Friday, March 21, 2014

Volunteering opportunity: seed library assistant

Wanted: Seed Library Assistant 
(volunteer, part-time: 4 hours per week) 

The Growing Ester's Biodiversity program is looking for a dedicated volunteer interested in improving food security, democracy, and sovereignty in the Interior and Alaska through preserving and increasing agrobiodiversity.

Duties include: assistance in maintaining and organizing collections, publicity for GEB program events, online database updates, working with other organizations both local and statewide to foster other seed libraries and seed exchanges and to create a state seed library network, and to help maintain higher profile in northern and other seed library networks to take advantage of help and useful information. 

The volunteer will work with the GEB program director to plan and conduct workshops and create handouts and other information as needed.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Double Your Dividend Sweepstakes

Donating to one’s favorite nonprofit groups, including the John Trigg Ester Library, through the Pick.Click.Give. program, may be a lot more lucrative this year—for ten people collecting PFDs! the Pick.Click.Give. program is a part of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application designed to increase charitable giving in Alaska, and now 10 lucky Alaskans who donate through Pick.Click.Give. will win through the Double Your Dividend Sweepstakes, announced on Tuesday, March 4.

Here’s how the Sweepstakes works: Those Alaskans who choose to make a Pick.Click.Give. donation to one of the more than 500 qualifying 501(c)(3) Alaska nonprofit organizations (among them 24 libraries and library friends organizations, including the JTEL) when they file their PFD application will be entered into the sweepstakes. All non-anonymous donations made before the PFD application due date of March 31 will count for the sweepstakes. If you've already donated, but anonymously, you can go back in and choose to donate publicly, and become eligible. On Sept. 15, the names of 10 lucky Alaskans will be drawn and the winners will be announced on Oct. 1. The complete rules can be found here, at
One of the reasons for the sweepstakes is a technical glitch in January that prevented a lot of Alaskans from being able to make Pick.Click.Give. donations when they filed their PFD applications. The sweepstakes is an incentive to get those Alaskans who didn’t make Pick.Click.Give. donations to go back into their PFD applications and add some. The 2014 PFDs should be much bigger than the PFDs from the last couple of years, which makes this a great time to share the wealth with nonprofit organizations in your communities.
This is the first year the John Trigg Ester Library has participated in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local nonprofit organizations. When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the JTEL, you support our operations, our endowment, our capital campaign, and our educational programs, which include a winter lecture series on history, science, art, writing, geography, and much more, as well as a seed library program that hosts seed swaps, seedsaving workshops, and a seed collection for checkout.
The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications on line, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go in to your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 (but you won’t be entered into the sweepstakes unless you make a donation before March 31).
If you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2014 PFD, you still can donate to JTEL by sending a check to PO Box 468, Ester AK 99725. Our EIN is 27-1297959. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about the library, please contact us at

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bryce Wrigley on starting a new business in agriculture

Wednesday's library lecture will feature Bryce Wrigley, a dynamic speaker and enthusiastic supporter of a strong local food network. His topic will be on the lessons he learned in starting his flour mill, the Alaska Flour Company. As usual, the talk will be at Hartung Hall at 7 pm. Parking will be available at the hall and at the library's Clausen Cabin (3629 Main Street).

Wrigley will also be speaking on campus earlier in the day on creating a local food system.

Friday, February 28, 2014

More on seed swaps and seed libraries in Alaska

The seed library craze has finally hit the 49th state! One aim of the JTEL seed library program has been to inspire other, similar programs in Alaska by setting an example. This year seems to be the year that seed swaps and seed libraries are blossoming:
  • with an article in The Ruralite about seed librarians, a University Park Elementary School librarian, Carol Smallwood, has become inspired. U Park has a small school garden that Calypso Farm & Ecology Center helped them set up, so this school is already involved with growing things for educational activities.
  • The Dillingham Public Library recently started a do-it-yourself seed package swap on their bulletin board. A local gardening club has a seedling swap that got going last year and proved very popular, and now is working with the library to coordinate their events.
  • Saskia Esslinger has begun work on a seed library and a seed swap with the Anchorage branch of the Cooperative Extension.
We hope this is just the beginning. Our check-out program just began this year, so with the book and film collection on biodiversity, seed swaps, talks by local experts, workshops, and now the benefit of seeds available (just like books) to our membership, the Growing Ester's Biodiversity program is slowly fulfilling its mission.
If you would like to start a seed library in your area and have questions, or want to volunteer for the JTEL's GEB program, contact Deirdre Helfferich at or 474-6923 (daytime work) or 479-3368 (home) or the JTEL, at 374-8080. 

