Each year thousands of people visit Heritage Farm, our 890-acre headquarters near Decorah, Iowa. Visitors come to relax, walk through the gardens, and tour more than eight miles of spectacular hiking trails. Visitors are welcome to explore the display gardens, Historic Orchard and trails at any time.
Lillian Goldman Visitors Center
The visitors center includes a large gift shop and garden center that offers seeds, books, tools and garden furniture. Seasonal items include plants, garlic and potatoes. The center also houses informational exhibits and public restrooms. Visitors enjoy relaxing on the large shaded porches before strolling through the beautiful display gardens for some gardening inspiration. The Visitors Center is open March through December, Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Weekends 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
View the list of 2013 spring plants being offered at the Visitors Center:
The Children’s Garden
The Children’s Garden is an interactive exhibit of traditional garden art from cultures around the world, built in collaboration with local artists and funded in part by the Iowa Arts Council. The garden should be experienced through all of the senses. It presents a unique opportunity for young visitors to interact with cultural art and heirloom garden varieties in a space designed for children to explore with their hands, ears, and nose, as well as their eyes. The garden is surrounded by a sculptural willow fence designed by Willowglen Nursery, and contains a hidden, musical water feature from Japan created with the help of Allamakee Wood-Fired Pottery, as well as a natural bench built of mud and straw.
Diane's Display Garden
“Before this was a garden it was a cattle corral surrounded by a white fence and covered in gravel,” says Diane Ott Whealy, co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange. Diane and her daughters planted this garden for the first time on Mother’s Day in 1988. This garden has evolved into an edible landscape mixing flowers, herbs, prairie plants, and vegetables. Diane pairs broomcorn with amaranth, Swiss chard with dahlias, and peppers with cleome. Many of the varieties growing this year came from members in the seed exchange: ‘Blue Jay’ bean from Don Kellums, ‘Purple’ orach from Thumbs Heath, ‘Quailgrass’ from Suzanne Ashworth, and ‘Beryl Beauty’ tomato from Bill Minkey.
As with seed diversity, livestock diversity has dramatically declined. Heritage breeds are threatened because modern food production now favors the use of a few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output in a controlled environment. Many traditional livestock breeds are threatened with extinction. These traditional breeds are an essential part of the American agricultural inheritance and an important resource for our future.
Heritage Farm is one of two major breeding sites for Ancient White Park Cattle in the U.S. This recovering breed is known for their well-marbled meat, efficient grazing, and easy calving. Gloucestershire Old Spots Pigs are employed at Heritage Farm this year to ‘clean-up’ windfalls in the orchard, thereby reducing pests. This pig is known for its docility, intelligence, and prolificacy. Its disposition and self‑sufficiency should make it attractive for farmers raising pasture pigs. Each year Heritage Farm hosts a display of Heritage Poultry. This year’s display features the following breeds: Buckeye chickens, White Sebastapol geese, Silver Appleyard ducks, and Midget White turkeys.
Trial Gardens are the Seed Savers Exchange living catalog. As a visitor you can wander through these gardens to help inform your seed selections. But at Heritage Farm, trial gardens have other important roles. SSE uses trial gardens to learn more about vegetables, herbs, and flowers before introducing them into the catalog. They are also used as a system of checks and balances. Every time we send seed to or receive seed from a grower we plant a sample of that same seed. This allows us to monitor any issues that may arise–low germination rate, cross-pollinated seed, or other undesirable traits.
Preservation Gardens are the heart of what we do at Heritage Farm. After years in cold storage, seeds from the vault need to be regenerated. Each year hundreds of varieties are grown in more than 20 different gardens to refresh seed supply. Preservation gardens are designed to prevent cross-pollination and maintain genetic purity. This is accomplished in one of three ways:
1.) Plants are isolated by distance
2.) Plants are grown in isolation cages to keep bees and insects from cross-pollinating different varieties
3.) Plants are hand pollinated by SSE staff
In addition to regenerating seed supply, collection varieties are also grown side-by-side for evaluation.
Our garden heritage contains a rich diversity of apple varieties. Unfortunately, ‘Red Delicious’ comprises a huge portion of the entire American apple crop, and just eleven varieties total 90% of all apples sold in chain grocery stores. The limited variety of modern commercial apples leaves little room to experience the diversity of heritage apples – thousands of varieties grown for specific purposes like pressing cider, baking, storing, and making sauce. The Historic Apple Orchard features 550 different varieties of apples. Rediscover old favorites such as ‘Fameuse,’ ‘Minkler Molasses,’ ‘Swayzie,’ and ‘Knobbed Russet.’
| Lillian Goldman Visitors Center|
Free and open to the public March through December
Mon - Fri, 9-5 and Weekends 10-5
3074 North Winn Road
Decorah, Iowa 52101
Join us for guided tours of Heritage Farm every Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can schedule a guided tour during visitor center business hours by calling 563.382.6104 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth and school groups, please contact Grant at 563.382.5624 or email@example.com.
A $3 donation is appreciated for guided tours. Audio tours of the display gardens are also now available for free.
Have your weddings at Heritage Farm! Call 563.382.6104 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Upcoming Events at Heritage Farm
If you are unable to make the trip to Heritage Farm, please consider joining us for an upcoming webinar!