Seed saver challenges locals
Neil Lash was at last week’s Historical Society meeting and issued a challenge to all of us to locate a special seed that is unique to this area. It is the “Johnston bean,” and according to an elderly informant of Lash’s, it is the finest baking bean anywhere in the region. If we can locate this bean, Lash’s Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School will make sure it’s documented, preserved, and its provenance recorded. Neil Lash co-founded the Heirloom Seed Project back in 1991 with Jon Thurston. It’s the oldest and most comprehensive seed program in the country and exchanges seeds with many other programs in 43 states, eight countries, 15 living history museums, and several international research facilities including Seed Savers Exchange. Lash uses his knowledge to make the program interdisciplinary and highlights the need to preserve genetic diversity.
Lash’s “lumper” tells a story
Lash brought three plants to the meeting — a “Lumper” Irish Potato, and two types of wheat. One of the wheats is a descendant of the ancient wheat mentioned in Genesis 18 of the Bible. The other wheat is from Masada, a fortress build for Herod the Great in ancient Israel. He used these plants to illustrate the amazing staying power of open-pollinated seeds and the intriguing histories that heirloom seeds tell. The “lumper” potato tells another story.
This potato had become the favorite of growers and was essentially the only variety cultivated in 19th-century Ireland. Potatoes were the mainstay of the Irish diet so that when a blight attacked the crop (1845 -1852) more than 1 million people starved to death. An Gorta Mór — this Great Famine — happened because of the “mono-culture” where only one crop was grown. With no alternative (blight-resistant) variety to fall back on, the food supply collapsed. Lash explains that maintaining bio-diversity (biological variety) is the way to avoid such tragedies. In nature, certain open-pollinated plants will survive diseases and continue the species in stronger, more reliable forms.
The Heirloom Seed Project is on the campus of MVHS and welcomes visitors to the gardens and arboretum on school days. Their catalog is online at: sites.google.com/a/ msad40.org/mvhs-heirloom-seed-catalog.
Princess and the Pea
Lots of appreciation goes out to everyone at Prescott Memorial School and the Children’s Stage Adventures project for another delightful musical production. The kids, the PTG, and the entire school work hard to give students this enrichment activity and it turns out to enrich all of us who attend, too. Lots of fun and photo ops! Thanks!
Grange leader thanks all
Mildred Melgard, Master of Evening Star Grange, wants to thank all who came out to support the Grange breakfast on May 17. It was their best turnout ever. A special thanks to Sue Frank of Dog Patch Farms who donated the sausage, bacon and eggs! Mildred mentions that Sue is one of the vendors you will find at the Farmer's Market held at the Grange Hall every Saturday morning.