Belated Weed & Water Wednesday: A Visit to the Amazing Seed Savers Exchange Farm

Reader Contribution by Jessica Kellner

Sorry to post this a day late, but yesterday I was driving across the state of Iowa, headed from our home in Lawrence to Minneapolis to meet with some of our off-site advertising representatives and visit with a few clients. On the way, James and I stopped at the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) farm right outside Decorah, Iowa, for a tour. I’ve been fascinated with SSE ever since learning of them a few years back, and I’ve long hoped to visit their farm. SSE is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the U.S., and they’re dedicated to preserving our nation’s plant biodiversity and preserving our heritage seeds. They’re a participant in our Mother Earth News Fairs, so I’ve met the organization’s delightful co-founder Diane Ott Whealy in the past, but visiting their amazing operation was a special treat. Diane and her partner founded SSE in 1980 with 56 acres and two seeds. Since then, they’ve grown the nonprofit farm to 890 acres that house roughly 25,000 varieties of heirloom seeds. SSE is like a giant garden laboratory, where refrigerator doors open to reveal hundreds of varieties of potatoes growing in carefully labeled test tubes, and a refrigerated warehouse is home to thousands of catalogued seeds from all over the nation. Anyone can purchase seeds from SSE, and you can also become a member, which gives you access to their huge catalog (called a yearbook) of heirloom seeds, complete with descriptions of taste and growth habit from the growers who provide them. I’m in love with this organization, and I would encourage anyone who can to visit the facility, which is open to the public. In the rolling hills of far northeast Iowa, they offer events and tours of their test gardens, heirloom orchards and informational visitors center, along with groups of heirloom chickens, cows and pigs. Natural Home and Garden will be featuring Seed Savers in much greater detail next year, with a gorgeous feature filled with beautiful photos of the grounds and the full story of all the amazing work the group is doing. Until then, check out their website to request a catalog, order seeds for your garden or to become a member or supporter.