The COVID-19 health pandemic may have canceled the Jamestown Seed Library 2020 official opening, but seed library steward Laurie Podoll said the coronavirus can't stop the joy of gardening.

"Now with the coronavirus -- gardening hasn't been canceled," Podoll said. "You can get out there in your yard. It's good for your mind, your health and it's good therapy. Gardening is a good activity no matter what your capabilities or your level."

Due to social distancing practices encouraged by members of the Jamestown community, the Jamestown Seed Library annual opening event scheduled for March 19 was canceled. The seed library is a collaboration between the Jamestown Community Gardens and the Stutsman County Library, providing community members the means to grow their own food at no cost.

"I receive free seeds from seed companies and we, in turn, put them into the seed library at Stutsman County Library," Podoll said. "You can call the (Stutsman County) library and they can tell you what seeds are available -- and they will fill your order and deliver it out to the curb for you. It's free, you just come and pick up your seeds."

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The program, launched in 2016, was the first seed library in the state of North Dakota. Podoll said the program has helped members of the community promote healthy lifestyle choices.

"The seed library at Stutsman County Library has been a really unique way to reach out to people," said Joe Rector, director of James River Valley Library System. "People are who are looking for food independence or who are looking to do something with their children or grandchildren."

In past years the program limited patrons to five packs of seeds per seed library visit. This season Podoll said due to the coronavirus pandemic the program will not limit the number of seeds taken.

"The seed library brings in many people from diverse backgrounds to our library and we are so happy to serve them by providing these free seeds. It's a way of getting back to a more agricultural way of life and the seed library is a great way to do that," Rector said.

Community members can choose from more than 200 varieties of vegetable and flower seeds - one pack of which will cover a 12-foot row. A list of all available seeds can be found on the back door located on the south side of the Stutsman County Library building or members of the public can contact a member of the library staff. The library has been provided with 2,200 packets of free year-old seeds.

"We want people to get back to planting gardens, having control of the food that they eat and being able to control how much you have," Podoll said. "Most of the fruits and vegetables that we get in our grocery store come from at least 1,300 miles away and there is pesticide use and all that handling. If we go back to gardening this is a way, people have control over pesticides and qualities and varieties."

While the North Dakota winter and the health pandemic have put a damper on normal spring activities, Podoll said the soil is ready for planting and that some of the seeds like the seven different types of tomatoes and peppers should be started indoors as soon as possible. A list of the seeds offered to the community as well as directions for planting can be found at http://jamesriverlibrary.org/seed-library/. The Stutsman County branch is located at 910 5th St. SE. Staff can be contacted at (701) 252-1531.

"We would like a lot of people to enjoy the benefits," Podoll said. "Usually it is a well-received event when we have the seed opening and we have hundreds of people who use it. We just want to make sure that it is still available to them."