The Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School has been honored with a national Award of Excellence from National Garden Clubs Inc., at the organization’s 88th national convention in Richmond, Va.

Nominated by The Garden Club Federation of Maine Inc., the Heirloom Seed Project, mvheirloomseedproject.com, is the oldest, and one of the largest, school-based seed-saving programs in the United States. The project took root in 1991, stemming from a popular school horticulture class that began in the early 1970s.

“The Heirloom Seed Project was created to teach students how to grow, collect and save heirloom seeds, pass down history to the next generation, preserve and promote the biodiversity of open-pollinated seeds and learn how to be self-sufficient by producing their own food for themselves and in their community,” said Neil Lash, director, Heirloom Seed Project. Nearly 30 students participate each year on the project.

The Heirloom Seed Project is situated on two acres on the grounds of Medomak Valley High School. It includes two greenhouses, a seed bank of more than 800 varieties of heirloom seeds collected from local, national and international sources, an online seed exchange catalog developed and managed by students that provides seeds to people globally, an onsite “living history” tree arboretum, a collection of 70 heirloom hosta plants and the newest addition – a collection of endangered heritage-breed chickens. In 2015, the project received a $20,000 grant from Seeds of Change, an organic seed and food company.

The Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School is one of three Award of Excellence recipients recognized this year by the St. Louis-based National Garden Clubs Inc. “Each year, NGC’s Award of Excellence recognizes exceptional individuals, organizations or institutions that have made significant contributions to their communities in such areas as environmental and civic responsibility, conservation or community beautification through gardening projects,” said Nancy Hargroves, president, National Garden Clubs Inc.