Lash to discuss Heirloom Seed Project

Dec 21, 2013
Neil Lash will discuss Medomak Valley High School's Heirloom Seed Project Thursday, Jan. 9, at Camden Public Library.

Camden — Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro has the distinction of being the oldest high school seed saving program in the United States.

It was co-founded by Medomak Valley High School teachers Neil Lash and Jon Thurston in 1991.

Lash will give a talk on the school’s Heirloom Seed Project Thursday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Camden Public Library, as part of the library’s Green Growing January series of speakers on sustainability and environmental issues.

Lash will also help the library kick off a Seed Library program at the library. Lash’s slide talk presentation will highlight important tips to consider in beginning a personal seed saving collection, including isolation distances, inbreeding depression, and drying/storing seeds.

“We would like to locate as many locally grown, open-pollinated seeds as possible,” said Lash of the Heirloom Seed Project in a news release. “Many of our seeds have been passed down from generation to generation and provide a wealth of information, memories, and history. We want to collect, document, and share these memories before they are lost and forgotten. In several cases, people who have provided us with family seeds during the past 14 years have passed away. If the effort had not been made to save and catalog these seeds, they would be a lost memory from the old days.

“Secondly, and increasingly more important, is the act of saving seeds to promote biodiversity. The unique genetic makeup of these seeds is the result of forces and situations that will never again be duplicated. Whatever interesting qualities in the plant’s taste, aesthetics, disease resistance, or ability to grow in Midcoast Maine will be lost if the seeds are not passed on to others to perpetuate.” Medomak Valley High School’s Heirloom Seed Project is in constant pursuit of seed with historic provenance.

This year the project grew four plants featured in the National Academy of Science Press book, "Lost Crops of the Incas," along with Choctaw sweet potato squash which is linked to Lash’s ancestors. The Heirloom Seed Project also maintains a living-history arboretum of 33 trees which includes trees from Monticello, the battlefields of Antietam and Gettysburg, and most recently a tree from the historic Isaac Reed mansion in Waldoboro, where Bertha Smouse in 1820 designed the Maine State Seal.

Since 1991 the focus of the Heirloom Seed Project has been collecting, growing, and disseminating historical and genetically significant seeds and plants. The project’s seeds have been sent to 43 states and eight countries, 13 living history museums, and several international research facilities. For the past several years the project has been growing ancient indigenous landrace Biblical wheat. This wheat is on the verge of extinction, as 90 percent of Israel’s wheat is imported from the U.S. One of the most historical wheat seeds they offer is Hourani, an indigenous durum variety originally found in the storage vases of Masada by the Israeli archeologist Yigal Yadin. Hourani is the roasted spring wheat mentioned in Leviticus 2:14.

The program has a huge online catalog of seeds available at

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