Posts Tagged ‘Diane Ott Whealy’

Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver

April 9, 2013

If you’re a gardener—or even if you’re not—I highly recommend Gathering:  A Memoir of a Seed Saver, by Diane Ott Whealy (Seed Savers Exchange, 2011).

When considering topics and themes to explore in my second Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Heirloom Murders, I decided to highlight heirloom gardening.

I began working at Old World Wisconsin in 1982 with little knowledge of gardening, period.  I had no idea that we humans have lost a shocking percentage of genetic diversity among flowers, fruits, and vegetables in the past century or so.

Now that I have my own vegetable garden, I plant heirloom varieties every year. It’s fun. It’s interesting.  And it’s important.  Diane’s book explains why all those things are true.

Diane Ott Whealy was one of the founders of Seed Saves Exchange (SSE), the nation’s first nonprofit seed-saving organization.

Diane, her former husband Ken, and an ever-growing group of volunteers began saving heirloom seeds and the stories that came with them in the 1970s.  In 1986, SSE found a permanent home at Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa.

The book is a fascinating memoir, documenting the growth of the seed saving movement. It also reflects the challenges faced when a tiny organization must confront inevitable changes brought by success. Along the way, it highlights the urgent need to grow and save heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Essays introduce readers to a fascinating cast of characters—both people and plants. While reading, I made a long list of vegetable varieties I want to try. The book is also beautifully produced, with gorgeous color photographs and equally gorgeous illustrations.

If you’re new to heirloom gardening, this book will provide all the inspiration you need to get started.