The questions flew quickly as an inquisitive group of local fifth-graders filed into the iconic barn at Heritage Farm this past September and stared into tubs of fermenting heirloom tomatoes, excited to learn all they could about processing tomato seeds: “What is an heirloom tomato?”... “Why are the tomatoes fermented?”... “How do you remove all the seeds?”
It was far from the first time that the weather-worn barn—built in 1929 and acquired by Seed Savers Exchange co-founders Kent Whealy and Diane Ott Whealy in the mid-1980s—had been used for an educational event and wet-seed processing. And thanks to an extensive renovation begun by Munkel Construction of Decorah, Iowa, in October, it won’t be the last.
“As primarily a builder of custom homes, I liked the challenge of doing something different,” says Steve Munkel, owner, of taking on the renovation of the barn, which last underwent a major restoration in 1987. “But the fact that my grandfather and his six sons had built many of the barns around Lime Springs, Iowa, made me even more excited to work on the one at Seed Savers Exchange.” (The roof was re-shingled by Hahn Roofing of Spencer, Iowa.)
The renovation was made possible by more than $73,000 in donations and included installing new doors and barn-sashed windows, replacing the board-and-batten siding, and re-shingling the roof. (Painting of the barn—red, of course!— will commence next spring.) And as with any major renovation project, there were a few unexpected hurdles to clear along the way. “We encountered rotted structural areas and out-of-square door frames,” says Steve. “The major challenges of any restoration are dealing with the unexpected and modernizing as much as you can without taking away the character of the building—I think we have done both and given the barn another chance to shine far into the future.”
The barn has long played a critical role in the work of Heritage Farm, serving as a place to not only hold educational events and process seeds but also inspire visitors with the story of our work to protect our heirloom seed supply. Thanks to all who supported its much-needed renovation!