Each year several thousand visitors enjoy
displays of endangered vegetables, apples, grapes and cattle.
We invite you to learn more about our organization
and heirloom treasures through a visit to Heritage Farm.
Heritage Farm is the headquarters of Seed Savers Exchange. The farm
is located six miles north of Decorah, Iowa. Nestled among sparkling
streams, limestone bluffs, and century-old white pine woods, the 890-acre
farm is a living museum of historic varieties. Thousands of heirlooms
are grown in certified organic fields. The farm includes:
• Preservation Gardens
• Historic Orchard
White Park Cattle
The buildings on the farm are also a treasure. Amish carpenters have
built a meeting center in the barn’s cathedral-like loft and have completed Lillian Goldman Visitors Center that offers a wide selection of heirloom seeds, horticultural
books and garden gifts.
There are many thousands of heirloom garden varieties being permanently maintained at Heritage Farm. The Preservation Gardens are planted on certified organic land and are open for public viewing. From each packet of seed purchased, 25 cents goes into an endowment to help pay salaries of employees who maintain SSE's vast collection.
The vast majority of apple varieties that were around in 1900 are now extinct or steadily dying out. In an attempt to halt this constant genetic erosion, SSE has obtained all of the pre-1900 varieties that still exist in government collections and large private collections, but has only found about 700 that remain. SSE has developed a diverse public orchard, where hundreds of different varieties of 19th century apples are on display. SSE's Historic Orchard also contains many old grapes, including more than 100 breeding lines from the collection of famed grape breeder, Elmer Swenson.
Ancient White Park Cattle
These cattle roamed the British Isles before the time of Christ, and are described exactly in ancient Celtic lore. Today only about 800 of these extremely rare, wild cattle survive worldwide, including slightly more than 200 in the U.S. (and about 80 of those reside at Heritage Farm). These distinctive cattle have white coats, lyre-shaped horns with black tips, and black ears, noses, eyes, teats and hooves (and sometimes black is splashed from the hooves up the front shins toward the knees). The cows are intelligent, alert, quite hardy, healthy, and are aggressive grazers that favor brush.