Mary Ann Fox: Legacy of a Seed Saver

Mary Ann Fox's Seeds

In my role as an inventory technician for the Preservation Collection at Heritage Farm, I encounter the mundane and meaningful in almost equal parts. There’s no reliable rhythm to it. Some days are complete numbers-data tedium, while others are full of gratifying meaning.

Mary Ann Fox

Mary Ann’s other passion was Appaloosa horses.

My work over the past few weeks has been leaning heavily (in a good way) toward the gratifyingly meaningful. We have in just the past week received at Heritage Farm a large seed collection comprising just over two hundred bean varieties. This collection came to us from Mary Ann Fox, longtime listed member of Seed Savers Exchange from Shelbyville, Indiana, who died this past February at the age of 71. Mary Ann’s relatives, realizing the worth and importance of the collection and having to confront its monumental scope, were especially anxious to identify someone who could not only take the mass of seed off their hands, but who could also find eager stewards of Mary Ann’s seed-saving legacy.

Enter Jim Kelly, SSE member and friend to Mary Ann. Not only did Jim find a temporary storage location for the collection and move the countless plastic seed-filled bottles to the location, he also began imagining ways in which the collection could be shared among seed savers. Eventually Jim contacted Heritage Farm to find out if there were a way the staff here could collaborate and assist. Together, we came up with a plan to distribute Mary Ann’s seed collection at the Seed Savers Exchange 2013 Conference and Campout.

Inventorying the Seeds

Inventorying seed samples from Mary Ann’s bean collection

An important step in preparing the collection for distribution is a thorough inventory and labeling of each seed sample. This has been my task over the past few days and will likely take another few days to complete. While the work may seem tedious and mundane to the outside observer, handling these artifacts of Mary Ann’s legacy—noting the care with which she filed and labeled each variety—is a profoundly meaningful “chore.”

Would you like to celebrate and honor Mary Ann’s seed-saving legacy right in your own garden? Will you be attending the July 2013 Conference and Campout? Look for the tent with racks of beautiful bean seeds in clear plastic bottles. I’ll be there with a collection catalog to help you choose the two or three (or four or more!) varieties that you want to take home to your garden. Or just come by to meet and talk with me and other seed savers. There will be great conversations about the ways in which we have all benefited from past seed savers, and you might even be inspired to get more actively involved in seed saving yourself. See you there!

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  1. I would almost move back to the mainland just to be near these events! I love beans so much! I wish I could get some of Mary Ann Fox beans to plant here.

  2. Lori McKenzie says:

    I would love to carry on her seeds here in Canada. What a great story I could pass along with each seed i pass on :)

  3. Raechel Murphy says:

    What a wonderful legacy to leave behind. I am looking forward to choosing some bean varieties for my garden next year, and will smile as they grow, knowing a part of Mary Ann is living on in my garden.

  4. Raine Lampert says:

    What a wonderful gift! It is a gift that will kep on giving! I am so happy that her family knew how important that it was to get it to Heritage Farms!
    I wish I would have been able to come this year! Will have to put it on the calendar for next. I am a new seedsaver and am really getting into it!