Thank you!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Senator Begich and Seedstock

Well, Seedstock was a tiny affair, but we received a lot of seeds nonetheless: four varieties of tomatoes, one variety of peas, mixed greens, and six or seven varieties of grains (rye, barley, wheat, and oats). There was a lively discussion about the merits of hugelkultur, a type of permaculture gardening that works very well for at least one local gardener.

Senator Mark Begich showed up and was quite interested in our plans for the new building, asking questions about how it would work and offering suggestions for how we might get it funded.

Senator Begich at the John Trigg Ester Library's Clausen Cabin on Feb. 2, 2014, reviewing the draft plan/explanatory poster for the new library building's Passive House design with board president Deirdre Helfferich. 
Later, as people arrived to speak with the Senator, the topic shifted from the library to everything from Pebble Mine to Social Security.

From left to right: Senator Begich, Mike Musick, Ritchie Musick,  JTEL board vice president Phil Rulon, Charlie Gallagher. In the foreground: JTEL board president Deirdre Helfferich.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Senator Begich coming to Seedstock

Senator Begich will be one of the guests at Seedstock tomorrow, staying from 12:45 to 1:30. He'll say a few words and then take questions and comments.

This is a function that libraries typically fulfill: providing a public meeting space where ideas may be exchanged, both through the medium of the written word but also the meeting of minds through conversation. Senators, Congresspeople, legislators, and the like often meet people they don't ordinarily have a chance to talk informally with at events like ours, providing another means for democratic participation in government.

So come out and have a conversation with your senator as well as your neighbor!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Seedstock, seed catalogs and seed swaps

It may not be spring yet (even though the pussy willows are a bit confused), but the warm weather and the seed catalogs in the mail remind us that spring is coming soon! This year, the Growing Ester's Biodiversity program is hosting a new event at the John Trigg Ester Library: the Library Seedstock.

Seedstock is a special event to stock the seed library with locally grown, heirloom and open-pollinated cultivars. We are looking for flowers, vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Anyone may donate seeds, but seed stewards check out seed from the JTEL to grow it out to raise and save seed again, and are members of the library. After the harvest, seed stewards bring back about ten to twenty times the amount of seed they checked out from the plants they've grown, thereby replenishing and growing the library's holdings, and sharing those seeds with other members of the library.

That close relationship between you, the library's stewards of its genetic material, and your fellow members, is one that builds community and preserves valuable and increasingly rare  agrobiodiversity. To become a seed steward, simply sign up for membership at Seedstock and fill out a form indicating which seeds you've checked out, just like you would a book. Membership is only $10 per year, and not only do you join a committed group of enthusiastic gardeners, you can also check out anything else in the library!

This year will be the first Seedstock, but will be the third year the JTEL has held Seedy Saturdays.

Seedy Saturdays are straightforward seed swaps: bring seeds, share them with your neighbors. We'll provide some containers and envelopes, pens, and a way to organize the plants (by botanical family, with signs). Please see our seedswap guidelines on our website.

All events are free, but we do incur some costs, so donations are encouraged, and gratefully accepted.

Come join us!

John Trigg Ester Library
Clausen Cabin, 3629 Main Street, Ester (across from the Golden Eagle Saloon)
February 2, Sunday, noon to 3 pm

Seedy Saturday #1
Hartung Hall, Main Street & Ester Loop (one block east of the Golden Eagle's parking lot)
February 15, Saturday, noon to 3 pm

Seedy Saturday #2
Hartung Hall, Main Street & Ester Loop
February 22, Saturday, noon to 3 pm

Seedy Saturday #3
Hartung Hall, Main Street & Ester Loop
March 1, Saturday, noon to 3 pm

Parking for all events is available nearby with special permission for the event from Alaska Visit, as well as a limited amount at Hartung Hall and the Clausen Cabin. We'll have ushers to help you find a spot.