In 1975, Diane Ott Whealy received a very special gift from her ailing grandfather: a container of heirloom seeds for morning glory flowers and German Pink tomatoes. The seeds, brought to America by Diane's great grandparents when they immigrated from Bavaria to Iowa in the 1870's, were the catalyst for the creation of Seed Savers Exchange- a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and promoting heirloom vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs. Today, Seed Savers is the largest non-governmental seed-bank of its kind in North America.
Seed Savers is visited by thousands of people each year from all over the world to see this 850-acre farm, home to more than 25,000 endangered vegetable varieties. It's hard to imagine, but they have 6,200 varieties of tomatoes, 2,400 peppers, and thousands of lettuces, squash, peas, beans and apples. Come check out the farm animals, an interpretive trail system and the Lillian Goldman Visitor Center that received more than $1 million renovation in 2007.
Much of the farm is open to the public and visitors are encouraged to stop in and learn about seed preservation- did you know that with proper storage techniques seeds can stay viable for decades? Hike the farm's wooded trails, explore the demonstration gardens and wander the historic orchard where hundreds of different varieties of 19th century apples are on display.
You will find many colors, sizes, textures and histories of the heirloom fruit and vegetables to be a delightful surprise. And if names like Red Leprechaun Lettuce, Hollybrook Luscious Melon and Moon & Stars Watermelon don't win you over their rich taste certainly will. Add some color to your garden and to your plate! You can purchase your own heirloom seeds at the Lilian Goldman Visitor or through the online catalog.