The Evangelists for Heirloom Vegetables
“Let’s rock the food supply in 2010!”
By Christine Muhle
New York Times
August 11, 2010
Seed catalogs are what sustain most gardeners in the pit of winter, the pictures of bright blooms and fleshy melons stoking their fantasies. When my mother-in-law sent me the beautiful Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog in February, it reanimated me, but it befuddled me too. There was an “olde tyme” painting of a melon on the cover, while the editor’s letter — “Let’s rock the food supply in 2010!” it implored — showed an attractive young family whose father has a thing for overalls and loud shirts. What followed was the cutting edge of heirloom seeds: 1,400 varieties from 70 countries, including vegetables yet to appear in any canvas market bag.
Things got more confusing toward the final pages, where ads invited readers to heritage-day and spring-planting festivals at the company’s pioneer village in an Ozarks town, Mansfield, Mo., where they could meet seed collectors, historic demonstrators, “food activists, home-schoolers, western re-enactors . . . gourmet chefs, free-thinkers . . . Ozarkian crafters, trendy vendors & herbal hippies.” Was this a cult? A bunch of post-ironic steampunkers jumping on the growcavore bandwagon? Or could it actually be earnest, homespun marketing for an heirloom way of life?