Saving seeds saves our heritage
When European immigrants made their passage to America, many of them had seeds sewn into the hem of their clothing in order to bring a part of home with them. It is possible the plants produced by those seeds still exist today thanks to the art of seed saving.
Inspired by the heritage and history of the Stulting house, the birthplace of Pearl S. Buck, the Good Earth Gardeners have resumed the tradition of seed saving.
Buckﾒs grandparents, the Stultings, built the house she was born in and her grandmother, Johanna, had an herb garden near the kitchen. Johanna learned about the healing properties of herbs from the old country and taught herbal lore to her daughter, Caroline, who was Buckﾒs mother. Caroline took her knowledge of medicinal herbs to China where she passed it on to the peasants.
ﾓYou could say the first ﾑstone in the pathﾒ to the seed savers workshop was the idea to bring back Johannaﾒs herb garden two years ago,ﾔ Ginger Must said. ﾓVolunteers brought herbs and planted them where we thought her herb garden was.ﾔ
Later that year, Must said several seasoned gardeners from the Hillsboro area asked for permission to build a veggie garden close to the herbs.
ﾓYou could clearly see the impression where the Stulting garden had been,ﾔ Must said.
The volunteers soon became the Good Earth Gardeners, named for the book that made Pearl S. Buck famous.
ﾓImmediately, we volunteer gardeners got the idea to grow as many heirloom plants as possible,ﾔ Must said. ﾓ[We] realized saving seeds from our region gives us plants that have adapted well to our length of days, frost states and night temperatures. We also discussed how folks planted veggies, flowers, berries, fruit trees and herbs all near each other to attract bees and other pollinators like back in the old days.ﾔ
With their goal in place, Good Earth Gardeners partnered with Grow Appalachia to offer an heirloom seed workshop at the Sydenstricker House, the log house beside the Buck Birthplace.
ﾓThis workshop was so successful, we realized we ought to have a follow-up workshop on how to actually start seeds,ﾔ Must said. ﾓThis winter, Erica Marks, who administers the Grow Appalachia program, started a Facebook page called ﾑGarden Geekery.ﾒ Folks who visited the page started asking about a seed saver exchange so Good Earth Gardeners decided to have another workshop with Sam and Susan Arbogast, Ann Groves, Charlotta Riley, Eveyln Lewis and myself presenting.ﾔ
At the second workshop, attendees were provided handbooks with tips on selecting open-pollinated varieties of plants, how to start good seedlings, how to select which mother plant to save seeds from, how to harvest seeds and how to store seeds properly. The group also traded seeds, including some local heirloom seeds from Eldridge McCombﾒs farm.
Must said the group is interested in hearing from anyone in the county who may have heirloom seeds and is interested in sharing those seeds.
ﾓThe really important thing that came out of this workshop is the importance of identifying and saving our local heirloom seeds,ﾔ she said. ﾓAs our older residents pass away, many wonderful seeds have been lost, forgotten in root cellars and discarded from pantries.ﾔ
If kept properly, heirloom seeds could keep for decades and keep history alive with their growth.
ﾓThese seeds can represent a lifetime of work,ﾔ Must said. ﾓFewer and fewer young people are gardening these days. Heirloom seeds of this type are specially suited and adapted to our local climate. They are treasures we donﾒt want to lose.ﾔ
Must said the group will continue to have seed swaps every year and they plan to continue having workshops as demand calls for them.
ﾓSeed saving awakens a nostalgia in people,ﾔ she said.
Those interested in the seed saving program or who have heirloom seeds they want to share may contact Must at 304-653-4223, or contact Erica Marks or Rebecca Clayton.