‘Oh, SNAP!’ – ‘One Vegetable, One Community’ offers free herb seed packets
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) educator for Wadena, East Otter Tail and Becker counties talks about free herb seeds as part of the "One Vegetable, One Community" initiative.
WADENA — The “One Vegetable, One Community” initiative returns for a sixth year this spring, but with a twist: herb seed packets will be available around Wadena for the community, free of charge.
“I've done kale, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, summer squash,” said Marilyn Hofland, who works with low-income families to provide nutrition affordably, such as vegetable seeds in the past.
Hofland is the SNAP-Ed nutrition educator in Wadena, East Otter Tail, and Becker counties, through the University of Minnesota Extension. (SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.)
“Herbs are a great way to add flavor to home-cooked and even convenience foods without adding too much salt,” Hofland said. “They can also add flavor to water or sparkling water, paired with citrus or other fruits.”
The free herb seed packets can be found around town at the Maslowski Center, the University of Minnesota Extension, the Wadena Public Library and the Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce, for example, with additional direct sow seeds replacing the early seeds in May.
“Making a difference by connecting community needs and university resources to address critical issues in Minnesota” is a goal of the University of Minnesota Extension.
The “One Vegetable, One Community” initiative is an attempt to bring the community together “around growing, cooking and sharing the ‘vegetable of the year,’” which was cucumber last year.
“We provide the kits, tips and information on growing, and you provide the enthusiasm, connections and sharing of experiences to friends, neighbors and community!” according to a pamphlet about the initiative.
Hofland said, “You’ll find herbs that require an early start indoors, either in a sunny windowsill or under grow lights, such as basil, thyme, sage, parsley and mint. Many herbs come back each year, and some can be potted and enjoyed all winter, replanting outdoors each spring.”
For those looking for additional seeds for home gardens, SNAP-Ed has a variety of early start seeds housed in a free seed library at the Wadena Public Library. A sign with a QR code will provide additional garden and vegetable planting information.
“‘One Vegetable, One Community’ would love to see herbs growing in gardens, containers on the front porch and in front of businesses, churches, agencies, school gardens and throughout the community,” said Hofland, who runs community gardens in Perham and Wadena.
We're #UMNProud to partner with #Minnesota communities and their #libraries! https://t.co/y6NH7E8P64— U of MN Extension (@UMNExt) March 20, 2023
Families looking for tips on cooking skills, food budgeting and nutrition information can sign up for “Go Fresh Wadena-Cooking Matters” with free food ingredients, recipes and kitchen gadgets provided for each of the six classes in the course, with an additional $10 of Wadena Farmers Market vouchers given for classes attended.
“The online classes are held on Zoom and are free for any WIC, SNAP, Head Start or simply looking to help make food dollars stretch for their family,” Hofland said.
SNAP-Ed also offers free community garden plots in Sunnybrook Park or Greenwood Apartments. Classes, kids and senior coupons, and information on tripling EBT value at the Wadena Farmers Market, are also available.
“The herb seeds that I'm putting out right now this week (for the taking) are ones that have to be started inside so that you're planting a plant in May rather than where you're actually putting a seed in the ground,” Hofland said.
While some herbs can be planted directly in the garden (cilantro, arugula, parsley, dill), most require starting indoors (basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, mint, chive) some six to eight weeks before the last frost, in a soil-less seed starting mix.
“To start indoors, choose a pot at least 4 inches deep, scattering about five seeds, covering with a small amount of planting mix. Water about twice a week, transplanting to a larger container when needed. Pinch and use leggy branches to keep bushy,” according to the pamphlet.
“They need six to eight hours of sunlight, which could be a very, very sunny windowsill or under a grow light,” Hofland said. “But I will be pulling these seeds towards the mid- to the end of April and replacing them with herb seeds that can be put directly in the ground.”
According to a “One Vegetable, One Community” pamphlet about the free herb seed packets: Many herbs are perennials (chive, mint, sage, oregano, thyme). Most, like basil, cilantro, dill and parsley are not. Many can be potted and wintered indoors, brought back outside in spring.
For more information, call or text Hofland at 218-639-9583 or email her at email@example.com . To learn more about the “One Vegetable, One Community” initiative, visit https://bit.ly/3Gdmwk6 .