A Trip to Seed Savers Heritage Farm

Posted by Jordan | Tuesday, July 29, 2008 | , | 3 comments »

This past Saturday, Annah and I drove down to the Seed Savers Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa. Seed Savers is an organization that is dedicated to collecting, growing, and preserving heirloom seeds so that the genetic diversity of all plants can be maintained. I have been visiting Seed Savers for probably somewhere around 15 years, and they have a nice store (the barn you see in the second picture above), beautiful gardens, and a fantastic collection of plants.

Information about the Seed Saver's Preservation Gardens:
"More than 24,000 rare vegetable varieties are being permanently maintained at Heritage Farm, including 4,000 traditional varieties from Eastern Europe and Russia. About 10% of each crop is grown every summer, on a 10-year rotation, to grow fresh seed for the collections. Each summer up to 2,000 varieties are multiplied in 35 certified organic gardens (500 varieties of tomatoes, 500 beans, 125 peppers, etc.) that cover about 24 acres. Colorful display gardens beside the barn feature old-time flowers, vegetables and herbs that are especially rich in cultural history." 1
We spent a while in the store carefully picking through the bags of seeds and discussing what delightful plants we could grow in our yard next year. It was fun trying to plan out next year's flower garden and vegetable garden! After purchasing ten bags of seeds, which included tomatoes, snow peas, cucumber, spinach, arugula, borage, morning glory seeds, chrysanthemums, hollyhocks, and silverbeets. we then went out and walked through one of their small gardens where we took some photos of flowers and had a fun time!

Seed Savers also has an Historic Orchard:
"In 1900 there were about 8,000 named varieties of apples in the U.S., but the vast majority are already extinct and the rest are steadily dying out. In an attempt to halt this constant genetic erosion, SSE has obtained all of the pre-1900 varieties that still exist in government collections and large private collections, but has only found about 700 that remain of the 8,000 known in 1900. SSE has developed the most diverse, public orchard in the U.S. where those 700 different varieties of 19th century apples are on display. SSE’s Historic Orchard also contains many old grapes, including more than 100 breeding lines from the collection of famed grape breeder Elmer Swenson." 1

There are also Ancient White Park Cattle:
"These cattle roamed the British Isles before the time of Christ, and are described exactly in ancient Celtic lore. Today only about 800 of these extremely rare, wild cattle survive worldwide, including slightly more than 200 in the U.S. (and about 80 of those reside at Heritage Farm). These distinctive cattle have white coats, lyre-shaped horns with black tips, and black ears, noses, eyes, teats and hooves (and sometimes black is splashed from the hooves up the front shins toward the knees). The cows are intelligent, alert, quite hardy, healthy, and are aggressive grazers that favor brush." 1

I have had the pleasure of seeing the preservation gardens and the historic orchard, whereas Annah has only seen a fraction of the preservation gardens and not the historic orchard. I have not yet seen the Ancient White Park Cattle on the farm, but I plan to one of these days.

If any of you are in Northeast Iowa and have some free time then you should check out the Seed Savers Heritage Farm!


1From http://www.seedsavers.org/heritagefarm.asp


  1. Wicked Gardener // July 30, 2008 at 8:16 PM  

    Wow - it is a real shame these plants are dying out. What a interesting place to visit.

  2. Aiyana // August 3, 2008 at 3:32 PM  

    What an interesting place, and certainly a worthwhile endeavor. Your photos are lovely!

  3. mr_subjunctive // August 6, 2008 at 4:42 AM  

    Dropping by to let you know that I mentioned your blog today on my blog, though it's hard to explain what the "mention" involves. The relevant post is this one.