Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Seed Savers Exchange visit

I figured while I was in Iowa (for the International Master Gardener Conference) I should visit Seed Savers Exchange, an organization I hold in high regard. This idea of proximity only makes sense in the context of my drive through large portions of the Midwest, because it took me about 6 1/2 hours, including short stops, to drive from Council Bluffs to Spillville, where I had a B&B booked. Then the next day I drove fifteen minutes or so further on to north of Decorah, where SSE has their farm.

SSE promotes and practices the saving of history: heirloom vegetables, flowers, fruits, animals, and whatever else comes their way. The organization is actually spread throughout the country and the world, and I could have visited it by finding one of my most local Seed Exchange members, someone who's listed in SSE's annual directory of seed savers offering heritage seed for sale. Or I suppose really SSE is as close as my own garden, since I've bought seeds from them and grown them out. I am a member of SSE, but I don't list seeds - generally I only save enough to give out locally. Members get the big directory (as opposed to the smaller publicly-available catalog, which has quite enough in it for most people really) and discounts on merchandise.

Anyway, local is important, but a national headquarters has a vibe, so I went. Aside from the snazzy visitor's center, SSE HQ is a working farm, with seed preservation gardens tucked away in corners for less contamination by foreign pollens. I didn't get to those gardens on this visit (some of the trails were out, due to summer flooding), but I did manage quite a hike after seeing the demonstration and trial gardens close to the parking area. Photos below.

View of Diversity Garden and buildings
Sorghum in trial garden
Spectacular cleome
Diane's Garden, with sun effect
View through Diane's Garden to barn
Ducks and geese
Heirloom cattle
The cattle (Ancient White Park, described here) were very curious about me as I walked a 3 3/4 mile loop around their pasture. It was good to stretch my legs a bit before driving the rest of the day (all the way to Indiana, yikes).

I've been home almost two days now - it's good to be back and not driving so much! Not much gardening in sight immediately as we've just had a big rain front go through and it looks like a hurricane will be passing by this weekend, but at least the plants are finally getting watered? It never rains but it pours, yup.

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