Commitment and Context: The Good Story of the Seed Kiosk in New Port Richey
New Port Richey has the only Seed Savers Exchange sales site in the Tampa Bay Region. Here you will find organic, heirloom seeds that serve to protect our seed heritage and promote sustainable gardening and growing. So, the dedication of this sales kiosk this is a unique moment of historic note.
We appreciate the presence of New Port Richey Mayor, Rob Marlow, and Deputy Mayor, Judy DeBella Thomas; and we appreciate their encouraging and supportive remarks. Of course, we are most grateful to the Market Off Main for stepping forward to make a site for this kiosk available. We applaud the commitment of Jerry Kuss and Rose Mohr, who have always dedicated the work of their market to the greater good of our community.
Turning our attention to the kiosk itself, we observe that it is a tangible expression of a sincere commitment to sustainability in New Port Richey and West Pasco, generally. This little town and urban corridor along the Gulf Coast in Pasco County is often depreciated and even ridiculed.
If we make the news it is often for something undesirable or unfortunate.
Putting Good News on the Map: Sharing The Good Story
Now we can make the news for something positive, constructive, and unique. This seed kiosk and these organic, heirloom seeds put New Port Richey on the map in a good way. And we are quite literally on the map – specifically, the Seed Savers Exchange map found on their website.
If you visit the Seed Savers seed rack locator site, you’ll see a marker right on New Port Richey, and a little message box that says: Market Off Main/Friendship Farms & Fare – 6241 Lincoln St, New Port Richey, FL 34656.
Why is this tangible expression of a sincere commitment to sustainability so notable, worth a dedication event, a visit from the mayor, and this address? Well, it is notable for a number of reasons. First, this is the only Seed Savers kiosk in the entire Tampa Bay Region. You won’t find one in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Sarasota. You won’t find one south of Tallahassee, east of Silver Springs, north of Cape Coral – except here, in New Port Richey.
This is news, and a good story, friends; a story that needs to be told. New Port Richey is a trend-setter and pioneer of good and vital endeavors – and the only place in this whole region where you can find these wonderful seeds. So let’s try to tell this story, and ask others to tell this story too. Let this story be more than a counterbalance to the strange, sad tales we hear about this town – let it be the replacement story. Tell this story to your friends – and tell this story first!
A Symbol of Positive Change
Here is another reason why this is a notable moment. This seed sales kiosk stands as symbol and sign of significant change occurring in New Port Richey. There are happy new expressions of community life and vitality happening here: Here at this Market Off Main, and at our public library and its seed library, and with groups like the Nature Coast Real Food Project, and Friendship Farms and Fare, Freedom House Farm and Black Cat Growers, with the urban farmers putting down roots and the city’s community garden program, the Tasty Tuesday organic market, our City’s Environmental Committee, and the EcoFest project – all these businesses, community organizations, groups, governmental agencies and programs, and many others are involved in the regeneration of New Port Richey and West Pasco. Our kiosk is part of this and a powerful symbol of this regenerating community.
This is more of our story that needs to be told. And this story of regeneration, of which the seed rack is a symbol, may surprise some folks who think they know about New Port Richey and West Pasco. This new story is not about drugs and prostitution and crime. It is not about vacant lots and dilapidated buildings, and a place that people want to leave.
It is a story about a place that people call home, and where they want to live. We really do not need to tell and re-tell those other stories. Find the new ones, the better ones, and tell them. And to the media, too: tell these stories, and share this news – for this really is new and news if there ever was.
Our new story is about growing and nurturing a community, recreating a sense of place, learning our neighbors’ names, discovering where to buy local food, and seeking out locally-made products. Our story is about rediscovering the beauty of our home, New Port Richey, and the good that is happening here.
