- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - “Rabbits don’t like onions,” Stephanie Oubert told an audience of about 50 gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon at Durango Discovery Museum’s backyard garden.

She was giving a presentation about companion planting and gardening, part of Southwest Seed Library’s grand opening.

“A lot of plants have multiple functions,” Oubert said. “Attracting wildlife beneficial to your garden. There are also plants that help build soil,” she told the crowd.

The seed library is the brainchild of longtime Durango resident and permaculturalist Monea Monroe. She and Oubert began planning the concept in her living room, and a few months later, it has a home and strong reception at the museum.

“I did some research and looked into other models,” Monroe said. “I just figured out how we could design it for Durango.”

She described the library as a place where people can “check out seeds,” plant and grow them and return new seeds next season - vital for several reasons.

“It’s builds community,” she said. “People are bonding over seeds and food.”

She described a nourishing cycle that begins with planting.

“Whenever you grow a seed, it genetically adapts to the soil it grows in, and when you eat that food, your completing that cycle of life,” she said. “You’re absorbing the nutrients of the land you live on.”

The system is somewhat like a card catalog. Drawers are filled with vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers - seeds in bulk - that participants choose from. They fill out a card of what they took and bring back their offspring next year. Gardeners are encouraged to provide feedback about their results.

Monroe said she saw a need in the community, and she hopes that like the seeds in the drawers, the library will grow.

“I thought there might be a lot of support for it,” she said. “The feelings of pride and self-sufficiency, and the learning the wisdom of the plants.”

She’s just shy of earning her teaching certification from the Permaculture Institute of New Mexico, a discipline of ecological design that develops sustainable agriculture. She’s also traveled the state building relationships and networking in her field.

“It’s important for the bigger picture,” she said. “Being self-reliant.”

Elisa Sands, of Turtle Lake Refuge, was on hand giving a talk about composting and said the library is a medium to bring people interested in growing foods together.

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