Heirloom vegetables are varieties that are grown, selected, saved, named, and shared by farmers and gardeners. In each region of the world, one can find seed-savers and plant breeders continuing the tradition of preserving and enhancing varieties of vegetables, fruits, grains, flowers, and even livestock.
In 2007, we teamed up with the Appalachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy (AHSC), a non-profit network of plant enthusiasts. Its function was to:
- Provide a means for people to exchange information about collecting, raising, and preserving the heirloom and open pollinated crop plants of the mountain South.
- Facilitate the sharing of heirloom seeds among members.
- Establish seed banks of Appalachian heirloom crops.
- Record the history, anecdotal evidence, and background of heirloom varieties.
- Provide on-going education about heirlooms, crop diversity, and sustainable agricultural practices.
Unfortunately, the AHSC dissolved in 2008, and this important work is now being carried out by smaller projects like this one at Kentucky State University.
Seed-Saving at the Kentucky State University Research and Demonstration Farm
|Several varieties of tomatoes, beans, cowpeas, cucumbers and okra were donated by the AHSC for our seed-saving plot at the KSU Farm. We have grown each variety with adequate distance and/or barriers around it to discourage cross-pollination between varieties, and enough plants of each variety were grown to select pure, healthy seed. Half of the seed will be donated back to the AHSC for their living seed bank, while is available for future seed-saving efforts and/or sharing with gardeners in the area.||
Here are just a few of the heirloom varieties we've grown:
Rose Beauty Tomato: grown in the 1920's in the Estill/Jackson County area. A regular-leaf, indeterminant plant that yields large yellow/rose fruit.
Depp's Pink Firefly Tomato: a family heirloom, circa 1890, from Glasgow, Kentucky. A potato-leaf, indeterminant plant with very large reddish-pink fruits with flecking.
Jimmy's White Cucumber: from a gentleman in Pennsylvania who traces them back three generations to his people in Kentucky around 1900. A full-sized white cuke.
- Barne's Mountain Cornfield Bean: a snap pole bean from the Barnes Mountain area of Estill County. Collected by Ott Mcmaine more that 25 years ago from George Flannery of West Irvine.
- Jimmy T Okra: grown by James T. Morris in the Elizabethtown area in the 1940-50's, and inherited by his daughter, Lisa Huffmann. A Unique variety that throws two pod types, one fluted and the other smooth.
- Myrtles' Pea (Cowpea): grown by Leander Johnson at least 100 years ago, in the Right Beaver Creek area of Knott County, Kentucky.
2008 Tomato Yields
Here is some yield information from four varieties of tomatoes we grew this year. Ten plants of each variety yielded the following results:
|Variety||Total Weight of Harvest (lb)||Average Weight of Fruits (oz)|
|Depp's Firefly Pink Tomato||72||0.83|
|Rose Beauty Tomato||105.5||0.86|
|Old Kentucky Tomato||81||0.80|
|Pike County Tomato||52.5||0.78|
Fall 2008: Garlic
A small portion of the heirloom plot was planted with three local garlic varieties:
- Gravel Switch: This garlic has been grown for over twenty years by John and Susan Brutto, and was collected and donated by Jake Schmitz.
- Music: This garlic is from Blue Moon farms, who grow several varieties of garlic in Richmond, Kentucky. It was obtained through a distributor, the Good Foods Cooperative Grocery, in Lexington, Kentucky.
- Lemley's White: This is a "new" heirloom grown and donated (via the Franklin County Farmer's Market) by Connie Lemley of Cedar Ring Farms.
Spring 2009: Looking Ahead
The heirloom project is expanding in size. Our plot from 2007-08 has been planted with spring oats and field peas...laid to rest in a cover crop. The new plot has room for longer rows of tomatoes, to ensure purer seed. We also have room to incorporate three new tomatoes collected from gardeners in Indiana.
If you have an heirloom variety you would like to share/preserve, please be in touch!
For more information contact:
Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, Inc. The Center grows many heirloom beans and tomatoes, offering some for sale, while sharing information about farming and seed-saving to convey that "The heirloom market is a flower in the bud stage, just waiting to blossom. They also facilitate a seed-exchange every year.
Seed Saver's Exchange This non-profit is preserving hundreds of heirlooms on their 890-acre farm in Iowa.
The Save Our Seed Project This project is a group of 10 partners who work with southeast farmers and extension agents in the production of organic and heirloom seed.
Last updated April 17, 2009