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Time to Dig In: Meet Your Local Farmers

March 23, 2019

This spring, get a little dirty. (Gardening, that is.)

We asked some of the local farmers who helped build NPL's seed collection: What are you growing – and reading – this spring?


Has your green thumb been itching all winter? Good thing spring is here—it’s time to get back to your home, school, or community garden.

First, make sure you get free vegetable and flower seeds at the library, where first-time florists and blue-ribbon growers alike use NPL’s Seed Exchange to get local seeds, borrow books on growing, and swap secrets at library workshops.

The best part: it’s free. All you need is your free Nashville Public Library card.

Stephanie Oaks


No. 9 Farms (Ashland City, TN)

What do you grow?

“300 varieties of herbs, vegetables, fruits, and edible flowers, in addition to eggs from our chickens.”

What did you give?  

“We provided okra and chervil seeds. I have received messages from members of the community letting me know how the seeds did!”

Book Recommendation

Laura Bigbee-Fott


Whites Creek Flower Farm (Whites Creek, TN)

What do you grow?

“I grow almost exclusively flowers: annuals, biennials, and perennials.”

What did you give?  

“At the end of each season, I comb through my enormous stash of seeds and pull out packets to donate. I also sometimes wild harvest native varieties and donate seed from especially lovely plants that I have let go to seed for this purpose.”

Book Recommendation

Jeff Poppen (a.k.a. The Barefoot Farmer)


Long Hungry Creek Farm (Red Boiling Springs, TN)

What do you grow?

“Eighty acres of organic vegetables, hay, and 40 head of cattle.”

What did you give?  

“I gave kale seeds to the Seed Exchange.”

Book Recommendations

Agriculture by Rudolph Steiner is a good one which our farming is based off of, and a good fiction book is Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe."

15 Free Seed Spots

  • Main Library
  • Bellevue
  • Bordeaux
  • Donelson
  • Edgehill
  • Edmondson Pike
  • Green Hills
  • Goodlettsville
  • Hermitage
  • Inglewood
  • North
  • Old Hickory
  • Richland Park
  • Southeast
  • Thompson Lane 

Did You Know?

Backyard and community gardening promotes
  • healthy eating
  • urban green spaces
  • physical activity
  • home cooking
  • sustainability
  • vibrant communities

2018: In Full Bloom

  • More than 2,000 people “checked out” 14,718 packets of seeds
  • NPL hosted more than 50 free gardening workshops
  • The most popular seeds were:
    1. herbs (2,225 packets)
    2. flowers (1,969 packets)
    3. greens (1,144 packets)
    4. tomatoes (1,121 packets)

Expert Tips


“Plow deeply and thoroughly, add copious amounts of compost and organic refuse, sprinkle lime and wood ashes, and keep the rows full of food for your table so they don't grow up in grass and weeds.” - Jeff Poppen, The Barefoot Farmer


“It’s all about the soil. You can put in the most gorgeous plants, but if you ignore your soil, they won’t be gorgeous for long. I like to say that I grow healthy soil and the flowers are just a byproduct.” - Laura Bigbee-Fott, Whites Creek Flower Farm


“When tending to your tomatoes, keep an eye out for small stems growing between the main and side stems of your plants. These small stems are known as suckers. Although suckers can bear fruit, they often require more energy from the plant than they are worth. These can be quickly plucked by hand. Look up images of suckers online to verify you are picking the right stems!” - Matt Fox, Four-time Blue Ribbon cherry tomato champion, TN State Fair

DIY Tomato Cages

“Your tomato plants may quickly outgrow the flimsy prefab cages found at most retailers. If you have the time (and an updated tetanus shot), consider making your own cages out of welded wire field fencing. A spool can make countless durable cages that will last you and your gardening friends for years!” - Matt Fox, Four-time Blue Ribbon cherry tomato champion, TN State Fair

Want More?

Peruse library-related features and event listings in our quarterly magazine, Unbound, available at your local NPL location or online here.


Andrea, Allison, Katy, Ed, Matt, and Eddie work together to share all the awesome things NPL does with as many people as they can!