Libraries have long been a place where people of all ages can come and learn just about anything they could ever want. You can pick up a book and learn to fix the diesel engine or how to speak another language. At the Bovill Community Library, we wanted to make learning go beyond the books. We wanted to teach using our hands and heads.

In spring of 2017, I started planning for a Summer Reading Program. The theme of the year was Build a Better World. I wanted to “build” the children in my community to be good, honest and hardworking adults. I decided that in order to do this I needed to give them small responsibilities.

I had learned that the Deary Junior and Senior High School Future Farmers of America program was focused on growing their green house and using methods such as hydroponics. I was given a tour and shown how they were using a small goldfish pond to bring fertilized water to their plants using a drip system. The work that they were doing was amazing. They had beautiful garden plants and flowers started. I wondered what they were going to do once school was out for summer. Their adviser said they were planning a plant sale and would be opening the greenhouse to the community.

I knew then that I wanted these kids to see this project to completion. I wanted them to be able to reap the benefits of their hard work. I set out to make this happen with our first “Summer Garden” at the Bovill Library. I loved watching the kids try new vegetables and seeing the pride in their eyes when they finally got to eat the produce they worked long and hard at growing.

The Palouse-Clearwater Food Coalition got wind of the library’s program to promote being self-reliance when it comes to growing your own food. I value knowing where my food has been, as does the coalition. They have asked me to speak at the Palouse Clearwater Food Summit. Others also will speak on the benefits of becoming self-reliant in their local food systems.

The coalition’s goal is to increase sustainable gardening, gleaning, farming and foraging in the Palouse-Clearwater region. In addition to presentations, the summit will feature discussions, local food tastings, and an opportunity to develop further steps for increasing sustainable food production and food access on the Palouse. The keynote speaker is Neva Hassanein, a food systems scholar, author, and professor of environmental studies at the University of Montana.

To know more about the topics or hear more about my work with the kids in Bovill and their garden, consider coming to the summit. The event will take place Jan. 31 at the Latah County fairgrounds and includes a catered lunch.

Check out the Palouse-Clearwater Food Coalition’s Facebook page to register by Jan. 27. The Summit is hosted by the Palouse-Clearwater Food Coalition, University of Idaho Extension, WSU Center for Civic Engagement, Whitman Community Action Center and the Moscow Food Co-op. A limited number of need-based scholarships are available.

I can’t wait to listen and learn from experts on the importance of becoming more food self-reliant and hope to bring back all kinds of ideas from the conference.

Brittany Griffin is branch manager of the Bovill and Deary libraries, both in the Latah County Library system.

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