Pathfinder Shih Fa Kao: Connecting His Background With His Community

Librarian Shih Fa Kao has a wide and varied career in service to his community.  Expertly, he uses these various career explorations to inform his work at the Berryessa Library.

Here are some of the wonderful career paths he has had in the past:

  • Journalist
  • Non-profit work
  • Education field

While working for non-profits, Shih Fa volunteered for an organization called Veggielution.  According to their website, Veggielution's mission is "to connect people from diverse backgrounds through food and farming to build community in East San José."

Veggielution says that there are three types of connections essential to humanity:

  1. To our land and food
  2. To each other in community
  3. And across barriers that divide us.

If this is interesting to you, consider volunteering!

Connecting His Veggielution Volunteering to Berryessa Library's Seed Library

According to Shih Fa:

During his time at Veggielution, "I heard about a trend that encouraged an alternative use of space traditionally dedication to lawns and ornamental gardens: growing food."

"Therefore, when I arrived at the Berryessa Branch, I was excited at the opportunity to be able to take over its seed library program, which could encourage gardening for both aesthetics and food production."

According to Berryessa Branch Library Manager Candice Tran:

"The Seed Library was the brainchild of part-time Librarian, Amanda Choi and part-time Librarian Amelia Vander-Heide back in 2014.  Together, they launch(ed) the Seed Library at Berryessa Library with donated seeds from local vendors or businesses.  Librarian Taylor Cecil took over the operation when Amelia and Amanda moved to (another library.)  Taylor managed the Seed Library with the support of a very dedicated volunteer/master gardener, Camille.  Shih Fa took over after Taylor moved on to another library system."

Funded by the Friends of the Berryessa Library, the Berryessa Library's Seed Library continues to thrive today due to the current efforts of Shih Fa and other staff.

Shih Fa tells me how he uses his background to add value to Berryessa's Seed Library.

Shih Fa Adds Value to Berryessa's Seed Library

Because of his journalism background, Shih Fa is exceptionally skilled at research.  His research skills from his journalism days and from his librarian training, provide him with the needed skills to determine what kinds of seeds to add to Berryessa Library's seed inventory!

Shih Fa tells me,

"Besides just ordering seeds to offer in the seed library, I strive to provide seeds when they are ready for sowing based on guidance from the Farmer's Almanac."

Here is how he determines which seeds will be useful for the different kinds of growers in Berryessa's community:

  • "For those who want to grow food on their property, we offer vegetable and fruit seeds that are responsive to our community's demographics while encouraging patrons to use water efficiently."
  • "For those who desire a more ornamental garden, we provide flowers that are native, drought resistant, or would serve as a good companion to a vegetable and fruit garden, and we avoid invasive species."
  • "And when we take donations, we make sure that the seeds are from open-pollinated plants."

The Community Shows Its Appreciation

Prior to Shih Fa's start at Berryessa Library, there appeared to be a coming void in the service that the Berryessa Seed Library would provide.

Happily, due to Shih Fa's background as a volunteer at Veggielution, the Berryessa Seed Library would continue!  The Berryessa community could breathe a sigh of relief!  Shih Fa's dedication continues to this day, as he curates seeds funded by the generous Friends of the Berryessa Library.

Shih Fa tells me,

"Visit the Berryessa Branch's Seed Library because it is a curated collection that is culturally responsive and encourages sustainable gardening."

Shih Fa told me about the very popular bok choy, a kind of Chinese cabbage, and its popularity with one particular customer.  He told me that the customer was so enthused that Shih Fa provided the cabbage, they sent the Library a very grateful message:

"Thanks for the Seed Library! Pak choy seeds have sprouted! Thanks!"

Bok choy can also be called Pak choy.  Bok choy translates as "Shanghai green."

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment in the section below!