Seeds For Soldiers

May 19, 2008

I was really impressed when I read about this project. What started out as a Soldier’s sister-in-law collecting a few seeds to teach the Iraqi kids how to grow their own gardens and help to supplant their family’s food supply, grew into quite a large project. Michelle Nielson of Yankton, South Dakota had no clue when she started the project, that she would get the kind of response from the public that she did.

The idea started when Michelle got a call from her sister, whose husband Major John Blankenhorn is serving in Iraq. He was looking for some seeds that he could use to work with the Iraqi children. Michelle’s sister called her and the project blossomed from there. Michelle, who works at WNAX in Yankton talked to her 4H kids and asked if they might consider doing a drive to collect garden seeds and other things for the Iraqi kids. Michelle also asked her boxx if she could publicize the effort on WNAX. Her boss thought it was a great idea.

Nielson and her 4Hers put together donation boxes and posters around the town. According to Michelle, donations have come in from schools, churches, businesses and senior citizen centers as well as individuals in the community. She’s also received seeds from other states. The project began in January and so far Michelle has sent more than a dozen boxes of seeds to Iraq. She has several more waiting to be shipped.

“I’ve probably sent over about 5,000 packs of seeds so far,” she said.

Not only will the gardens help the Iraqi children to add to their family’s food supply, it also gives them the chance to see US Soldiers in a completely different light. Projects such as this, as minor as they might sound to us here at home, mean a great deal to the Iraqis. It also gives the children the opportunity to experience something positive in their lives, something that is helpful to their families and communities as well. According to Nielson, the Soldiers are taking the seeds to the schools to distribute them to the children, who are excited to get them.

There are guidelines on what seeds a person can send. The seed packets must not have been opened, or recycled from plants in the donor’s own garden. Those types of seeds aren’t allowed by Customs, who would then quarentine the entire box. Nielson has a few other guidelines as well. The seeds sent should be for plants that have short growing periods and should be seeds that will grow well in sandy soils that get a small amount of moisture.

“John tells me that they recycle water,” Nielson said. “They use their bath water, they use their dishwater. That’s what they use to water their plants with.”

Some of the best seeds that can be sent, are seeds for radishes, tomatoes, turnips, cucumbers, small melons and even some flowers. According to Nielson, she has no plans to stop the project, as long as she keeps gettings seeds.

“I’m not going to stop unless I don’t get seeds in,” she said. “As long as I keep getting seeds, I’ll keep sending them over and he’ll keep sending them out. His wish is that he’ll have enough seeds to go through most of Iraq.”

This is a great project and one that will only benefit the Iraqi people and help to build better relationships between the citizens and our Troops. If you’d like to find out more about the project, including where you can send seeds, please visit the WNAX website. You’ll find the information about Seeds For Soldiers about halfway down the page. There are links as well, to photos of the Troops handing out the seeds to the schoolchildren.

Army Times



2 Responses to “Seeds For Soldiers”

  1. Bill McDorman on May 19th, 2008 6:13 pm

    What a great idea. Hand out open-pollinated (non-hybrid) seeds and teach them to save their own seeds from the plants that do best in their own gardens. In this way they can become truly self-reliant, the first step on the road to real peace.

    Soldiers, relief workers and everyone can find free seed saving instructions on the web site of this 20 year-old non-profit.

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