Blackberry Life

Seed Savers Convention

On the 19th, 20th and 21st of July, I attended the Seed Savers Exchange convention in Decorah, Iowa. The event featured guest speakers, all of whom gave very informative talks on seed saving and related subjects. I was a speaker this year, and my topic was Appalachian heritage seeds and their history. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk to a great number of fellow seed savers, most of them being seed savers that I had known for years by reputation but had never met.

I have been a listed member of seed savers exchange for 29 years. You might think that after all of those years as a member I would have made a number of visits to the seed savers heritage farm, but this year was my first!

My wife made the trip with me, and we were given a full tour of the farm, which includes three valleys, rolling hills and rich, dark soil, both in the bottom-land fields and the high grounds.

There were numerous fields filled with crop varieties being grown out for seed stock. Various gardens, plots and isolated, caged structures stood side-by-side, filled with varieties of beans, peas, tomatoes, limas, squashes and many others.

The cages are covered with a fine mesh material to keep out pollinators and ensure seed purity for all varieties being grown out.

One of the highlights of the convention was having the opportunity to visit with Mr. John Swensom who is world renown as a collector and preservationist of alliums, which includes onions and garlic. Mr. Swenson has made numerous collecting trips to the center of origin and has brought a good number of wild garlic and onions back to the United States.

I loved driving though the Iowa farm country, with corn and soybeans as far as you can see. It was good to see small towns without urban sprawl devouring all of the farmland and countryside around them.

Mike Washburn, Garden Manager at Blackberry Farm, and his family also made the journey. Both of us returned to the Farm filled with inspiration for new projects and a desire to preserve as much seed diversity as possible.

- John Coykendall, Master Gardener

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