Reinvention of the Humble Tomato Tasting

Reinvention of the Humble Tomato Tasting

Due to the popularity of our on-site Tomato Tasting, and the wild success of last year’s Apple Tasting event in Des Moines, we had the idea to hit the road with our tomatoes. As we began developing plans for a Tomato Tasting Block Party at the Tiny Diner in Minneapolis, we got inspired to expand beyond our initial vision for an off-site outreach effort.

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Collection to Catalog

Collection to Catalog

The introduction of the Limited Edition “From the Preservation Gardens” line of seeds to the SSE catalog in 2013 brought the heartwarming, funny, and sometimes curious stories of varieties from our on-site preservation collection into the homes of thousands of Americans. The SSE catalog is responsible for producing an annual infusion of fresh pieces of history along with member favorites.

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Exploring the Diversity Garden

Exploring the Diversity Garden

The onset of spring has us dreaming about the vegetables that will fill our gardens during the summertime. But it is difficult to imagine summer’s bounty when your pepper plants are two inches tall and your onion stems are so thin you can barely see them. So why don’t we take a walk around a summer garden?

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Ancient White Park Cattle: Old Breed, New Babies!

Ancient White Park Cattle: Old Breed, New Babies!

When you visit Heritage Farm at Seed Savers Exchange, the cutest thing you’ll see may also be the oldest thing we preserve. The ancestors of our herds of Ancient White Park cattle date back to the pre-Christian era where they roamed the British isles, and descriptions of their distinct white coats and U-shaped horns crop up periodically in historical documents. Their island-based origin isolated this breed from other breeds, therefore making them much more genetically distinct and valuable. But how did they get to Seed Savers Exchange, you ask? Well, it’s kind of a complicated story.

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Column Blowers and Blowing Snow: A Winter Internship

Column Blowers and Blowing Snow: A Winter Internship

For folks unfamiliar with what this organization does, the new year might seem to be a slow time for a place like Seed Savers Exchange. Nothing is growing, and all of last season’s seeds have been harvested, cleaned, and stored – what more is there to do until spring sowing?

After four wintery weeks of working here, I can tell you there is still plenty to do.

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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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Seed Saving Collection for First-Timers

In our grandparents' day seed saving was just part of gardening. 

Store-bought seed, like store-bought anything, was a luxury for my Grandma. She could only afford to order what she couldn’t easily save- for instance, the seeds of biennial vegetables like carrot, cabbage, beets and kohlrabi.  The whole community saved their garden seed back then. It was as natural to gardening as planting and harvesting crops.  I helped my Grandfather pluck the seeds off his morning glories each fall and never thought I was doing anything out of the ordinary.  The seed—along with the skills on how to save the seed—was passed down from generation to generation.

Over the years, this seed saving component of the garden has vanished and garden seed has become something you simply purchase each year from your favorite catalog or garden center.  It is understandable, then, why new gardeners would not be aware of how their seeds were produced in the first place, and so the process is often perceived as somewhat mysterious.

Today, planning your garden for seed saving is really not that much different or any more difficult than it was back in the days of my grandparents.  Some of my garden favorites like tomatoes, beans, peas and lettuce are self-pollinating crops that don’t readily cross, so they’re easy to save.  Of course you must have non-hybrid varieties so the seed your harvest and plant will produce the same variety as the parent plant (read more about open-pollinated, hybrid, and heirloom seeds here).

Seed Saving Collection

This past year I was pleased to be involved in creating a new Seed Saving Collection for the Seed Savers Exchange catalog.  This starter kit includes some of our popular varieties that could be grown side by side in one garden, plus step-by-step seed saving instructions for each crop type.  I’m excited to offer a solution for all those gardeners who thought seed saving was somehow difficult. It’s easy to become a seed saver!

Click here to buy this collection-->

 

Save almost 20% by purchasing these 6 seed packets as the Seed Saving Collection!

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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.

Rowen White elected to Seed Savers Exchange Board of Directors

Rowen White

Decorah, Iowa —Seed Savers Exchange, Inc. is pleased to announce the election of Rowen White to its board of directors.  The election was approved at a special meeting of the board on Friday, February 7, 2014, bringing the total number of board members to nine directors. Rowen WhiteRowen White is a seed saver, farmer and educator.  She is from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and curates an extensive collection of rare northeast native seeds. She is the co-founder of Sierra Seed Cooperative in Nevada City, CA, focusing on local seed production and education.

