2014 Heritage Farm Companion Spring Edition

2014 Heritage Farm Companion Spring Edition

The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) quarterly member publication, The Heritage Farm Companion, is now being made available online and our 2014 Spring Edition has just been posted.

Non-members can get a preview of this edition by reading about SSE's past and upcoming farm-to-table collaborations with the Pepperfield Project in this article by David Cavagnaro.

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Printing the Yearbook

2014 Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) Yearbook has been sent to the printer! If you’re a long-time member, the arrival of the Yearbook may be the most anticipated garden-planning event of the year. If you’re new to SSE, however, the term ‘Yearbook’ can be a bit perplexing, and may conjure up memories of unfortunate portraits and embarrassing club associations.

2014 Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

The annual Yearbook is one way of accessing the Seed Savers Exchange, a network of gardeners, farmers, plant breeders and chefs who contribute to the most diverse seed exchange on the planet. Heritage Farm (where our staff maintains a permanent seed collection, sells seeds commercially, hosts events and publishes the seed exchange) is one part of this network.

Each year, hundreds of SSE members put together a list of fruit, vegetable, grain, flower and herb seeds they have harvested and would like to share with others. These seeds are organized in a database that is available online (exchange.seedsavers.org) and printed out annually as our Yearbook.

Entering thousands of open-pollinated plants into a publicly accessible database each year requires hundreds of hours of staff time. From September to January, SSE staff is busy pouring through lists of tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, potatoes, watermelons, rutabagas, apples, peaches, kiwis, sunflowers, hops, hollyhocks and zinnias (and at least 200 other plant types). When these lists are entered, we have about a week to proof 500 pages of nearly 20,000 offerings.

Since 1975, the Seed Savers Exchange has been connecting our members to one another through the annual Yearbook. All SSE members can participate in the seed exchange by requesting seeds (there are 13,000+ different varieties to choose from), offering seeds, or both.

It is never too late to offer seeds; although the 2014 Yearbook is already being printed and shipped, the Online Seed Exchange is always open to new members and new seeds.

The Seed Savers Exchange is one of the most resilient tools for preserving rare garden varieties. As a member, you have the opportunity to contribute to the seed exchange by growing your favorite fruits and vegetables, saving seeds, and sharing those seeds with others.

To browse the exchange online, learn how to save your own seeds, request rare varieties, or to offer seeds yourself, visit exchange.seedsavers.org. Membership is required to log in, but educational resources are open to everyone. If you’d like to be a part of the exchange and receive the-500 page Yearbook, join SSE today.

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Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

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One Rooster Step at a Time

Sicilian Buttercup Chicken

Sicilian Buttercup Chicken The first sentence in my book, Gathering, reads “I grew up knowing that you harvest horseradish only in the months with an “r” in them and that every day gets a “rooster step” longer after the shortest day of the year.”

I understood the horseradish part, but for the longest time I was never quite sure of my Grandma Einck’s observation.  The stride of a rooster—especially our bantams—isn’t much to speak of; it’s more like a baby step. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand her wisdom.  The shortest day of the year is December 21 (when the sun set this year at about 4:30 pm), but by the end of January it might stay light until 5:15 p.m.  And of course, by the first day of summer, the days seem longer by a thousand rooster steps. One rooster step isn’t much, but a couple hundred rooster steps is the difference between a cold long winter’s night and a glorious summer evening. You can get a lot done with a few more rooster steps.

Grandma Einck’s insight has come to mind many times in my adult life.  When folks ask, “How did Seed Savers Exchange get started?” and “How did we get to where we are today?” I tell them that it certainly didn’t happen all at once, but it did happen with the certainty of a rooster’s step.

1980 Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

I am especially reminded of this when I see the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook being compiled around this time of year. Our first six-page seed listing in 1979 was so small we printed our 29 members’ seed listings along with their letters in their entirety. The next year our group had grown to 142 and we printed the seventeen-page booklet on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine set up in an unheated back bedroom of our farmhouse.  Today our members list more than 12,000 varieties in a 500 page book and we send it to more than 13,000 members.  We also organize the listings for easy online access at exchange.seedsavers.org. Amazing to think of the growth in all areas of Seed Savers Exchange that has transpired with 40 years of roosters steps.

Solutions to problems like genetic diversity don’t have to all be complicated or large; they can be as bold or as small as you like. Just one simple act can make a difference.  Plant a seed, save a seed, support your local farmers market, CSA or community gardens, and simply ask your grocer or restaurant about where your food comes from. These small acts, added together, will make a difference. Small is underestimated, small is a beginning; small can make an important contribution to your planet and family, even something as small as a rooster’s step.

Diane Ott Whealy is Co-Founder and Vice President of Seed Savers Exchange, the nation's leading non-profit seed saving organization. She wrote Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver to chronicle the organization's humble beginnings and growth into a respected leader in the grassroots movement to preserve our agricultural heritage.

