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On Sunday August 29th, from 11 am - 4 pm, Garfield Farm Museum will hold the 15th Annual Heirloom Garden Show, the oldest and only show of its kind in Illinois. Members of the Seed Savers Exchange and backyard gardeners are invited to display, offer for tasting or sale the historic varieties of vegetables, fruits, or antique flowers that they grow.

Located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road, the show will also include tours of the 1846 inn, the kitchen garden, the antique flower garden, and the farm's prairie. There is a $6 donation for adults and $2 for children under 13 years of age. Further information is available at (630) 584-8485 or

Although consumers have the choice of over 100 styles of running shoes or dozens of designer jeans, the consumer has little opportunity to buy much less learn about the great diversity of vegetables and fruits that exist. Difficult farm economics for a mass market means only the most profitable tomato or lettuce variety is grown Yet over 500 varieties of tomatoes that come in different colors, shapes, sizes, cooking characteristics, taste and shelf life exist. With the growth of the organic and specialty foods market, demand for these different traits is on the upswing.

Exhibitors who plan to attend like John Swenson of Glenview, IL have an incredible knowledge of their favorite cultivars. Swenson specializes in the alliums which are onions, garlics, leeks, and shallots. He as advised The Seed Savers Heritage Farm in Decorah, IA on this group of vegetables. Swenson has traveled extensively searching for wild onion ancestors in remote regions of the world. His original research proved that the wild leek that leafs out in the spring and is very prolific in northeastern Illinois woods is the origin of Chicago's name. This assembled knowledge would seem to be his career but he is actually an attorney by vocation. The Joe Cimmarusti family of Elburn, IL hopes their 60 different varieties of tomatoes will all be ready in time. Having the gardener there to explain the different traits of these tomatoes makes this a great learning event. Tips on which varieties are good for sauces, canning, slicing or stewing often are best learned by word of mouth. Dr. Jerry Skurka of Oswego, IL also offers a large variety of tomatoes but the unusual eggplants and every color of the rainbow Swiss Chard makes his display a true kaleidoscope one would not expect to find in a vegetable garden.

Jimmy Doyle's "Flames of the Holy Spirit" hot sauce is his own secret recipe for the hot chilies he grows. This Tinley Park resident also grows sweet peppers but his heirloom chilies come first in his book. Kris and Marty Travis of Fairbury, IL are restoring a farmstead and growing heirloom vegetables in addition to prairie and heirloom flowers. They plan to bring seed for sale though today's consumer must be reminded that most seed won't be available until after the growing season when it is then processed, dried and packaged in late winter. The Travis family not only works to produce an income from their heirloom crops but they also invite the public to come tour their downstate historic farm.

William Brough of Barrington, IL will speak on the importance of the Seed Savers Exchange's work. In an era of genetic engineering the importance of preserving what took hundreds of years of breeding is even greater. The Exchange's collection of seeds and its international group of gardeners are all that stand between these plants' extinction.

Flowers that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello will be featured in the museum's antique flower display garden grown for this show. Jefferson carefully described and documented the varieties he grew so 200 years later, experts of the Center for Historic Plants have determined which have survived. These are all annuals that are grown from seed planted outside in late May. As these beds are replanted each year, it is also interesting to see what volunteers (plants from seed of previous years) appear. Some areas of the garden are becoming self sowing as the seed bank accumulates. Both the zinnias and the marigolds the museum grows are close to their wild ancestors that originally came from Central and South America. Nutall's Weed or Coreopsis was sent to Jefferson by a botanist from the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It popularly became known as calliopsis. An exotic sensitive plant came from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and is in the mimosa family. Youngsters and adults are amazed that when they touch its leaves, the leaves fold up and the stem collapses to expose thorns to any would be grazing animal. One flower is truly an antiquity as bachelor buttons were found in a laurel wreath in the second sarcophagus of King Tutankhamen. The Pottawatomie Garden Club of St.Charles, IL has helped sponsor the cost of the seeds for this garden.

Food and refreshments are planned and volunteers will give tours of the 1846 brick country inn that Timothy Garfield built along this once busy wagon route to Chicago. Garfield Farm Museum is being restored as an 1840s working farm museum at this 370 acres site in the center of Kane County. Donations are being sought for the restoration of the museum's buildings.

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

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