Sanford man helps build state's seed libraries, one town at a time

Ben Cohen and his family run Small House Farm and he is basically the Johnny Appleseed of Midland County. But what started as a simple hand-pressed seed oil business from the Cohens' family home in Sanford has grown into a multi-faceted operation. Ben has since gone on to establish nearly 40 seed libraries across the state of Michigan.

It's a great way for libraries to reach out to the community, says Ben, and especially in today's digital age. Visitors can take seeds from the collection and plant the seeds at home. Ideally, people would grow the seeds into plants, and then harvest seeds to return to a library's collection.

Ben says that there are about 500 seed libraries in the United States, and that 45 of those are in Michigan. Even more remarkable than Michigan having nine percent of the country's seed libraries is that Ben is responsible for 37 of them. Libraries all over the state call Ben to help institute their seed library programs.

He most recently helped build the seed library in Bay City this past Monday, March 19.

"I do a lot of work with school gardens. So many kids don't know where food comes from. Even I didn't when I was a kid," says Ben, who grew up in a Midland apartment without any outdoor space of his own. "A lot of this is for the kids. I want to teach a more natural way of living, from the ground up."

The Cohens sell their seed-based products, including seed oils, seed flours, snacking seeds, and planting seeds, at farmers markets and co-ops around the state, as well as their main hub online. Small House also produces all-natural herbal salves, homegrown and locally-foraged.

Ben is also making his mark as an educator. He's in demand across the state and even regionally, with appearances booked in Kentucky and Ontario later this year. Ben gave 65 presentations on sustainability in 2017, and is on track to give even more in 2018. Topics include foraging for food and medicine, seed saving and growing, and more.

To learn more about Small House Farm, as well as booking Ben for presentations and seed libraries, visit Small House Farm online.

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