Saving Our Agricultural Heritage

August 15, 2011

- See all 164 of my articles

There is a place dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds for gardeners all over the world. Heirloom seeds are handed down from generation to generation on small farms for unique types of flowers, vegetables and berries. They are different from the mass produced seeds that you can pick up at any garden center or super store like Walmart, Kmart, Home Depot, or Lowes. Heirloom seeds are not hybrids, the seeds of the plant can be harvested to be used again next year.

There is nothing wrong with hybrid seeds. Hybrids have made food available in a greater abundance than the world has ever seen. Heirloom seeds allow the gardener to be freed from the need to return each year to the box store. In addition, the maintenance of these seeds and plant provide the basis for all hybrid development. If there were to be a disastrous year for the seed industry, having this repository of the basic plants will be invaluable in restarting and creating food and flowers.

The place is called the Seed Savers Exchange. They have a farm located outside of Decorah, Iowa. As the name suggests, they continuously look for sources of heirloom seeds, and exchange with those gardeners to broaden the inventory that they keep in protected storage to preserve garden biodiversity. They exist through several avenues of funding, including memberships, donations and direct sale of the seeds. There are reportedly only two organizations currently perusing the protection of our crop heritage, the Seed Savers exchange and a similar organization in Norway.

The farm is open to visitors and has several active gardens to tour and walking trails, along with a store where seeds, books and experiences can be exchanged. Walking those gardens is especially pleasant during the late summer, when the season starts to cool in far northern Iowa. There are numerous herbs, flowers and vegetables. Although they host activities all year, the beginning of September brings the Tomato Testing event. The gardens add a twist as the plants are not grown to harvest the fruit, but to harvest the seed. The onions are huge, but the seeds are what are prized. The squash, zucchini, cucumbers, bean and peas are over ripe, but perfect.

The whole idea is to preserve. Pursuant to this mission, the people at the exchange teach. They have pamphlets and books to teach anyone how to grow their own garden anywhere. The customers exchange stories; what works, what does not, what has been tried, and what would be interesting to try. This effort has apparently gotten some well deserved attention. The President of the United States, Mr. Barak Obama, is planning a visit to the farm. The people of Decorah are excited about his visit, as are the people who work and the farm. It is worth the effort to visit, if not in person, like the President, then on line, where much of what is available at the farm can be viewed and purchased.


Leave a Reply