Heirloom Garden Show August 27
The Heirloom Garden Show works to re-connect people to the basic facts of life upon which humankindís survival depends. The current level of human success hinges upon thousands of years of trial and error by over the 107 billion people that have ever lived on earth. Central to humansí survival and growth was the development of agriculture which allow hunting and gathering societies to begin to reside in one spot raising crops and domesticating animals for food, fiber and work.
To establish farming, one has to collect and plant seeds over several seasons. Raising wild varieties and protecting them from grazing animals, drought, weed competition, insects, etc. began the process of isolating certain traits in a plant variety that over time lead to domestication.
It was this selecting of traits over thousands of years that lead to the incredible diversity that existed by the early 20th century when plant breeding moved into the scientific lab. The most successful hybrids were raised while the great variety of types were abandoned. Today, most of the major food crops have been genetically engineered as major corporations try to find that one variety that all farmers would want to plant. Yet conditions are not uniform worldwide, much less nationally as variables of environment, disease, insect pests, cultural practices, economics and politics constantly change.
Thus in an era of incredible abilities to genetically alter plants, letting existing genes become extinct is like spending down ones savings and using credit for oneís future needs.
In addition to the heirloom vegetables that exhibitors will be bringing, the museumís prairie and gardens are on display. Every season brings different results but in the flower garden, repeated planting of the same area demonstrates what plants re-seed themselves readily. The antique flowers are ones not commonly grown today that were once popular or are the ancestors to modern varieties. Many of the varieties grown at the museum are from the Center for Historic Plants at Thomas Jeffersonís historic home, Monticello. Jefferson so well described the plants he was growing, surviving cultivars of those varieties can be identified to this day.
Peruvian zinnas are the ancestor to the modern large flowered zinnias and they show a penchant for re-seeding. However, other flowers such as kiss-me-over-the garden-gate, spider flower, flowering tobacco, balsams, French mallows, and to a lesser degree balcony petunias, larkspur, and calendulas, show up and do a good job of filling in gaps where this yearís seed did not germinate, plants were eaten, or weeds overcame seedlings. This makes for a colorful mixed display of plants and for the backyard gardener gives them a surprising array of plants that did not have to be planted.
This yearís critical success in the vegetable garden are the very rare cups and lumper potatoes that almost became extinct in the 1840s by the potato blight infection.. Given only 6 of each over 8 years ago, the museum has been working to increase their number. Three 25 foot rows of each variety are growing this year making it possible to try sampling them this winter for taste and cooking characteristics. Even when it came to potatoes in Europe, the cups were regarded as being eaten by the wealthy and the lumpers by the poorer classes. Lumpers were also called horse potatoes, perhaps being used to feed livestock. Both date before the 1750s. Yet it was said the cups potatoes were less digestible than the lumpers.
Victoria Nowicki who plans to return to the show, has founded a seed-lending library in Downers Grove. She has partnered up with a group of dedicated seed lovers and they have been actively spreading the word about the importance of saving seeds from our heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for the future security of our food supply. Visitors can learn about saving seeds at her booth and seeds will be offered for free.
Doug and Tanya Webster from Sigourney, IA are regular exhibitors at the show and bring an incredible array of garlics though this yearís rain in Iowa has limited other produce they normally bring. James Doyle of Tinley Park specializes in hot peppers and has various recipes to make great hot sauces. Mary Burnitz of Lockport, IL and Monica Fisher of Wildwood, IL have homemade wines made from dandelions or rhubarb as well as herbal teas and vinegars. Jil and Wes Nelson of Two Feathers Gourd and Honey in Marengo, IL will also have their honey in addition to produce. Gayle Sabernaik of Chalmers, IN will have tomatoes, peppers, beans, cowpeas, squash, dahlias, petunias, zinnias, and petunia seed. These are just some of the participants that plan to come.
Also featured is a raffle for a 15 gallon container bur oak tree ready to plant donated by Possibility Place Nursery of Monee, IL. There will be a total of four winners and $5 tickets will be available for a September 7 drawing. Proceeds will benefit the Garfield Harley Pond & Woods Restoration that an Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Challenge grant is funding.
Any last minute exhibitors are welcome to have a table at the show. There are no fees for exhibitors. Tours of the 1846 restored inn and of the museumís demonstration prairie plot will also be given There is a $6 donation for adults and $3 for children 12 years and younger.
Garfield Farm Museum is five miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Route 38 on Garfield Road. The 374 acre museum is supported by donations and is the only surviving historically intact former 1840ís Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored as an 1840ís working farm museum. The museum is celebrating its 40th anniversary. For information contact the museum at 630-584-8485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.