White is a seed educator with Native Seed/Search Seed School in Tucson, AZ and has had a long standing relationship with Seed Savers Exchange (SSE).  She is the author, along with Bryan Connolly, of Breeding Organic Vegetables:  A Step by Step Guide for Growers.

“It is a great honor to have been selected to serve on the Board of Directors at Seed Savers Exchange,” White said.  “SSE is maintaining over 20,000 accessions of seed in a public access seed bank, while also honoring the cultural memory that seeds carry with them. What a valuable contribution towards the ethical stewardship of our precious collective inheritance of seeds. I have followed SSE's work on preservation of heirloom seeds with great admiration over these many years. “

SSE board chair Keith Crotz called the addition of Rowen White an important step in the organization fulfilling its goal to conserve and promote America's agricultural biodiversity.

“Rowen is an exceptional person who is committed to our non-profit mission,” Crotz said. “She will bring valuable experience to our education programs and help Seed Savers Exchange connect with the next generation of seed savers.”  White was elected to a three-year term.

For more information, contact: John Torgrimson, Executive Director john@seedsavers.org (563) 382-5631

Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange operates an 890-acre farm in northeast Iowa where thousands of rare fruit, vegetable, and other plant varieties are regenerated and preserved in a central collection. Its mission is conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. SSE also facilitates the world's largest grassroots seed exchange. For information visit www.seedsavers.org

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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Seasons Come and Go

By Paul Ludwig and Lori Slindee

Diversity Gardens throughout the seasons at Seed Savers ExchangeDecember hours for the Visitors Center are Fridays from 9 to 5 and Saturdays/Sundays from 10 to 5.

As we wind down the 2013 season here at Heritage Farm, the Visitor Center Staff would like to take a moment and thank everyone who came through the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center this year. We’ve met a lot of people, heard a lot of stories, and thought we would share some highlights.

We’ve had visitors from all over the world this season. What fun it was to open the doors to travelers from far places such as England, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Israel, Australia and China. Canadians are also common in the Visitor Center, often looking for seeds that will grow in their northern climate. One day, we had visitors from both Panama and Alaska here at the same time! They enjoyed discussing the differences of their garden experiences.

Of course, some of the most exciting days at the Visitors Center are during events such as our annual Conference and Campout, the Tomato Tasting, various workshops, and weddings or dances in the barn loft. But in between these good times we’ve also had a few adventures here, too. Once, a family with a young baby was out hiking and found themselves cut off by rising water in a flash flood! Luckily it was an easy rescue by our crew and a tractor. There was also the summer afternoon when we locked down the Visitor Center because a few Ancient White Park cattle had escaped their pen and were playing in the parking lot. Talk about “free-range” cattle!

Model A's visiting Seed Savers Exchange

It was also quite special when staff and visitors shared fun discoveries together. One family was delighted to find an herb seed packet bearing their last name: Grandma Einck’s dill. Upon further conversation, we found that they were originally from this North East Iowa region and possibly related to our co-founder Dianne Ott Whealy’s Grandma Einck (whom the dill variety was named after).

Though many people come here for garden advice, working in the Visitors Center has also been a learning experience for us, too. There was a local Amish woman who shared with us that her favorite okra to grow is the Clemson Spineless because it is easy to pick, but they also like to grow Red Burgundy because it is pretty and less prone to being “woody” in texture. Now we share this information with everyone asking about okra. In addition to gardening wisdom, we’ve also heard many wonderful recipe ideas from visitors. One woman shared with us how she enjoys cooking and then mashing Burpee’s Golden Beets to be served with butter. We heard about how good Jimmy Nardello’s pepper is fried with onions. Also, we learned that our Nebraska Wedding tomato is good for stuffing with chicken salad.

Even with all the variety we have—both in commercial seed packets and in the seed exchange—we have been surprised that visitors still come looking for varieties that we do not have (some varieties we’ve never heard of!) They often do find what they are looking for, however, and are so delighted because they never thought they would. Regardless, people always seem to leave the Visitor Center happy. Even during the Harvest Festival, when we had a gloomy, dreary day, everyone was in jovial spirits.

As we wind down the visitor season, we are reminded of all the visitors who smiled back as they left, saying “See you next year!”

Lillian Goldman Visitors Center

The Lillian Goldman Visitor Center will be open Fridays from 9 to 5, Saturdays and Sundays 10 to 5. December 23 we close until March.

2013 Seeds are half price and there are many beautiful gift items for the gardener in your life!

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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.

Join SSE Donate to SSEShop Online