I got home this morning after my train trip around Europe. A very good experience apart from last night sitting up on the train from Oslo -Trondheim (the sleeper was sold out). I did 22 longer train journeys and all apart from one were on time. The one that wasn’t on time was only 10 minutes delayed and it turned out that the connection was the same train, so it had no consequence! I didn’t once think it was a drag and used the time productively—-or sleeping! I visited my parents in England (Chandlers Ford) and did 4 talks in Austria for the University of Graz, Langenloiser Staudentage (over 200 landscape architects, nursery owners and gardeners on perennial vegetables), Langenloiser Gehölztage (on woody edibles…aka wedibles!) and Arche Noah in Schiltern, also on woody edibles as they are planning to plant a forest garden! On the way home I gave a talk on edimentals to Nesodden gardening club…in the same building as my grandson goes to kindergarten…and also gave a talk at NIBIO in Ås on Alliums.
(For a Norwegian version of this article, see KVANNs Nyhetsbrev #12: https://kvann.no/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/KVANNs-Nyhetsbrev_12_fin.pdf)
I toured eastern and mid-west USA for 3 weeks in September / October 2019, on the back of being invited to the Mid-West Wild Harvest Festival in Wisconsin where I gave the keynote speech as well as a couple of classes. One of many highlights was a visit to Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) on September 26, just outside the small town of Decorah, IA, just an hour’s drive from the festival.
Decorah has become a centre of Norwegian-American culture. This originates from a large number of Norwegian settlements that started in the 1850s. Every July, Decorah also hosts the Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture. Decorah is also home to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the largest museum in the country devoted to a single immigrant group. Until 1972, one of the largest Norwegian-language newspapers in the nation was published there, the Decorah Posten. I have long been a member of the Seed Savers Exchange, which is KVANN’s biggest inspiration, an organization that started as early as 1975 to take care of heirloom plants. Since then, SSE has published a yearbook every year. In the SSE Yearbook you will find, in 2013, as many as 12500 varieties of vegetables on offer over 500 pages of small print. This is real diversity. SSE was founded by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy after Diane bequeathed the seeds of two heirloom plants that her great-grandfather had brought to the United States from Bavaria in 1870!
I rented a car from Madison and drove through a dull monotonous landscape of almost exclusively arable land with ripe corn and soyabeans. The contrast was therefore remarkable arriving at Heritage Farm, where Seed Savers Exchange is located, and where one can find perhaps the largest vegetable variety in the world? They grow here over 1000 varieties of seeds each year and at the same time conserve the nature of the wooded river valley conservation area. The farm was larger than I expected, at 390 ha, but it is necessary to be able to isolate the vegetables far enough apart to minimise the danger of crossing in seed production!
I was really made to feel welcome by the staff of the Seed Savers Exchange and especially by the brand new executive director, Emily Rose Haga, who has long experience in vegetable breeding, and especially tomato, pepper and lettuce varieties, at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine since 2012.
In the morning I made a presentation to the staff of about KVANN and a little about my work with perennial vegetables which I talked more about in my evening talk (more below)!
Afterwards, I was given a tour of the facilities with Facilities Manager Jim Edrington who drove me around the farm to see the isolation areas for seed production, nature conservation areas, a collection of historic fruits and pastures with Ancient White Park Cattle (see http: //blog.seedsavers .com / blog / ancient-white park cattle-new-babies). Below is a picture gallery from my visit and at the bottom more about my evening talk in Decorah.
After visiting Seed Savers Exchange, I was given a tour of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah with the director before my lecture on perennial vegetables co-organized by the Seed Savers Exchange. What is missing from the museum is obviously a collection of Norwegian vegetables!
The lecture was in Vesterheim’s Gathering Room, where the administrative part is located, an amazing room decorated by Sigmund Årseth’s murals (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWNQe3NmDLY) and to my delight it was full of people from SeedSavers Exchange and other interested parties.I even met the founder of Seed Savers Diane Ott Whealy, a great honour (she gave me a copy of her book) and also David Cavagnaro, Heritage Farm’s first “farm manager” and known from the Pepperfield Project (see http://www.pepperfieldproject.org). Sadly I wasn’t aware who I was taking to at the time! Probably the most knowledgeable group I have had the privilege togive a lecture for!
