With food costs at near-record prices, the idea of growing your own food has never been so attractive. But food production requires space, and space can be a precious commodity — even a rarity — for people who live in urban areas. For decades, communities in cities around the U.S. have created urban farms and gardens. These spaces make use of empty lots to grow low-cost produce or flowers for communities. These urban farms are not always in high-profile or easily accessible places, however.

But, what if your urban farm was in a central location? Perhaps your local library? The Cicero Branch of the Northern Onondaga Public Library (NOPL) in Upstate New York has explored precisely this question. In 2011, they created the Library Farm — partly the brainchild of Meg Backus, then the adult programming director and public relations coordinator. According to Sue Buswell, the current Library Farm manager, Backus saw the vacant, library-owned land across the street as an agricultural experiment. In the beginning, about 40 members of the library went across the street with their own water, seeds, seedlings, and other growing provisions to investigate whether that land could produce. They found that it could.

“The ground was part of a farm that was on that land at some time in history, so it was still kind of fertile and we had great success,” Buswell said. “[The library] started not only giving us the land to grow on, but the adult [section] librarian started doing programs about gardening and such.”

As gardening programs became more popular at the Library Farm, it became more obvious that material resources, like water, could no longer be supplied solely by members. An improvement project designed to provide water directly to the garden highlighted an unforeseen issue: the location of the original garden plot was not, in fact, on library property. Instead of allowing this to be a setback to the Library Farm’s growth, the members of the farm project decided to pivot the space and simultaneously modernize it. After moving the farm about 50 feet away from its original location, Buswell explained that they then raised the planting beds and further expanded Library Farm programming. More programming, however, requires even more resources.

Read the full article about library farms by Chad Small at Shareable.