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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our Visit to the Seed Savers Heritage Farm

What a wonderful weekend we had in Decorah, Iowa!  Our good friend, Gretchen, grew up there, and we've enjoyed her enthusiasm and love for her hometown in dozens of conversations throughout the years. Since Andy and I began gardening in 2007, we have purchased our seeds from a non-profit organization called Seed Savers Exchange,which is also located in Decorah. Each January, the new seed catalog arrives and invites viewers to buy seeds (of course) and come visit Heritage Farm. Biannually in July, Greg Brown visits for a Benefit Concert for the farm. The event's advertisement pictures always look ideal, and wow- ideal it is!

Decorah itself is a little bubble of bliss, and we shopped around on its downtown streets, ate a delicious meal at Rubaiyat, devoured breakfast burritos and iced coffees at Magpies, visited the Wildberry Winery and frequented the Oneota Co-op several times. For the purpose of this post though, Seed Savers gets all the attention. My expectations for experiences seem to always exceed reality -- but not in this case. I fell in love upon pulling into the driveway. Like kids in the middle of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, Andy and I rushed around Seed Savers Heritage Farm with no direction, gawking at flowers and vegetables and trellises and farm animals. It took us a good solid hour before we could explore anything with any sort of organization or direction.

In the front lawn, a variety of  flowers and vegetables reside. If you're a gardener, it's difficult to pry yourself away. Any idealism I had lost with Madison's lack of rain was rejuvenated by the bursting colors and buzzing bees in which I delighted during this visit. I made several trips into the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center to purchase flower seeds for next year. I also got a bit camera happy.

Love-in-a-Mist "Oxford Blue" (bought some seeds!)

Love Lies Bleeding

Spider Flower

A bed of delectables

In the back, you can visit Diane's garden. Diane Ott Whealy is a co-founder of SSE, and she designed a magical garden of flowers and vegetables.

Amaranth, corn, and flowers...hoping to do something similar in our yard
Behind that is the children's garden with willow huts and fences.

And the Heritage Farm even has rare breeds of farm animals. The Ancient White Park Cattle are a sight to behold. Through conversations with some of the Seed Savers staff and from information on the website, I learned that these white cattle traversed on the English Isles since before Christ was born. Now, there are only 800 left, and about 80 of those reside at Seed Saver's Heritage Farm.

Other farm animal sightings included heritage breed ducks, geese, chickens, and turkey. We're told that in the Historic Orchard, there are also pigs, but we didn't have the chance to check the orchard out.

The best thing about Seed Savers Exchange is that the 37-year-old organization's mission is to protect and share the diversity of heirloom seeds and plants.With Seed Saver's leadership, gardeners around the world are able to partake in nature's wide variety of food and flowers and make sure that such variety is here to stay. With large corporations controlling much of what we eat and grow, Seed Savers Exchange and organizations like it are essential to protecting all that the world has to offer.

Greg Brown, accompanied by Bo Ramsey, took time in between songs to discuss the importance of local food and seed diversity. For foodies/gardeners such as us, the setting couldn't have been more ideal: folk music (some of it about food), sunsets and hills, colorful gardens, kind/like-minded was truly wonderful.

And my garden dreams are restored! Look for future posts regarding obtaining ducks (I think I have Andy convinced!), weaving willow fences and shade structures for the chickens, growing flowers and more flowers, saving seeds, and doing more edible landscaping.

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