Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Feeling right at home at Seed Savers Exchange in rural Iowa, Part I October 18, 2018

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HAVE YOU EVER VISITED a place where you were so comfortably at home that you felt as if you’d been there before, but you hadn’t?



Seed Savers Exchange just north of Decorah, Iowa, feels that way to me. A nonprofit that preserves heirloom plants through planting and nurturing and seed saving, Seed Savers appeals to the farm girl in me. The peaceful setting. The red barn. The ruralness of it all. Iowa. So like my native southwestern Minnesota.



A tangle of plants, some towering, some not, drew me into a garden near the massive red barn where young women scooped seeds from ripe tomatoes during a mid-September visit. This is their work, this preservation of seeds. I thought of hippies and pioneers and how this tedious labor matters.

And I thought of biting into a sun-warm tomato plucked from the garden, juice trickling from the corners of my mouth. Memories from the farm.





I watch Monarchs and bees wend among towering stems of Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate blossoms, their flight like words of poetry in Diane’s Garden.





There’s so much to love about this place. Berries in the back of a pick-up truck. Chicks clustered, safe behind chicken wire. A path that leads away from the farm site to narrow streams. Quiet as only quiet can be in the countryside.






And then a second garden on the other side of the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center. Here my favorite flower—the simple zinnia and corn drying to harvest and sunflowers heavy with seed. And more, oh, so much more.



Inside the visitors center, the results of it all—rows and rows and rows of stocked seed packets. Bull’s Blood Beet. Rat-Tailed Radish. Hungarian Heart Tomato. What to choose from among all the alliterations, all the words that write of bounty and beauty. I choose Sea Shells Cosmos Mix for myself, Gold Medal Tomato for a niece with a passion for gardening.



I wish I could stay here, far from the stresses of life. I feel a peace in being here, sequestered from reality, from noise, from the world. There’s something about Seed Savers Exchange that feels comfortably familiar to me. Like I lived on this land once, walked below this blue sky, wandered among the waving blossoms of Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate. Yet I’d not been here prior to this visit. Except perhaps in the poetry of words and of memories.

PLEASE CHECK BACK for more photos from Seed Savers Exchange.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


27 Responses to “Feeling right at home at Seed Savers Exchange in rural Iowa, Part I”

  1. sheketechad Says:

    Love their work, but had never seen the place. Thanks for letting us peek over your shoulder!

  2. This is the place to hang out and soak in the present moment 🙂 Beautiful Captures! Happy Day – Enjoy

  3. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Oh I need to visit this place! So does my husband and my daughter-in-law. This is perfect. Mick orders stuff from Prairie Moon every year, but I think he needs to see this. So glad you shared this!

  4. Valerie Says:

    This looks like a wonderful place to visit…always fun to drive in the country and have a destination that is as lovely as this place seems. Very peaceful and yet growing and preserving great plants from the past.

  5. Great post about a great organization! Thank you!

  6. Beautiful place and the pictures are gorgeous! 🙂

  7. Beth Ann Says:

    I love Seed Savers! They have such a special place there and I bet there are photos coming of cows, am I right? It was one of my favorite places in Deborah. Such a lovely town!

  8. Littlesundog Says:

    I can tell you I’d be planted in the middle of a place like that!! You really did a great job photojournaling this adventure! Well done!

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Beautiful and who knew there were so many kinds of tomatoes

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