The Milkweed Diaries

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seed-Saver's Heaven

Bean seeds changing hands at the Seed Swap.

Last week, CF and I were up in Charlottesville, VA for the annual Heritage Harvest Festival sponsored by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Monticello.

Friday we spent time at the Tufton Farm, where the Center for Historic Plants does its amazing work. Then we took a seed-saving tour through the vegetable, herb, and flower gardens at Monticello, where we had a chance to harvest and take home seeds from heirloom varieties growing there.

Saturday we went to workshops with some of my seed saving heroes (a talk on saving seeds from heirloom plants by William Woys Weaver being the highlight for me) and communed with gardeners, seed savers, plant-lovers, garden nerds, and others of our ilk.

The big seed swap on Saturday was amazing, and worth the trip in itself. Like most seed swaps I've participated in, it was more of a gift economy than a swapping or bartering economy. There were some extraordinarily generous big-time seed savers there, like Rodger Winn (at left in the photo above), who grows dozens of heirloom beans for seed and had a whole table filled with beans for sharing. I brought Hibiscus sabdariffa (the red zinger hibiscus) and Calendula seeds to offer, and we came home with a big pile of little envelopes full of future vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

It was a really wonderful event--I'm posting a few more photos here to give more of a sense of it, and I have a slideshow up on Picasa with lots more photos as well. The festival happens every year...maybe I'll see you there in 2010!

View of the vegetable garden at Monticello

Pat Brodowski, the vegegable gardener at Monticello scooping out tomato seeds . . .

. . .and discussing saving bean seeds.

Cleome and Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate at Monticello

Hyacinth bean arbor at Monticello

Debbie Donley, the Monticello flower gardener, talking flowers and seeds.

Cherry tomatoes for sale at the festival

The gift economy in action.

Some of the seeds we brought home. . .

. . .and some more!

More of my photos from the festivities are on Picasa.


Dana said...

Hey Beth. I was just at Montecello labor day weekend, and, truth be told, I snagged as many seeds as I could from the gardens there. I also ate as many figs as I could while I strolled- which could have contributed to my puking my brains out later that night (well that and crabcakes and wine and champagne and bourbon...) But the gardens were fun!

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

Thanks for the post! We went to Monticello years ago and loved it, but had no idea there was an annual seed swap. I'll put it on my calendar for next year. What's the date?

Milkweed said...

Jack, the Heritage Harvest Festival is around the same time every year -- if you check on the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange website, they usually post the dates by the time their winter/spring catalog comes out!

Dana, I blame the crabcakes.