SEEDSAVER EVENT, Rescuing Heirloom Garden Plants with Kent Whealy of Seed Savers Exchange in Santa Barbara Ca

Wesley Roe and Marjorie Lakin Erickson lakinroe at
Thu Oct 5 06:47:50 PDT 2000

Pacifica Graduate Institute presents a Free Public Lecture
with cosponsors so far South Coast Permaculture Guild, Santa Barbara 
Permaculture Network, Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club

Rescuing Heirloom Garden Plants

Kent Whealy
Executive Director
Seed Savers Exchange

Thursday, November 16

7 pm to 9 pm

Victoria Hall
33 West Victoria Street
Santa Barbara

Kent Whealy's talk will focus on traditional garden crops from around the
world, followed by a discussion of some of the threats contributing to
genetic erosion worldwide.  He will also highlight some of the current
efforts to rescue these endangered genetic resources. His beautiful slide
show is filled with colorful images of heirloom vegetables and flowers,
and also the genetic preservation projects at Heritage Farm, Seed Savers
headquarters near Decorah, Iowa, where 18,000 rare vegetable varieties are
being maintained, along with 700 19th century apples and 200 hardy grapes.

Seed Savers Biographical Information:
Kent Whealy is the director of the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), a nonprofit
organization that he and his wife Diane founded in 1975. SSE is a
grassroots network of 8,000 gardeners, orchardists and plant collectors
who are maintaining heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits, grains,
flowers and herbs, which they distribute through SSE's annual
publications.  In 1986 Kent began developing Heritage Farm, a unique
educational facility near Decorah, Iowa that maintains and displays
collections of 18,000 heirloom vegetables, 700 nineteenth century apples,
200 hardy grapes and herds of Ancient White Park cattle. In 1990 Kent was
awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for his efforts to conserve genetic
resources.  Kent and Diane's work was further recognized with honorary
doctorates bestowed on them by Luther College in 1991. In 1992 Kent began
developing Seed Savers International, a network of professional plant
collectors who rescue traditional food crops in eastern countries. From
1993 through 1997, Seed Savers helped organize and provided the funds for
14 plant collecting expeditions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union, for which Kent recently  received Russia's prestigious N. I .
Vavilov Medal. Seed Savers Exchange and Heritage Farm have provided the
models for organizations and genetic preservation projects in more than 30

Seed Savers (from web site):

Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is a nonprofit tax-exempt organization that is
saving "heirloom" (handed-down) garden seeds from extinction. SSE's 8,000
members grow and distribute heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits,
grains, SSE's main focus is on heirloom varieties that gardeners and
farmers brought to North America when their families immigrated, and
traditional varieties grown by Native Americans, Mennonites and Amish.
Since SSE was founded in 1975, our members have distributed an estimated
750,000 samples of endangered seeds not available trough catalogs and
often on the verge of extinction. SSE has always been the leader of the
heirloom seed movement, and the diligent efforts of our members are making
rare heirloom varieties available to gardeners everywhere.

The seeds planted each year by gardeners and farmers are living links in
an unbroken chain reaching back into antiquity. We cannot possibly
comprehend the magnitude of the history contained in these seeds, in terms
of what has gone before and what may potentially come after our brief
involvement. Our Neolithic ancestors began domesticating plants 10,000
years ago with the simple act of replanting seeds that had been gathered
for food. Whenever gardeners begin to save their own seeds, they also
become part of this ancient tradition.

Many of the heirloom varieties that arrived with the great flood of
immigrants during the 19th century, are still being grown today by
gardeners and farmers in isolated rural areas and ethnic enclaves across
North America. Often these living heirlooms have been grown on the same
farm by different generations of a family for 150 years or more. Seeds
that are kept in the same location for that long gradually develop
resistance's to local disease and insects, and become well adapted to
specific climates and soil conditions. But deteriorating economic
conditions continue to force young people off the land in droves, and
elderly gardeners often can find no one to continue growing the family's
seeds. As the older generation passes away, unless dedicated gardeners
continue to replant their unique seeds, those outstanding strains become
extinct. Future generations will never enjoy them and invaluable genetic
characteristics are lost forever to gardeners and plant breeders.

What is in a Corn Seed?
by Marshall Chrostowksi, Horticulturalist
Pacifica's organic farm manager

What is in a corn seed? Yes, the seed does contain the corn's reproductive
potential and the promise of good food. But this small bit of dormant life
also nurtures the cultural memory of those ancient and modern farmers and
gardeners who consciously conserved and passed on the ancestors of this
seed to future generations. In honor of this seed and those folk who
handed on this seed and attending cultural traditions, Pacifica Graduate
Institute has invited Kent and Diane Whealy, the co-founders and current
directors of the Seed Savers Exchange, to present an overview of private
efforts to conserve and re-offer heirloom and traditional seeds and scions
through the Exchange and other non-governmental groups. The Whealy's have
led their nonprofit group since 1975 now centered at the heritage Farm in
Decorah, Iowa where thousands of varieties are stored and periodically
grown out to maintain the genetic lines. Also participating in this so
important conservation work are more than a thousand gardeners and farmers
growing out a few or sometimes large collections of heirloom and
traditional crops. These seed and other plat materials are re-offered
through the SSE's Seed Savers yearbook published each winter. SSE also
supports seed conservation efforts in other countries and offers these
materials as well as others through colorful catalogs in support of
worldwide genetic conservation. The organic gardens at Pacifica have also
been growing out heirloom and traditional varieties since 1991 in honor of
those ancient farmers and their cultural traditions.

Pacifica Graduate Institute is an accredited institution of higher
learning offering graduate degree programs fostering research in the
fields of psychology and mythological studies. Pacifica's graduate
programs include Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Depth
Psychology, and Mythological Studies. Each of Pacifica's graduate degree
programs emphasizes environmental, historical and cultural influences in
the fields of psychology, and mythological studies. In addition, Pacifica
offers lectures, seminars, and conferences open to the general public.
Pacifica is also the site of The Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library
and The James Hillman Collection.

For more Info contact
Jenny Benjamin
Community Relations Coordinator
(805)969-3626 ext 172
jenny at

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