Heritage Farm, the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) headquarters, is nestled into a little valley amidst rolling Iowa cornfields. This was the 35th anniversary of Seed Savers and the 30th anniversary of the annual Campout. So the valley was filled not only with glorious gardens but also with, as Diane Ott Whealy—the cofounder—calls them, “diverse seedy characters.” Needless to say, I fit right in.
The day was brimming with great workshops, yummy food, happy shopping, lying around trying to stay cool in the scorching heat, and a book signing, where I got to sign books alongside the Grand Duchesses of Vegetables in America: Rosalind Creasy, who began the Edible Gardening trend with her book in the early 1980s; Ethne Clarke, editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine and friend to all; Amy Goldman, chairman of Seed Savers, sculptor, and author of amazing books on tomatoes, squash, and melons; and Deborah Madison, vegetarian cookbook author extraordinaire.
I gave my keynote speech as the sky turned dark, after listening to amazing stories from Diane about how it all began—the first campout had 12 people (some of whom had returned for this one). Over the years SSE grew from being housed entirely in the Whealys’ home to being located on a 890-acre farm. Together with their members, they have saved thousands and thousands of heirloom seeds and are now the largest nongovernmental seed bank in America. What I had long forgotten was that my father made the initial $5,000 donation that gave them their start, so it seemed especially sweet to be there on their anniversary and feel like I was a part of his life again. I also was happy to be there with my youngest daughter (who had a blast!) because I remembered him taking me to many similar types of events and farms all over the country.
As I said in my speech, it all starts with seeds—whether it’s life (our children), vegetables, flowers, or ideas. And it’s our job to nurture, protect, water, and help all the seeds grow. But for all the seriousness of the lectures and discussions, the highlight had to be the barn dance after my talk. In a beautiful old barn, my husband, our 3-year-old, and I learned to barn dance for the first time. It was terrific, sweaty fun. We were horrible at it, and I got dizzy. But it reminded me, as we went from partner to partner (each one having different proficiencies and a different feel), how we are all linked and need to work together to make everything turn out all right.
And if we laugh and dance along the way, all the better.
Plant seeds and Demand Organic!