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Join SSE

 

Join Seed Savers Exchange and gain access to the world's largest seed exchange.

Our non-profit mission is to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

 

 

Special October Membership Offer

Fine Gardening Magazine

Become a Seed Savers Exchange member during October to take advantage of these special offers:

Fine Gardening Magazine

 

Join Seed Savers and get a one-year subscription to Fine Gardening magazine - all for one low price of $59.99. Save $10 with this limited-time offer. Click here to join.

 

-Or-

Grow

 

Join Seed Savers and get three issues of Grow - all for one low price of $55.00. This is 38% off the cover price. Click here to join.

 

 

-Or- Click here to see our other membership offers.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

In order to fulfill our mission, we:

- Maintain thousands of varieties of different plant types in one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America - Regenerate seed in isolation gardens and store them in ideal conditions - Document valuable cultural information on varieties and their histories - Distribute heirloom varieties to members and the public through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog

We rely on membership to support our organization and to help sustain the diversity of heirlooms in our seed bank. Join the 13,000 other gardeners and seed savers who support our mission!

Learn more about Seed Savers Exchange in this video:

Exerpt taken from "Garden Guardians" by Alyssa Gammelgaard and Bryce Kilker.

 

A Seed Savers Exchange membership entitles you to a variety of benefits:

  • SSE's Yearbook and the Heritage Farm Companion

    Access to the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and online seed exchange, an exclusive network of SSE members sharing over 12,000 unique plant varieties with one another

  • The Heritage Farm Companion, an award-winning quarterly membership publication
  • 10% off all purchases from SSE’s catalog, website, and Visitors Center
  • Discounts on registration for workshops and events
  • Enrollment in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program, offering free admission to botanical gardens, arboreta, and conservatories across the country.

 

Show your support for pure seed and good food by becoming a Seed Savers Exchange member today.

Online Seed Exchange

Online Seed Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is proud to provide a new tool to help seed savers and gardeners keep the diversity of our garden heritage in the hands of many: an online seed exchange.

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Varietal Evaluations: Carrots

data-entry

The Preservation Department at Seed Savers Exchange works hard to maintain the rare collection of heirloom varieties we've acquired from farmers and gardeners over the past few decades. In order to keep this collection alive and well, our staff carefully plans and implements grow-outs to evaluate the varieties and regenerate seed stock. As part of this evaluation process, staff take meticulous notes about the characteristics of each variety when grown out. These photos document the evaluation process of a few carrot varieties (Daucus carota) after harvest, although evaluations of each variety really begin with the seed before it is planted.  

Carrot Evaluations

 

 

 

Freshly harvested and cleaned carrots.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Photos

 

 

 

Horticultural Technician Steffen Mirsky takes portrait photos of the harvested varieties.

 

 

 

 

 

Data Entry

 

 

 

Detailed information is entered into a database for each variety on such characteristics as color, shape, length, and weight, as well as other criteria.

 

 

 

 

Carrot Scan

 

 

Varieties are then scanned and archived with the collected data.

 

 

 

 

Raw ‘Jaune de Doubs’ Carrots

 

 

 

The carrots are sliced to analyze interior characteristics and for raw taste-testing (picture: 'Jaune de Doubs').

 

 

 

 

 

Steaming Carrots

 

 

The carrots are steamed until tender. The steamed carrots are tasted and evaluated for culinary use.

 

 

 

 

Cooked ‘Amstel’ Carrots

 

Summary descriptions of each variety are written for the SSE Yearbook, with the hope that these descriptions will encourage gardeners to take the seeds from our collection and put them in their gardens and on their dinner tables (pictured: 'Amstel').

 

 

Please consider becoming a member of Seed Savers Exchange to support these preservation and evaluation efforts. Along with many other benefits, SSE members are able to access thousands of rare and unique heirloom seeds offered by other members in our annual Yearbook. Seed Savers Exchange also offers seeds from our vast collection in the Yearbook, allowing members much more diversity to choose from than what's available in the commercial catalog. In 2013, Seed Savers Exchange is offering 2,431 different varieties in the Yearbook for members to request. Join us today to help conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage.

 

Join SSE

Located six miles north of Decorah, IA, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers maintains a collection of thousands of open pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.  For more information, go to seedsavers.org

 

Donate

Mailbox Friends

These days, speaking of a “mailbox” might bring about Mailboximages of our virtual mailboxes, not the charming metal containers at the end of our driveways. When Seed Savers Exchange began in the pre social media days of 1975, our members were older and living in rural parts of the country.  They relied on these physical metal boxes to not only exchange hand-written letters but heirloom seeds as well. This unique club of seed savers referred to each other as “mailbox friends.” This week our 2013 Yearbook will be mailed out to more than 10,000 members—the 38th year in a row—to continue facilitating this connection between seed saving brethren. This Yearbook might well represent the largest private index of seed varieties in the United States.

