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Duluth seed-sharers and state look for common ground

ALSO: St. Cloud has a November for the records; Moorhead family happy about medical marijuana; company proposes new route for oil pipeline; and more.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture notified the Duluth library that the seed-sharing program was out of compliance with state law.

By itself this story is only mildly interesting, but it illustrates why Minnesota is a unique, wonderful place to live. Last summer, gardeners In Duluth wanted to share their heirloom seeds, so they set up a spot in the public library where folks could drop off packets of home-grown seeds and others could pick them up. Unfortunately, Minnesota law regarding seeds is set up to keep an eye out for shenanigans by companies like Monsanto and Con-Agra. Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune notes that the state Department of Agriculture notified the library that the seed-sharing program was out of compliance. The library needs a seed-labeling permit, which costs $50 and requires the holder to include “seed lot numbers from each gardener sharing seed, documentation of any noxious weeds that might contaminate the seeds, plant variety, seed origin and the percent of seed that can be expected to germinate. An official germination test typically involves about 400 seeds,” Passi wrote.

This is clearly beyond the reach of the sharers who drop off packets of 20 or 30 seeds. Library Services Manager Carla Powers says the one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, and Stephen Malone, supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s seed, biotechnology and grain programs, agrees. “For those lots where they may only have 20 seeds, honestly you can’t do a 400-seed test on that, but maybe you can at least do a few that will tell me at least these are live,” he said. Jamie Harvie, executive director of the Duluth-based Institute for a Sustainable Future, says, “The state is just enforcing the law. But when laws are not working, laws need to be changed,” so he’s working with Duluth City Council President Emily Larson to draft a resolution to adjust state law to loosen restrictions on seed sharing. 

It was a cold, snowy month up in Stearns County. Stephanie Dickrell of the St. Cloud Daily Times puts it in perspective: Between 1998 and 2013, there were six days in November when the daily lows dropped below zero. There were five in 2014. Bob Weisman, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at St. Cloud State University said St. Cloud’s November was the ninth coldest and eighth snowiest on record. November’s 17.6 inches of snow was 8.7 inches above average and pushed 2014 to the sixth wettest year on record.

Over in Moorhead, Grace Lyden and Josh Francis of the Fargo Forum joined reporter Don Davis to put a local face on the medical marijuana story. Brett Solum, a 13-year-old in Moorhead, has 45 to 100 epileptic seizures each day. His docs at the Mayo Clinic say medical marijuana will definitely give him some relief so his parents, Amber and Paul Solum, are happy Moorhead will likely be one of the sites for a medical marijuana dispensary. Soon, Brett will be able to take cannabis in pill, oil or vapor form. “Even to lessen one of his different medications that he’s on would be fantastic,” his mother said.

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Town leaders in Bemidji are closer to attracting a YMCA, writes Bethany Wesley of the Bemidji Pioneer. Supporters are in the process of securing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and completing a feasibility study, and are looking for cash to complete both projects. The YMCA board thinks $30,000 should accomplish both goals, and Tina Johnson said they have “a good chunk” of the amount but need more, although she wouldn’t say how much of a chunk they already have in hand. Interestingly, the proposed Bemidji YMCA would be a branch of the Duluth YMCA because independent Ys are no longer being chartered and new sites have to be branches of an existing YMCA.

And for your offbeat story of the day, Jenae Hackensmith of the Austin Daily Herald informs us that the annual Merry TubaChristmas will be at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, at Oak Park Mall in Austin. Last year there were about 30 performers, and this year more than 40 have already signed up, she wrote. Any tuba, sousaphone or euphonium players who would like to participate are welcome. Registration starts at 11 a.m. Saturday and is $10. This will be followed by rehearsal, lunch, and the 13-song concert, all in the Oak Park Mall. Musicians should bring their own instrument and a stand and “can be decked out from tuba to toe with holiday cheer,” Hackensmith wrote.