Tuesday, November 19, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 37

Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on August 6th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 23 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 23

Spotlight on: Santa Maria Seed Library, Librarian Gillian Speicher


The idea was simple: offer folks a seed library and watch the community bloom.

The cactus flower epiphyllum comes in both red and yellow, and you might be able to pick one up at the Santa Maria Valley Library’s next succulent swap in October.

Librarian Gillian Speicher took the lead of the project at the Santa Maria Public Library, a chance to latch on to a national sensation that sought to turn gardeners into library members. 

The movement reached national heights in 2013 on the airwaves of National Public Radio. Libraries all over the nation began to offer seed libraries, some hoping to sign new members up too. 

When Speicher began her seed library more than a year ago, the strategy was different. The program didn’t seek to turn gardeners into members; all she wanted was for every available seed to find an eager planter. Thus, library cards aren’t required to check out seeds. 

“There are a lot of different reasons why someone might not be able to have a library card,” Speicher said. “We wanted it to be available to everyone.”

She pulled a card catalog from storage, a relic of the pre-internet age that dovetailed nicely with the age-old practice of seed saving. The program was an immediate hit. Two months after its start, all of the seeds were gone. She added more. And more. And she has maintained a weekly log monitoring the seed supply, keeping the number at around 100 packets. Each orange paper envelope features a sticker with the plant name—both common and scientific—and a handful of other tidbits, including care instructions.

The library offers fruits and vegetables. Annuals and perennials. Broccoli one week and nasturtiums the next. One patron donated seeds from a psoralea pinnata, sometimes called a “Kool-Aid bush.”

Speicher’s trying that one out herself. 

Her other attempts at planting new and interesting seeds have yielded mixed results, as the sandy soil of her Nipomo dwelling isn’t always friendly. She remembers a time she tried to grow grape tomatoes. 

“That one was a disaster,” she said. 

The Santa Maria library has further cultivated local enthusiasm for gardening by offering the Succulent Exchange, an event that drew a crowd of more than 200 plant-wielding fans in June. Even the library’s Harry Potter event didn’t hit that number, Speicher said. 

And, Speicher said, the age range is broader than just the succulent-trend-frenzied millennial generation.

The popularity of the succulent swap, which began in 2018, has blossomed enough to warrant a fourth such event on Oct. 5, with more planned for the future. 

Speicher has also begun a Garden Club, which plans to hold its third meeting on Aug. 10.

“It’s more of just a social to learn about your garden and learn about other people’s gardens,” Speicher said. 

Speicher wants to take what the seed library started even further. Next up, she wants to bring in a beekeeper to talk about pollination. 

For more information about the library’s garden programs, check out the library’s Facebook page, or stop by the library at 421 S. McClelland St. in Santa Maria.


• The city of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department and the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety are hosting a free pool party for students in seventh through 12th grade on Aug. 9 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center, located at 600 S. McClelland St. There will be live DJ music, free catering from Vaqueras Taco Truck, and lifeguards on duty. Admission is free. 

• Recently retired Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mark Richardson recently received the 2019 Robert F. Grogan Public Service Award at the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards gala. “Richardson has spent over 30 years as an educator, the last seven of those here locally in the Santa Maria Valley. Richardson has touched the lives of countless students and has had immense positive impact on our local school district in Santa Maria,” the chamber said on its Facebook page. 

Staff Writer William D’Urso wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at spotlight@santamariasun.com.

Weekly Poll
Should school districts invest more into vocational and career technical programs?

Yes. Students need to get on a career path as soon as possible.
No. It's more important for students to learn study skills than specific disciplines.
No. District should save money by partnering with businesses to offer more internships.
Yes, but only if these programs also count for college credit.

| Poll Results