and plant them. When the harvest came, the patron would replace the seeds. There are many seed libraries in Northern California including Chico, Willits, Davis, The first modern seed lending library is believed to have started in Berkeley in 1999 at BASIL, otherwise known as the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library.

(PressDemocrat, 2013). Seed libraries were mainly started in order to jump start the urban farming movement whereas many could not afford the high cost of seeds. The health food movement spurred on by the weak economy has prompted many to grow their own food in their gardens and backyards. Libraries have joined forces as a way to instill information and knowledge among their communities with seed libraries and to be successful in the localized environments. Emily Weak, a librarian at the Mountain View Public Library writes: Seed libraries offer a more efficient way to deploy community resources. They encourage experimentation, affording gardeners (or aspiring

gardeners) a low-risk way to try something new. They provide a supported entrance into the gardening world for novices." (Weak, 2014. p.26). However, not everyone has


Currently there is one community garden in Solano County located in Suisun City with the Solano HELP program. This community garden is geared toward educating youth about becoming self sufficient and healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. (Solano HELP, 2014). Adult mentors help youth with sixteen 10 x 10 plots into thriving gardens. Solano County has a population of estimated 424,788 people, of which 11.9 percent live under the poverty level. (U.S.Census, 2014). The cities of Vallejo-Fairfield are considered metropolitan areas and 2010 statistics indicate 503 persons per square mile. Therefore, the rate at which Solano County is growing results in the need for more urban farming alternatives including community


Warrenton Library Garden, Fauquier County, Virginia

Advantages of a Community Garden:

In his book, Public Produce, Darrin Nordahl stresses the need for public agriculture as one of the ways to fight the obesity epidemic. Over dependency on manufactured and processed food has resulted in poor choices on behalf of the consumer and the nation's food supplies are at risk during fiscal and war emergencies. Nordahl writes, "The

gardening and agriculture endeavors during our previous economic depressions and world wars helped supplement the nation's food supply and sustain the American population through periods of food shortages. The great irony today, however, is that the call for more abundant, locally led, and community organized forms of agriculture-even amid our current fiscal and war crises-is not so much an appeal to supplement our current system of food production, as it is to save us from it. " (Nordahl, p. 18). Nordahl concludes that Americans today are food illiterate. Food literacy must become a vital part of our daily lives. Nordahl exhorts, "Food literacy, like language, is most effective when it is taught at a young age, and many experts say that food and dietary choices taught early in life set lifelong patterns." (Nordahl, p. 129).

The definition of food literacy means something different to most people. The components of food literacy do not always make a whole. A study on defining food literacy was able to define as : "....the scaffolding that empowers individuals,


households, communities or nations to protect diet quality through change and strengthen dietary resilience over time. It is composed of a collection of inter-related knowledge, skills and behaviors required to plan, manage, select, prepare and eat food to meet needs and determine intake." (Vidgen, Gallegos. 2014 p. 52).

Large scale food production has had a harming effect on our lives to the point where we have forgotten where food really comes from writes Ann Vilesis. Supermarket chains and canned foods throughout the 20th century has infiltrated our thinking about what we eat, or actually, we don't really put much thought into what we eat. The organic food movement in California since the 1970's has been an effective countermeasure to the corporate stronghold on food production with the evidence found in the 1980's and 1990's about the negative after effects of pesticides and other toxins in mass farming. The return to individual farming has given way to more control of what one eats and potentially lead to healthier lives. (Vilesis, 2008). Community gardens can have long reaching results through generational cycles in the future.

A study of community gardens in San Jose, California found that cost savings may be substantial if vertical high value crops such as tomatoes, herbs, squash, cucumbers are in the garden plots. However,the study indicates more research is needed to determine the economic influence of community gardens in areas where fresh vegetable intake can be limited, of poor quality and of low cultural relevance. (Algert,et al. 2014). However, an experimental program with a nutrition education program aimed at

increasing fruit and vegetable intake among low income women called Sisters in Health, showed that there were significantly measureable results in better fruit and vegetable consumption as a result of community interactions. Positive attitudes were a result of feeling better about ability to prepare vegetables for family members. The authors write, "The positive social contact and group support that were the basis of this program apparently met a need in this audience that made them want to take the time to

participate in spite of their busy lives." (Devine,et al. 2005 p. 269). One can reasonably conclude that people will most likely take a venture into the unknown as long as the potential positive and social interaction can help with the difficult aspects of the

situation. In a community garden, there will be seasoned gardeners as well as novices contributing to the garden's success. Many community gardens contribute to the local food pantry.


Students involved at the Truro Community garden in partnership with the Truro Public Library.


As in any community venture which is dependent upon volunteers and the goodness of human nature, community gardens are not without their risks. The success of a


and a reliance on the ability to procure material resources. The initiation of a seed library in all or most branches of the Solano County libraries is a good start but this alone cannot guarantee the success of a community garden. Studies have indicated that recruiting and sustaining volunteer participation is a major factor in a garden's success or failure. (Ghose, Pettygrove, 2014). Gardeners tend to focus more on their own individual plots and not on essential group activities. Unfortunately the burden can fall on more skilled individuals who then may want to establish more control of how the garden should be run. Conversely, "while gardening is a potential means for

marginalized or impoverished residents to claim citizenship rights by improving food security and exercising control over space, this means is only accessible to individuals with physical abilities, knowledge and time to volunteer." (Ghose,Pettygrove, 2017 p. 1105). Collective farming does have its challenges any many community gardens solve this problem by letting everyone have their own collective plots. (Charles, 2012).