Many thanks to Amy Antonucci and Seacoast Permaculture for arranging the second of my two part Around the World in 80 plants talks in Portsmouth, NH on Friday night, 4th October (The Mediterannean to New England via Portsmouth, UK)! Great venue, food and folk (potluck before the talk). It felt like coming home to Hampshire, UK, listening to folks talking to each other at the potluck! “I’m from Winchester….Exeter…..etc.”
Thanks also to Becca Hedlund for the accommodation! Thanks also to Greg Martin (and Aaron Parker) who came to both talks! I sent both of them seed of Hablitzia tamnoides 10 years ago in 2009, only beaten by Jonathan Bates and Eric Toensmeier!
The Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth, NH:
Amy Antonucci and Aaron Parker did the introduction:
Hablitzia tamnoides thrives at Edgewood Nursery, Aaron Parker’s place!
A great evening at the Resilience Hub in Portland, Maine after a tour of Aaron Parker’s Edgewood Nursery where I’m staying! Possibly the best stocked edible perennial nursery that I’ve visited! More on this when I return!
Aaron was one of the first I sent seed of Hablitzia to in North America early in 2009, after Jonathan Bates (Eric Toensmeier’s partner at Holyoke). Hablitzia is now a best seller at the nursery and Aaron told me is also grown commercially in Maine, particularly valuable due to the early spring harvest! Another person I sent seed to in 2009, Greg Martin was also there last night!
Thanks also to Aaron for setting up my tour of New England!
It was a great evening last night in Holyoke, Massachusetts last night with a great group of knowledgeable permaculture folk! I was also on a tour of Eric’s place Paradise Lot…..WOW!! Much more of that when I’m home!
The first picture shows the great Eric Toensmeier introducing me :)
Afterwards we went to the legendary Tripple Brook Farm nursery run by Steve Briar, the big permaculture inspirer in this area and a thoroughly nice guy too (more on all the plants we saw here later too!)
Many thanks to all who turned up for my talk in Atlanta last night. I’m told there were almost 200 people :) The book store sold all 25 books they had bought from Chelsea Green! Great also to talk to so many interesting folk after the talk at the book signing :)
An unexpected surprise was a meeting with Bob Pemberton, main author of a paper on the Wild food plants in South Korea from 1996, which I reference several times in my book (picture below).
Writing this in transit in the Chicago O’Hare airport….Chicago onion (Allium cernuum) was the first picture on my presentation!
Thanks also to my hosts Cornelia Cho, who suggested to the garden I might do a talk, and Sam Landes who are president and board member of the Mushroom Club of Georgia! Some 20 of their members were at the talk! Pemberton, RW and NS Lee (1996) ‘Wild food plants in South Korea: Market presence, new crops and export to the United States’ in Econ. Bot. Vol 50, pp57-60.
I’ll be giving a series of talks and courses in the US from 22nd September to 6th October, including at Joe Hollis’ Mountain Gardens in North Carolina; at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, at the Norwegian-American Vesterheim Museum in Decorah in collaboration with Seed Savers Exchange; at the (sold out) Mid-West Wild Harvest Festival, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (organised by Eric Toensmeier); in Portland, Maine (Resilience Hub and Aaron Parker of Edgewood Nursery); in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Seacoast Permaculture);
and ending up in New York City!
Please share if you know anyone who may be interested!
Here are the details: 22nd September: Walk and talk with Joe Hollis at Mountain Gardens (near Asheville, North Carolina) (see https://www.mountaingardensherbs.com and https://www.facebook.com/MountainGardensHerbs); Tickets available at https://tinyurl.com/y4wj6lbs (FB Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2030757437030893)
3rd October: Talk “Around the World in 80 Plants: From New England westwards to the Mediterranean” organised by Aaron Parker of https://www.facebook.com/pg/EdgewoodNursery and the The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture at the Resilience Hub in Portland, Maine. See https://www.meetup.com/maine-permaculture/events/262011274
During KVANN’s (Norwegian Seed Savers) annual meeting weekend in Trondheim we had an official opening ceremony for my garden, The Edible Garden (Den Spiselige Hagen), as a Permaculture LAND Centre, the 3rd in Norway. The official opening was fun and can be seen in the second video. Owner of Norway’s first LAND centre, Eirik Lillebøe Wiken performs the official opening from ca. 18.00 in the second video!
The videos are mostly in Norwegian!