Gardeners who packed two rooms while inspecting vegetable and flower seeds gave promise that spring is on the way, despite a long winter that continues.
Some 240 people on Saturday attended the Omaha Seed Share at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension building near 80th Street and West Center Road.
Some brought seeds, others took seeds and some did both in the event sponsored by the Omaha area's Community Garden Network, with assistance from the Douglas County Health Department.
It's not too early. Those who plan to plant indoors and transplant outdoors in the spring need to start soon.
The solid attendance on a cold Saturday reflected the enthusiasm for getting hands dirty and growing one's own food.
“I'm not very good at it,” said Melissa Zweerink of Carter Lake, who selected seeds for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash. “I'm trying to get better at it.”
The Omaha Seed Share included a room for heirloom seeds, which perpetuate traditional varieties of plants over many generations.
Varieties from some heirloom seeds maintain unusual characteristics, such as strange colors and shapes or thin skins, that haven't been commercially hybridized out of them. Some may be juicier or have more intense flavor.
Organic farmer Betsy Goodman of Omaha brought heirloom pod corn seeds, which have oddly shaped corn kernels.
“Over the years, the more you learn, the more you feel you don't know,” Goodman said of gardening. “And the more you want to learn.”
John Pollack, an Omaha meteorologist, has gardened for 40 years, starting with a squash plant in a pot while he lived in an apartment.
He now has a 30-by-25-foot garden near 35th and Charles Streets, plus an orchard for persimmons, apples, peaches and other fruit.
“I think it's wonderful,” he said of the turnout at the Omaha Seed Share. “I am very impressed with the amount of people who want to grow their own food. I think it's a marvelous thing.”
The Common Soil Seed Library, a way for people to obtain packets of seeds with a library card, operates out of the Benson Public Library. Seeds may also be ordered at other Omaha public libraries.
“Omaha is one of the best places to grow things,” said Carol Erkens, a Benson librarian who attended the seed share. Cold winters and hot summers are good for the dirt, she said.
“We have some of the best soil here anywhere. We just have to use it.”
University of Nebraska-Lincoln students Brooke Talbott and Lea Pruitt intend to use it.
They attended the event to obtain seeds for parsley, oregano, basil and cilantro, which the young Omaha women will use in cooking.
“I think it's cool to know exactly where your food came from,” Talbott said.