Our story is not about pricey ventures and mega-projects, with planning fees costing more than most local businesses make in a year, and high-end high-tech schemes that risk too much and seldom deliver on their promises. Our story is about greening our future, and practicing stewardship, reaching out to one another (not to outside consultants), digging into the rich soil of our common interests and finding treasures already here – here in our hearts, here in our solidarity, here in our community. Our story as told through this seed kiosk affirms that we may grow where we live and work, enrich the place we call home, and support our neighbors and others dwelling both near and close to us.
A Link With Others Around the World
Finally, there is yet another reason why this singular kiosk is notable – one suggested by an image from the Lexicon of Sustainability, a gallery of images our Environmental Committee received, curated by our Associate Library Director, Ann Scott. We are fortunate to have these images to use at events like this, and we have one here today, reminding us of why this kiosk and its seeds are important. It is an image titled “Seed Sovereignty,” defined on the poster as:
The farmer’s rights to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It reclaims seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.
The seeds referenced in this passage are related to those in our kiosk. They are not patented, genetically modified, controlled by Big Ag or profit-seeking corporations. In the Lexicon’s image are two figures, both smiling. One of them is Vandana Shiva, the great hero of sustainable farming in South Asia, and one of the true avatars of the contemporary seed-saving movement. This Shiva defied governments and multinational corporations and risked everything to set up local seed banks in India to preserve traditional seed stocks, and through that maintain and regenerate sustainable communities. No GMOs for her – and none for us in our Seed Savers kiosk.
So, with this seemingly innocent little seed rack, Friendship Farms & Fare and Market Off Main join in solidarity with Vandana Shiva and the sustainable farmers of South Asia, the seed savers in Iowa and Spain, Kenya and Brazil – and every one else in the world for whom the local is prized above the distant, communities above profit, and deeply-rooted natives over restless showy specialists.
This one-of-a-kind seed kiosk is both a tangible expression of support for local natural, cultural, and economic ecologies, as well as a symbol of the new spirit of sustainable growth in our town and our region. It also joins us to the global movement for sustainability and resiliency.
Commitment To A Fruitful Future
This is the only seed rack of its kind south of Tallahassee, east of Orlando, and north of Cape Coral. Imagine that! Right here in New Port Richey. I continue to marvel at this, and marvel more at how little attention it has received from the media, government, and purported leaders of our community – excluding our mayor and deputy mayor. We seem preoccupied with road construction problems, prostitution, car wrecks, and crime, and too enamored of costly fixes offered by hirelings whose sole connection with our community is a paycheck or a contract for services.
This kiosk distinguishes New Port Richey in ways that all those problems never have and never will. The seeds for sale here are a link with the past and bridge to the future. They are organic, heirloom seeds – born of plants grown for countless generations, and seeds saved by farmers and growers following ecological principles. These are not seeds from commercial seed companies produced to enhance the bottom line of corporate spreadsheets and investors. They are seeds that enhance the world, and enrich the future.
The presence of this seed kiosk here at the Market Off Main is a small expression of a larger commitment on the part of many in this community to restore and regenerate our sense of place. As our mayor told us, no longer do we have to go to Wal-Mart or Home Depot or Lowes to get seeds for our gardens. Just like our fruits and vegetables, coffee and boxed water, we can get what we need right here in town, from our neighbors, Rose and Jerry, and their wonderful market. We can get it all right here. Also, by the way, the money stays here, circulating and re-circulating.
And it is not just the money that stays here – the focus stays here as well, and the interest stays here, and the planning stays here, and the dreams, and the future stay here, too.
So, we dedicate this seed kiosk in the spirit of regeneration: of life and commerce, of sustenance and community. And we dedicate ourselves – just like these seeds – to a fruitful future right here in this place and in this life now.
Dell deChant is a Master Instructor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, where is he has taught for nearly 30 years. He is the Chair of the Environmental Committee of New Port Richey, and a member of the board of directors of Ecology Florida. He is curator of Friendship Farms & Fare, which together with Market Off Main brought the Seed Savers Kiosk to New Port Richey.