Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Iowa Adventure: Seed Savers

A few weeks ago, Saturday morning came very early. My alarm went off at 5:15 in preparation for my day trip to Seed Savers, near Decorah, Iowa. My friend Janet had been wanting to visit for at least ten years and asked me a few months ago if I might have any interest in going. Need she even ask? I, too, had been wanting to visit for years. She found a tour of Seed Savers with an early morning bird watching and wild flower viewing focus and thought that we would enjoy it along with a pancake breakfast served on the sprawling lawn outside their new visitor's center. We left Minneapolis at 6 a.m. and arrived in good time, ready for hot pancakes served with compostable plates, forks and coffee cups.

Our tour guide Larry was the most knowledgeable outdoorsman I had ever met. He had stories about plants and their scientific names as well as their primary and secondary common names. He told tales of wild outings where he and friends had foraged for entire meals. His recall of bird sounds was outstanding. And his excitement when he saw a bird he had been hoping for? I thought he might break into song.
Such beauty, such amazing preservation of seeds and so close to home. We also enjoyed a little tour of the old barn and former visitor's center. The highlight for me (having just gotten through our own recent infestation) was seeing the mouseproof room where seeds were stored... covered from floor to ceiling with mesh. A mouse-proof fortress.
Next time we'll bring our kids and maybe our husbands. The chickens, ducks, and geese were just too much fun to keep them to ourselves. But just for that day... we loved every little moment of quiet...and a greasy hamburger and beer on the way home.

And here's a little background on Seed Savers, straight from their "About Us" page on their site.
"Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. Our loyal SSE members have distributed an estimated 1 million samples of rare garden seeds since our founding nearly 35 years ago. Those seeds now are widely used by seed companies, small farmers supplying local and regional markets, chefs and home gardeners and cooks, alike.
Seed Savers Exchange was founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy to honor this tradition of preserving and sharing. Their collection started when Diane's terminally-ill grandfather gave them the seeds of two garden plants, Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory and German Pink Tomato, that his parents brought from Bavaria when they immigrated to St. Lucas, Iowa in the 1870s.
Today, the 890-acre Heritage Farm, Decorah, Iowa, is our home -- and Seed Savers Exchange is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. We permanently maintain more than 25,000 endangered vegetable varieties, most having been brought to North America by members' ancestors who immigrated from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and other parts of the world. Unlike Fort Knox, Heritage Farm is not surrounded by security fences and guards. Our perimeter is patrolled by Bald Eagles, red-tailed hawks, deer, raccoons and other wildlife. The farm is ringed by 8.5 miles of hiking trails that take visitors through majestic scenery, past some of our 23 acres of certified organic preservation gardens, historic orchard and ancient White Park Cattle."


Sarah Jane said...

Oh, we need to talk about this! I can't believe I've never been there. I don't think he's doing it this year, but Greg Brown does a concert there nearly every summer. I would love to go sometime!
Great to see you Saturday. Happy VBS week.

Kerry said...

So, so awesome! I've been wanting to go there for a very long time now too!