However, if people agree to donate most or all of their vegetables and produce to food pantries in the area, communal farming may have a chance for success.

Another obstacle is land. Some branches of Solano County libraries have more land than others and these particles of land may not always be feasible. A small strip of land may be good for a trial period before an extensive community garden project. Theft, animals, water, disputes/conflicts, money are also challenges in establishing and maintaining community gardens. However there are resources online which provide guidance in these matters and best practices to ensure maximum chances of success. Redwood City, California has published a guide on the potential challenges of

community gardens as well as best practices and this can be accessed here:

Other considerations include land zoning, permits, local governments and last but not least, liability. The Public Health Law Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota has published a community garden policy reference guide and this can be accessed here: arden%20Policy%20Guide%202012_0.pdf

More locally, the City of Napa has published a community start-up guide which addresses many concerns discussed in this section and the guide can be accessed here:


Solano County Library is a progressive institution which strives to meet the informational and learning needs of the citizens of Solano County. The time is ripe to establish yet another successful chapter in the history of Solano County Library by founding a community garden which endeavors to strengthen food literacy. The huge plot of land next to the Vacaville Cultural Center branch is ideal to share in a communal plot, individual plots and a children's learning garden. Seed libraries, master gardener classes and collaboration with SlowFoodSolano are just a few of the many possibilities


this community garden can bring to citizens of Solano County. The passage of Measure L in Solano County demonstrates a majority of Solano County citizens recognize the library as a primary cultural institution. Therefore patrons can rely on a more solid approach with the library and other community resources to make the library garden a reality. Research indicates that larger public gardens partnering with community organizations tend to have more resources and reach a larger audience and achieve sustainable community development goals. (Gough,Accordino, 2013).

A perfect example of collaboration in discussing library gardens is located at Wikispaces which explains why libraries should have gardens:" As public libraries in particular are tasked with finding collaborative partners for their services and need to expand their mission to incorporate more "library as place" social planning, gardens are becoming more prevalent in the library landscape. Issues such as sustainability, education, outreach and welcoming the community are all directly addressed by gardens at libraries" (Celcius, 2014).

Vacant lot next to Solano County Library, Vacaville Cultural Center Branch References:

Algert, S.J., Baameur, A., Renvall, M.J. (2014) Vegetable output and cost savings of community gardens in San Jose, California. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, (114), 7: pp1072-1076.

American Library Association (2014). Libraries and Community Engagement. Retrieved from 11/17/2014.


American Libraries. (1979). A farm at the library. American Libraries, Feb 01, 1979; Vol. 10, No. 2 (2012). Napa-Solano Counties have high obesity, smoking rates. Retrieved from: 11/17/2014.

California Obesity Prevention Plan. (2010). Retrieved

from: nPlan.aspx 11/18/2014.

Celsus: A Library architecture resource. (2014). Gardens at libraries. Retrieved from: 11/23/14. Charles, D. (2012). At the community gardens, its community that's the hard part.

National Public Radio. Retrieved from 11/14/14.

County of Napa. (2011). Community garden start up guide. Retrieved from: 11/22/14.

Devine, C.M., Farrell, T. J., Hartman, R. (2005). Sisters in health: Experimental program emphasizing social interaction increases fruit and vegetable intake among low-income adults. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, (37), 5,pp 265-270. Ghose, R., Pettygrove, M. (2014). Urban community gardens as spaces of citizenship.

Antipode, (46), 4. pp 1092-1112.

Gough, M.Z., Accordino,J. (2013). Public gardens as sustainable community

development partners: Motivations, perceived benefits and challenges. Urban Affairs Review, (49), 6, pp. 851-887.

Holt, S. (2014). There's no shushing at this library and you'll want to bring a trowel. Retrieved from 11/17/2014.

Library farm. (2014). Northern Onondaga Public Library. Retrieved from: 11/14/2014.

Moniuszko, A. (2011). First seed lending library opens in San Francisco. Retrieved from :


Nordahl, D. ( 2009). Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Paul Memorial Library Community Garden. (2014). Retrieved from: 11/21/2014.

PressDemocrat. (2013) Mendocino County Library offers seed lending. Retrieved from: 11/19/2014. (2011). Soda tax revenue in Solano County. Retrieved from

: 0Tax%20Revenue%20Impact_fact%20sheet_4-13.pdf 11/18/2014.

Public Health Law Center. (2012). Community garden policy reference guide. Retrieved from: y%20Garden%20Policy%20Guide%202012_0.pdf 11/19/2014. (2011). Retrieved from: 11/18/2014.

Rohrs, Sarah. (2014). Solano attempts to tackle child obesity problem. The Times Herald, April 6, 2014. Retrieved from: 11/17/2014.

Solano HELP. (2014). Solano HELP's community garden program. Retrieved from: 11/22/2014.

U.S. Census. (2014). Solano County quick facts. Retrieved from: 11/20/2014.

Weak, E. (2014). Simple steps to starting a seed library. Public Libraries, (53), 4 pp. 24-26.

Vidgen, H.A., Gallegos, D. (2014). Defining food literacy and its components. Appetite, (76), 2014,pp. 50-59.

Vilesis, A. (2008). Kitchen Literacy. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.




Related subjects :