The reason I am not in Ohio or Pennsylvania by now is that I wanted to visit this farm in Decorah, Iowa. The Seed Savers Exchange conserves and promotes heirloom varities of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Over 25,000 endangered varieties of plants are currently being maintained at the farm. They aren’t all necessarily growing right now, but their seeds are there. They do have an orchard and a bunch of test plots going though, and I believe only one of the test plots was washed out by the recent flooding. I learned something interesting about apples recently while reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan: apples don’t grow true from seed, so if you eat a fuji apple, say, and plant the seed, you won’t necessary grow a tree with apples resembling the one you ate. Makes me want to plant some apple seeds and see what I get! What if they’re delicious? We could have a family apple.
Assortment of apples in the orchard
In the gift shop they have a variety of books I found interesting and–most irresistible–hundreds of seed packets! I have managed so far to resist buying seeds for myself but do have a full color glossy catalog that I will read cover to cover and hopefully I can have a garden next summer, in which I will go completely overboard and plant too many things. Maybe I will plant Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon, which Victorian ladies used to carry in their pockets for their sweet perfume. Their flesh is bland, though. And maybe I will have Chet’s Italian Red Garlic, which was found growing in an abandoned garden near Tonasket, WA. And Blue Jade corn, which I saw growing at the farm. The plants are only 2-3′ tall and 3 to 6 ears grow near the ground. It is one of the only corn varieties that can be grown in a container.
Herb and flower garden
The heritage farm is more than just test plots and gift shop, too. They have a couple hiking trails and they are keeping a herd of Ancient White Park Cattle, a rare breed from the British Isles.
What a great visit! Afterward we walked around downtown Decorah (a town where people still sit on their front porches) for a little while and I went to the food co-op hoping to find avocadoes and cilantro. I have a taste for tacos but no luck finding those ingredients. I did find chipotle hummus and really delicious green beans. Now I am settling in to read my seed catalog, though I wonder if I should save it for winter.