While it is always a considerable challenge to compile the listings of more than 19,000 varieties from nearly 700 seed savers each year, one of the fun experiences is reading the many descriptions of varieties offered.

Passing by the office kitchen table on my way to get a cup of coffee a few weeks ago, two staff members were proofing the listings from the upcoming Yearbook and reading some of the anecdotes out loud. Christy was amused by an Iowa member who wrote, “In keeping with my penchant for selecting seed based on names (I buy wine the same way- don’t you?), ‘Little Brown Cat’ has joined my collection because, as my son observed, you really don’t see brown cats.”

Sarah said, “Listen to the history of the ‘Doloff’ bean.” First grown by Roy Dolloff in Vermont, he gave it to Hattie Gray who remembered walking with her mother to Burke Hollow and back to get the seed from him when she was a girl in the 1920’s. Hattie grew the seed for 60 years and gave it to Leigh Hurley who listed it in 1986. Today, 27 years later, five members are still listing the ‘Dollof’ bean.

Yearbook Covers

Those hand-written letters are treasures which support Seed Savers Exchange’s belief that every seed has a story to tell. Whether you choose to utilize the yearbook as it always has been—through the print copy coming to your mailbox at the end of the driveway, or through the recently offered electronic version on our website, consider the people who have chosen to carry these varieties forward. Along with a check, send them a note of thanks in appreciation for preserving our garden heritage.

No matter the form of mailbox you use, we are thrilled to see Seed Savers Exchange members utilizing the Yearbook not only as a way to acquire and cultivate seeds, but relationships as well.  As one member proudly told us this year, “In 2008 I contacted a SSE member in my area and we have been great friends ever since." Mailbox friends.

To learn more about the Yearbook and the additional benefits of becoming a SSE member, visit www.seedsavers.org/Membership/.

Seed Savers Exchange Distributes 2013 Yearbook

Annual publication makes available more than 12,000 heirloom and open-pollinated varieties of seed.

Decorah, IA. For the past 38 years, the Yearbook, which is distributed to Seed Savers Exchange’s 13,000 members, has grown into one of the largest private seed indexes in the United States. The Yearbook was created in 1975 in an effort to involve gardeners in the preservation of America’s garden heritage.

Seed Savers Exchange 2013 Yearbook Cover

A non-profit grassroots organization, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) asks its members, most of whom are home gardeners, to play a vital role as participatory conservationists in collecting, maintaining and sharing heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. Unlike hybrid seeds, the seeds of heirloom and open-pollinated varieties can be saved and grown again and will produce fruit true to the parent plant, a process used for thousands of years. The annual Yearbook is the preservation tool that fosters the sharing of seeds between SSE members.

“The Yearbook first started out as a mimeographed list of seeds shared by a handful of Seed Savers Exchange supporters back in 1975,” recalled Diane Ott Whealy, co-founder and Vice President of SSE. “Today, it is a 500 page compilation with almost 20,000 listings, ranging from Amaranth to Watermelon.”

This year SSE members have the opportunity to choose from 12,495 unique varieties from 694 listed members found across all 50 states and 12 countries. A listed member is a gardener or farmer who saves seed and offers them for exchange in the Yearbook. Each of these listed members provides an answer to what varieties perform well in their specific location: ‘Luther Hill’ corn in Ontario, ‘Speckled Butter’ bean in Mississippi, ‘Wenk’s Yellow Hots’ pepper in California, ‘Green Nutmeg’ muskmelon in Indiana, to name a few. Each variety offered in the Yearbook provides a connection between seed saver and grower.

“With the potential for climate change, the genetic variability of heirloom and open pollinated seeds has never been more important to safeguarding our future,” Whealy noted. “And the role the Yearbook and the Exchange plays is critical to providing alternatives for gardeners in an ever changing environment.” Learn more about the Yearbook and becoming a Seed Savers Exchange member here.

Located six miles north of Decorah, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers Exchange maintains a collection of thousands of open-pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.  For information visit www.seedsavers.org.

For More Information, Contact:

Steve Carlson Seed Savers Exchange 563-387-5686 newsroom@seedsavers.org

Evaluation Program Highlights for 2012

bean6042_830 (2)

The Evaluation Program

Maintaining and distributing unique heirloom and open-pollinated seeds is the primary goal of the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) gene bank. The Evaluation Program is an important link between maintaining varieties at Heritage Farm and getting them into the hands of gardeners, chefs, and farmers.

The Evaluation Program, which is only three years old, was started with the financial support from people like you. The program allows us to collect data on a variety’s traits throughout its life cycle. This data includes characteristics such as plant height, flower color, days to maturity, and fruit size.

