Warm Wishes from Seed Savers Exchange
Kathryn Gilbery, Exchange and Outreach Coordinator
Seed Savers Exchange was thrilled to welcome OFGA board members and staff to our Heritage Farm just before Thanksgiving. We discussed our mutual interest in supporting fruit growers through community connections and resources. We are thankful to OFGA for kindly sharing our mission with this network in the certainty that we can all benefit from new connections, support, and friendship.
If you have never visited Heritage Farm, the headquarters of Seed Savers Exchange, we hope you’ll schedule a trip soon. The 890 acre farm is nestled in the northeast corner of Iowa, known as the Driftless Region. Here our staff maintain a seed bank collection containing over 20,000 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, grains, and flowers that have been entrusted to us from donors spanning the United States. Since our founding in 1975, SSE has had a particular interest in curating heirloom and historic varieties with the understanding that food connects us to our family and history in a way that nothing else can.
Being fruit enthusiasts, you will certainly be interested in our two apple orchards, the first of which was established in 1990 by OFGA member, David Sliwa, and our current Orchard Manager, Lindsay Lee. A second orchard was planted in 2013 as we have continued to expand our collection which now includes 1,200 varieties of apples. Both orchards are open to the public, who are welcome to wander the orchard, tasting fruit as it ripens each fall and marvel at the diversity and splendor of this iconic crop.
Aspirations for our orchards abound and we have a number of plans in place to increase the vitality, visibility, and opportunity for interaction with the orchard. This past fall, we installed the first posts for a new high density trellis system that we hope to complete in 2020. This grand project was undertaken to ensure that we have the space and capacity to maintain two trees of each variety in our collection. We also look forward to the ease with which trellising will allow us to harvest and distribute scionwood, which we offer through the Exchange, our gardener-to-gardener seed sharing platform.
Additional plans in motion include documenting the location of every tree, scaling up our distribution, and creating an Orchard Advisory Council.
Intrigued? Continue reading for some ways you can engage with SSE and our mission.
Access Apples from the Historic Orchard
Order scionwood to graft your own trees by visiting the Exchange (https://exchange.seedsavers.org). Requests to SSE Heritage Farm must be placed by February 28. We have over 200 varieties available now, but are updating our inventory and documentation in order to share even more of our collection with you.
Participate in the Exchange
In addition to serving as the source for scionwood from our orchard, the Exchange is also a free seed sharing platform featuring nearly 20,000 listings from gardeners across the US, Canada, and beyond. You can join this community of stewards by requesting something new for your garden or orchard or, better yet, start offering your own scions, seeds, or other plant material. Sharing your varieties allows them to be stewarded in more places by more people, thereby increasing their resilience.
Join Our Events at Heritage Farm
Heritage Farm hosts events throughout the year. Visit www.seedsavers.org/events to view our full calendar. Additionally, visitors are welcome to explore our gardens, hiking trails, and orchard year round. Here are a few events you may be interested in:
Apple Grafting Workshop, March 20, 21, and April 3:
A half-day workshop for beginner apple propagation and orchard care. Take home three grafted trees.
Full Day Apple Grafting & Orchard School, April 4: This full-day apple grafting and orchard school includes an in-depth look at pruning and orchard care, soil health, and pest management; an orchard tour; and a scionwood swap. Take home six grafted trees.
Conference & Campout, July 17-18:
Celebrate our connection to food, community, seeds, and gardening at this annual event. Friday features tours, workshops, a potluck, and seed swap. Saturday features speakers, tours, workshops, and a barn dance.
Get in Touch
We hope you’ll find value in the work and resources that SSE provides. Additionally, we are also looking for assistance with our orchard. If you have expertise around high density orchard practices, are interested in offering your attention in the orchard or at an event, or have other gifts or services to share, please be in touch. For questions about the Heritage Orchard, contact Lindsay Lee, Orchard Manager, for questions about the Exchange or visiting SSE, contact Kathryn Gilbery, Exchange and Outreach Coordinator (contact information available through OFGA).
Wishing you a warm and cheery winter,
Lindsay and Kathryn
About Seed Savers Exchange
Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit dedicated to conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.