IU students, in partnership with the Wylie House Museum, will lead the Indiana Heirloom Seed Savers Showcase and Exchange event at 1 p.m. on March 5 at the Morton C. Bradley Jr. Education Center.
The students will lead a discussion with a group of panelists, which will be followed by an heirloom seed exchange. Anyone who brings in heirloom seeds is welcome to trade with fellow attendees. While registration for the panel event is full, there is a waitlist available and the seed exchange remains open to the public.
Seed saving is a farming practice in which the best seeds of a crop are saved and preserved for the next year. Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been preserved and handed down through generations of people thanks to seed saving.
IU graduate students Gabrielle Alicino andCorryn Anderson and IU alumnai Jessie Wang organized the event as part of their service-learning project in IU lecturer Olga Kalentzidou’s urban agriculture course.
IU geography lecturer Olga Kalentzidou connected her students with the Wylie House, and said it was deeply rewarding to watch them organize the project. She said she often tries to encourage her classes to get involved in the community and understand the real values of people living in Bloomington.
“I would like to encourage young people at IU to actually put their hands in the dirt from time to time,” Kalentzidou said. “I know not everybody can have a garden or can grow something. But by learning more about these initiatives, we are helping our system be more localized, and getting exposed to different kinds of foods that we might not really find in the supermarket.”
During the event, Wang will present a digital map the students created, which documents individual seed savers, seed saving companies and heirloom seed companies across Indiana.
The event panelists include Indiana farmers Curtis T. Maters, Stacy Featherstone, Lauren Volpp and Connersville High School student Emma Ruf.
First-year Ph.D. student at IU Gabrielle Alicino said the speakers will explain the significance of heirloom seeds and tell stories about the seeds they’ve collected.
Alicino said she was responsible for interviewing gardeners for the project.
“I met some really incredible people that find a lot of philosophical and cultural meaning in gardening and seed saving,” Alicino said. “The practice of growing these different plants, and learning their stories and sharing those stories with people, it’s a really beautiful, specific way of carrying history forward.”
Seed saving is almost an act of resistance, Alicino said.
“When you have your own seeds, and you know how to save them, and you know how to grow them forward, you have something to carry on that’s independent of whatever the political or corporate landscape of growing food is,” Alicino said.
Carey Champion, director of the Wylie House Museum, said the museum plans to take on and maintain the digital map the students created moving forward. The museum will document heirloom seeds and seed savers across Indiana, and make that information a publicly available resource.
Champion said over the last 20 years, the museum has cultivated a historical garden of flowers and vegetables the Wylies may have grown. In recent years, due to pest issues and staffing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said it’s been difficult to upkeep.
“We've just begun to shift our focus and invite community members in a different way,” Champion said. “That's sort of the point of this new event. It's especially exciting because the past two years have been relatively quiet.”