  • In 2012 staff recorded more than 40,000 evaluation descriptors on over 1,000 different accessions.

Bringing Back Food Culture

evaluation scan

The program also evaluates culinary usage—incredibly important in a world of unsustainable eating and forgotten food cultures. Modern fruits and vegetables bred for shipping and uniformity lack the diversity seen in heirloom varieties—like beets, potatoes, cabbages, and apples that store for months in a root cellar; horticultural beans harvested between the snap and dry bean phases for their higher protein content; and melons best suited for baking. The forgotten traits in these varieties are the building blocks to a sustainable food system.

The information collected through the evaluation program serves several purposes. It allows us to:

  • Increase our knowledge about each variety and make that information available to gardeners.
  • Make informed management decisions about the collection by developing a comprehensive profile of each accession.
  • Reintroduce unique and rare varieties into the marketplace.

From the Preservation Gardens

For the first time ever, Seed Savers Exchange is offering a collection of varieties ‘From the Preservation Gardens’ in our catalog this year. These varieties were selected because of their interesting histories, unique characteristics, and popularity with staff—a direct result of the Evaluation Program.

  • Join us in our efforts to preserve our garden heritage for future generations to come. With your financial support for the Evaluation Program, we can rediscover our food culture—one variety at a time.

donateA tax-deductible donation to Seed Savers Exchange will help us continue to maintain genetic diversity through projects like the Evaluation Program. Support our effort by making a donation or becoming a member online today, or call us at (563) 382-5990 (M-F, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Central Time).

Thank you for your support,

John Torgrimson Executive Director

SSE 2013 Calendar

P.S. Donate $150 or more before December 31, 2012 and receive a free Seed Savers Exchange 2013 Calendar, which offers a beautiful glimpse of nature's seed bounty at Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa, where every seed has a story to tell.

 


2012 Evaluation Highlights

 

Horticultural Beans (Shelling Beans)

bean scan

Eating beans from the pod, when the beans are fully expanded but not yet dry, is becoming a lost culinary tradition in America. The plump, wet, beans do not store well, and they are difficult to shell mechanically because the tender beans cannot tolerate rough handling. For these reasons, shelling beans have been shunned by industrial agriculture. However, the flavor is rich and shelling beans are richer in nutrients than dry beans. We added a horticultural bean taste test to our 2012 bean evaluation and found that most beans taste good as shelling beans, and some taste really good! Many that performed well in our taste test were not necessarily known as shelling beans historically. For example, “Bessie” (Bean 6042) has been passed down maternally in Frances Sullivan’s family for over a century, each generation using it primarily as a green bean for fresh eating and canning.

Tomato 324 ‘D. Jena Lee’s Golden Girl’

tomato scan

This variety really caught our attention in the 2012 taste test. We described it as having “excellent robust flavor, sweet and slightly tart, low-medium acidity, firm and meaty texture but still juicy, great as a slicing tomato.” Curious about the variety, we investigated its history and discovered that it is mis-named in our collection and should be called “Djena Lee’s Golden Girl.” We are not the first to notice its outstanding flavor. It is promoted by Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, and won the Chicago Fair’s taste test 10 years in a row in the 1920s and 1930s. Though historically, women played a central role in developing and improving varieties in America’s gardens, Djena Lee was one of the few female plant breeders who enjoyed recognition for her efforts in early 20th century America.

Kohlrabi 44 ‘Giant Czechoslovakian’

kohlrabi scan

Most kohlrabi reach market maturity in 50-60 days and quickly become woody if left in the field. For that reason, we complete our market mature evaluation at 60 days. One variety in our evaluation grow-out, ‘Giant Czechoslovakian,’ did not form a kohlrabi head at 60 days. We thought it did not care for the spring weather. But in our fall grow-out of the same varieties, it again produced no stem-swelling at 60 days. We began to question whether it was really a kohlrabi, or if our seed-stock was compromised by crossing with another Brassica oleracea. We researched similarly named varieties in commercial catalogs, promoted as a 130 day maturity kohlrabi that does not get woody even when large. Then we went back to the long-forgotten spring planting and found enormous kohlrabis! Harvested at 176 days, they tasted great!

 Squash 5080 ‘Dostal Cucumber’ Squash

This squash’s oblong shape, size, and dark green mature color make it look somewhat like a cucumber. A staff favorite as a winter squash, this year we evaluated this pepo squash as a summer squash as well.  To our surprise, ‘Dostal’ turned out to be a favorite 2012 summer squash - with its dense flesh and mildly sweet flavor. It went on to win accolades again in the 2012 winter squash taste evaluation for its buttery, smooth texture and complex, rich flavor. ‘Dostal’ has proven that we cannot make assumptions about the versatile varieties in our collection based on the limitations of more modern, highly specialized varieties.