My tomatoes ripened all at once this summer, and I've got more than I can devour. No problem. A crop swap will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday at the Dimond Library, 3565 Fruitvale Ave. I'll be looking for zucchini.

Garden-related programs are popular at the Dimond Library. Last summer, Urban Adamah, the sustainable gardening project from Berkeley, put on a worm composting program for kids at the library. It's not often children get to take home books and worms together. It's eco-literacy, hands-on style.

More programs are scheduled this fall: a seed gathering class on Oct. 11, led by Carmen Cortez, a local permaculturist and a Nov. 1 seed exchange.

Ever since Alice Waters founded the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, outdoor learning has blossomed throughout the East Bay. City Slickers, Planting Justice, Peoples Grocery, organizations that serve low-income populations, have established vibrant community gardens and healthy food programs throughout West Oakland.

East Bay libraries began turning green some years ago. The "Green Thumbs, Green Minds" project at the Alameda Free Library now includes an edible plant seed library, a hand-held gardening tool lending library, and gardening demonstrations. Oakland's Cesar Chavez branch hosts a seed exchange, a "culture of sharing," in the Fruitvale Village.


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Acta Non Verba, East Oakland's Youth Urban Farm Project, led by Kelly Carlisle, recently concluded a series of container garden workshops for kids at the Main Library downtown. Just outside the children's room, children learned about seeds, bugs, weeds and about where food comes from.

There are intangible benefits to direct contact with the soil.

"When a garden welcomes children, they develop a sense of belonging and shared responsibility," according to the American Community Garden Association." Heck. Even Cicero, the Roman philosopher, said: "When you have a library and a garden, you have everything."

In my view, few institutions are better suited to promote eco-literacy through books, computers, reference -- and through direct experience in the soil -- than the public library. Come to think about it, from West Oakland to East Oakland, the city's libraries are surrounded by tracts of land and untilled, sun-drenched fertile soil. The time may not be far off when libraries become urban agriculture's new frontier, another place where the wild thing grow.

A seed exchange, or a crop swap, is a great way to begin.

Paul Rockwell, a Montclair resident, is the former children's librarian with the Albany Library. He is parent coordinator of Gone Tubin', a float tube fishing club for youth." For more information, contact gonetubin2.org.