After work on Friday, September 26th, 2014 I drove 6.5 hours to Decorah, Iowa so that I could attend the ‘Seed Savers Exchange’ Fall Harvest School. It was a long drive, but very well worth it. The one-day workshop promised lessons on seed saving, fall gardening, canning, and fermentation.
A Beautiful Drive
Unfortunately darkness had descended so I was unable to fully appreciate the scenery of my drive, nor did I get to enjoy the transition from the flat plains of southeast Nebraska to the glorious rolling hills and gentle mountains that awaited near Minnesota.
Heaven on Earth
‘Heritage Farm’ is beyond beautiful and is the headquarters of ‘Seed Savers Exchange’. Located six miles north of Decorah, Iowa, the farm sits on 890 acres and boasts itself (according to the website) a “living museum of historic varieties”. Thousands of heirlooms are grown organically on-site in the Preservation Gardens along with a Historic Orchard home to many near-extinct apple and grape varieties. The farm is one of only two locations in North America where Ancient White Park Cattle may be seen. Surrounded by stately cliffs and enormous pines, the rustic red barn and accompanying gardens looks a lot like paradise.
A Full Day of Lessons
The Fall Workshop started bright and early with visitors from all over crowded in and around the ‘Lillian Goldman Visitors Center’. Attendees were divided into smaller groups and the day’s schedule was broken down accordingly.
The first class I attended was on fermentation, a subject I knew absolutely nothing about. The lecturing nutritionist shared recipes for homemade coleslaw, fermented beet juice, and many tips and tricks.
The second class was on seed saving. Attendees were taken to the nearby teaching gardens, where we were instructed on how to harvest, save, and store seeds from beans, peas, melon, squash, and tomatoes. We were given free-reign of the teaching gardens and allowed to harvest some seeds at-will. Despite the gardening season obviously winding down and winter soon approaching, the teaching gardens were still gorgeous and I was exposed to so many new varieties of both flower and vegetable that I had never seen nor heard of before. I went home with a few Radish and Dill seeds, some yellow Drumstick, Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppy, and gorgeous burgundy Amaranth seeds, which can be enjoyed as both a cereal grain and as a garden ornamental.
Following lunch were classes on canning/food preservation and preparing the fall garden for the following spring. Visitors saw demonstrations of proper bed clean-up and division of perennials, and discussed the use of nutrient-enriching cover crops.
Following the classes, this blogger lingered to talk with fellow attendees and like-minded gardeners, and patronized the ‘Visitors Center’ where all 2014 seed packets were on sale. I somewhat maintained restraint and stuck to my shopping list, but did allow for several added varieties (They were on sale!) that I had fallen in love with on-site, which were displayed in the gardens. I could not leave without having purchased seeds for the brilliant, tall ‘Purple Verbena’ that I had seen covered by masses of butterflies, nor could I leave without the ‘Black-Eyed Susan Vine’ and the prolific ‘Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden Gate’, which will add an abundance of charm and cheery pink color to my front flower garden this coming season.
This blogger urges anyone able to visit the ‘Seed Savers Exchange-Heritage Farm’ to do so. I left awed by the majestic beauty, inspired by the bountiful gardens, and determined to practice the art of seed saving as I was taught on that day.
Please visit http://www.seedsavers.org/About-Us/Heritage-Farm/ to learn more!