SiCM, Cornell Cooperative Extension share seeds, knowledge – The Daily Gazette

Schenectady resident Lillian Triana-Strautmanis slowly paced along the table lined with seed packets, scanning and grabbing the ones she liked.

When she was done, she had about a couple dozen in hand.

Triana-Strautmanis was just one of the few people to attend a seed sharing event on Saturday afternoon at Schenectady Community Ministries, 837 Albany St., put on by SiCM’s Urban Farms and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schenectady County.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for about a year,” said Melissa MacKinnon, director of SiCM’s Urban Farms.

She said the idea is to encourage people to learn to garden, grow in their homes or participate in one of the three gardens they have in the city. The plots are located on Fehr Avenue, inside Vale Cemetery and on Hulett Street.

It’s also about finding ways to increase access to food, she said.

The seed share event is just one way to get information out about how to start growing and what programs are available to people looking to get started, MacKinnon said.

Triana-Strautmanis loved the idea.

“I’m hoping having stuff like this will amplify people to do this more,” she said.

Triana-Strautmanis started gardening with her mom right around 2018 or 2019. As someone preparing to study environmental studies, she wanted to challenge herself to learn more and be more involved with the planet.

“Right now, I’m in a trial and error phase,” she said, showing MacKinnon all the different seeds she grabbed.

She said she was most excited about trying to grow sweet corn and larkspur.

During the event, Triana-Strautmanis also got a chance to speak to someone from Schenectady County Recycling and Composting about composting and how to go about it. Other people talked to the Cornell Cooperative Extension about the programs they offer including Seed to Super, a class for beginners in gardening who are on a budget.

Farzana Imbert of Schenectady also picked up a dose of seeds to get a garden started at her new home this year. Imbert is Guyanese and said, in her culture, farming is huge, so she grew up helping in her family’s garden.

“Almost every house grows a garden,” she said.

Some of the most common plants they grew were tomatoes, green onions, celery, okra, hot and sweet peppers, and eggplant. She said she’s looking forward to growing tomatoes and eggplant, which she loves to roast.

An employee of Safe, Inc., a temporary co-ed emergency youth shelter for homeless and runaway youth ages 16-20, Imbert said she also wants to teach some of the people at the shelter how to garden.

Visitors also got to try their hand at making seed balls. They shaped an air-dry clay into balls, then made a small pot and put in a pinch of soil and a pinch of native mixed seeds. Once they did that, they molded it back into a ball, let it dry out and, once the ground was unfrozen, they planted it and let it grow. The seed mixture included early sunflower, joe-pye weed, black-eyed Susan, turtlehead, wild blue lupine and blue false indigo.

“I was very excited to make the seed ball,” said Schenectady resident Tracy Jones, a member of Urban Farms who works for the city school district.

Jones said it’s important that there are pollinator plants to help with the bee population.

She also picked up some seeds to start milk jug kits with her students.

People were also treated to some locally-sourced beverages and food, including a cucumber and grape salad, bean soup and stuffed focaccia.

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