Significant Seeds and Special Stories

A seed-saving conference celebrates not only preserved plants, but also the way storied cultivars connect growers from the past, present, and future.


Every time I smell a tomato plant, the fresh, sweet, earthy aroma propels me back to my childhood, when Grandpa would send my sister and me out to his garden, and we’d pick the large, juicy fruits from the vine. When we’d haul them inside and wash them, their scent would waft throughout the kitchen. I didn’t love the taste of tomatoes, but I loved their smell, and nowadays, I love the memories they evoke.

Many people have a unique connection to the plants they grow, the food they eat, and the people they commune with in the process. Often, these memories begin with the art of seed saving. Seed Savers Exchange (“Seed Savers”) is an organization that puts these ideas into practice. A haven for rare and heirloom seeds, Seed Savers prioritizes the perpetuation of each plant, and also safeguards the story that comes with them. To them, the value of a seed isn’t only the nutrition of its harvest, but also the nostalgia and history that’s found in every sprout.


Every year, Seed Savers hosts a seed conference to celebrate just that: treasured cultivars, time-honored traditions, and memorable stories. People from across the country gather to learn and connect with other seed savers, and I got a front row seat to it all when I attended the conference in Decorah, Iowa, in 2019.

Joining a Growing Crowd

After seven hours on the road, I at last arrived at my destination: Heritage Farm, the headquarters of Seed Savers. Tucked away in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa, this 890-acre farm grows and preserves a massive collection of cultivars, and that weekend, dozens of people gathered there for the annual seed conference. We had a full schedule of presentations, activities, and tours planned for us.



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