The Seed Savers Exchange and Heritage Farm, covering 890 acres, in rural Decorah provides a fulfilling and educational experience with something for the whole family to enjoy. It was founded in 1975 to aid in the preservation of seed varieties passed down from one generation to the next without modification, making them “heirloom” seeds. I visited for the first time recently and was delighted by the experience. As I made my way to the grounds, I discovered bountiful gardens of flowers, vegetables, and fruits, each labeled so that anyone interested in trying their own green thumb could purchase the corresponding seeds in the Gift & Garden Shop housed in the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center. The shop also offers other items for sale as jellies and jams, cards from local artisans, hand-made mugs, and Seed Savers tees. I settled on a jar of seedless raspberry jam and a bag of heirloom corn for popping.
While heirloom seed preservation is key to their mission, they also tend to heirloom livestock. Seed Savers Exchange boasts several varieties of heirloom chickens on the property. I also saw some Magpie Ducks with their distinctive black and white coloring. This duck breed originates from Wales. Pomeranian Geese, originating from Northern Germany, were in the same space as the ducks. They seemed exceedingly friendly, approaching the fence where I stood, probably hoping in vain for some dandelion greens, which, alas, I did not possess. They have dark caramel-colored patches on their white bodies and, I confess, making their acquaintance was the highlight of my trip.
Seed Savers also offers extensive hiking trails. There are benches and picnic tables that dot the acreage. A walk near the Big Spring is a must. It’s a lovely area and one of the places you wish to linger at a little longer. Throughout the property, there are educational signs that really give you a sense of how life on the farm has changed in the last 100 years. It gave me a new reverence for those that work the land and for the work that Seed Savers does to make sure that seed diversity and livestock diversity is maintained. One could easily spend an entire day here just soaking in the history and the heterogeneity of breeds and seeds while enjoying walking the sun-warmed land. There is also an orchard on the property and you just might spot some heirloom cattle. I did not see any on this day, but on earlier trips past the farm, I had seen them grazing on land near the highway and was struck by their rugged beauty. Each patch of previously unexplored terrain on the farm provides a new opportunity for learning or for just appreciating being in the outdoors surrounded by the farm’s rich history. For all the reasons highlighted here and more, I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Seed Savers Exchange.