News from Garfield Farm

Return to News Index | Garfield Farm Home


           Knowledge of the past is proving critical to the future of the country and Garfield Farm Museum’s 20th Annual Heirloom Garden Show on Sunday August 23 from 11 am - 4 pm is just such a wealth of accumulated knowledge. As gardens yield their bounty, now is the time to plan for the 2010 garden season.
          The wonders of technology and an excessive focus on popular culture have disconnected most Americans from the basics of survival. The rise in gas prices is greatly upsetting daily life which makes the ability of GPS direction finding system in one’s car irrelevant compared to simply being able to afford where one has to go. The historic record of temperatures and the glacial record have all the leading scientists convinced of global warming. The crisis of interest rates and economic cycles proves houses should be considered homes first and investments second.
            These seemingly unrelated factors: oil costs, global warming, and housing sprawl have a very direct connection to plant genetics that our country depends upon for survival. Current agriculture depends on oil for powering tractors, making fertilizer and pesticides, as well as shipping food. It assumes there is no limit to productive soils or water supply. Increase in oil costs, shifts in temperature and rain patterns, and continued bulldozing of productive land for houses will make the current era of cheap food a fond memory. Only those crops, fruits, and vegetables that can survive well with a minimum of oil inputs, hotter and drier extremes, and grow in less productive soils will be critical for such an uncertain future of change.
           The Heirloom Garden Show reflects hundreds of years of breeding varieties of plants to meet different conditions. Several factors have shaped the genetics of our food: resistance to disease, ability to thrive in dry, wet, weedy conditions, or poor soils, just to name a few. The mass market depends on that one or two varieties that produce the highest return. Offering food or any product at the cheapest price does not necessarily show all the real costs of production to a society. Tax dollars are spent to subsidize everything from highways, irrigation systems, and political stability in oil producing regions so these hidden costs still hit everyone’s wallet. This makes genetic diversity critical to respond to ever changing conditions.
          The Heirloom Garden Show will feature gardeners and produce growers from the Great Lakes region to display, offer for tasting or sell their bounty that is in season. August of course is the month for tomatoes. This being one of the most popular vegetables (technically a fruit ? the seeds are inside) visitors are always amazed to see all shapes, sizes and colors at the show.
Tomatoes are just some of the items from the garden that Rolling Prairie Acres will bring. Rolling Prairie, with managers Doug & Tanya Webster from Sigourney, IA will have a variety of tomatoes, as well as several types of garlic on display. What would the Garden Show be without Jimmy Doyle, from Jimmy’s Chilies in Tinley Park, who will exhibit different varieties of tomatoes, as well as chilies. This year, Sacha Burns from H & H Flowers/ Sunkissed Organics, shall bring vegetables from the work they have been doing in LaPorte, IN.
    Many of the exhibitors are members of the Seed Savers Exchange, a remarkable grass roots effort begun in 1975 and that has expanded to 889 acre site with 51 organic garden plots with isolated gardens to prevent cross pollination of the over 3000 varieties grown each year out of a 25,000 variety collection. Located in Decorah, Iowa, Seed Savers has annually received a portion of the proceeds from the Heirloom Garden Show.
    In contrast to culinary plants, the museum also grows a variety of old fashioned flowers, many the ancestors to popular modern hybrids. Balsams, kiss me over the garden gate, spider flower, love in a mist, four o’clocks are just some of the fanciful names once familiar to gardeners of 100 years ago, that can be seen at the museum’s flower garden.
           The focal point of the museum, the 1846 brick tavern will also be open for tours. Food and refreshments will be available from the Inglenook Pantry of Geneva, IL. The show is $6 for adults and $2 for children under 13 years of age. For information, contact 630 584-8485 or email The museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. This historically intact former 1840s Illinois prairie farmstead is being restored as an 1840s working farm museum by donors and volunteers from around the country.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.