The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada – Preface by Kent Whealy

When viewed in its entirety, this comprehensive compendium of minutely detailed varietal descriptions, meticulously recorded by expert pomologists, plus the histories of the apples’ origins and movement around the country, is mind-boggling. What a loss if Dan Bussey’s research in its entirety, encompassing the voices and expertise of two centuries of pomological authors and literature on apples, had never been published or illustrated so stunningly. What an honor to be able to help facilitate both.

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The Story of How Seed Savers Exchange Seeds Ended up at Svalbard

This is Part II of the talk that Kent Whealy, co-founder of the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, gave at the 2010 Land Institute’s 32nd annual Prairie Festival in Salina, Kansas on September 26th, 2010…

And now, I would like to talk to you about what Wes (Jackson) would call the area of my current passion. How many of you have heard about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that has been constructed above the Arctic Circle north of Norway? Raise your hands. I am vitally concerned right now because Seed Savers Members’ Seed Collection is being systematically taken away from its Members…

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The Documenting of Heritage Apples

During the time that I have with you today, I want to first describe everything that was involved as I put the Historic Orchard into place at Seed Savers, which today contains about 700 varieties of pre-1900 apples. Those efforts more than two decades ago have led to the major six-volume book I am currently editing which will document more than 13,000 varieties of apples mentioned in U.S. literature during the last two centuries, and which will also be illustrated with 3,500 watercolors of those apples. Then I want to briefly describe some of the foundation work I am currently involve in as a trustee of the Ceres Trust, which is mainly attempting to empower organic agriculture.

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Lettuce Growout at Heritage Farm

The seed collections at Heritage Farm have continued to grow rapidly in recent years, and now contain more than 18,000 total varieties.  At the end of 1996, our collections included:  3,511 beans;  645 corns;  193 cucumbers;  136 eggplants;  187 garlics;  836 lettuces;  426 melons;  934 peas;  1,213 peppers;  1,016 squash;  156 sunflowers;  4,090 tomatoes;  226 watermelons;  and smaller amounts of 67 other vegetable crops.  At that same time, Heritage Farm’s Historic Orchard also contained 667 apples and 163 grapes.  And all of these figures were before receiving two large shipments of seeds during the spring of 1997 from the Vavilov Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, which contained samples of traditional varieties from the three collecting expeditions last summer to the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, Russia’s Volga Valley, and the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine.


During a typical summer at Heritage Farm, we normally grow about 2,000 varieties for seed, usually about 10% of our major collections:  300 tomatoes;  300 beans;  125 pep­pers (under screen cages); etc.  In 1989 we began taking documentary photographs and collecting data on most of the varieties being grown in the preservation gardens at Heritage Farm.  Each photo is taken on a 1″ grid, and the content varies depending on the crop being photographed.  For instance, documentary photos of tomatoes include a typical leaf, four views of the fruit (stem side, blossom side, side view, and a cut fruit showing the internal structure), and a label with the variety’s name and SSE #.  Photos of peppers include a branch of leaves with an immature fruit, three views of the mature fruit (whole fruit, fruit cut lengthwise, and a cross section), plus name label.  And so on.

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Plant Collecting Expeditions in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union Sponsored by Seed Savers International

Kent Whealy in Moscow

A list of the 12 plant collecting expeditions that Kent Whealy helped arrange and finance.


1) Bukovina Region of northern Romania-joint 15-day collecting expedition (September 9-25, 1993) by Helga Rosso, a Romanian plant collector and technician on Gatersleben’s staff, and scientists from the Romanian gencbank in Suceava. The expedition collected in an area of the Carpathian Mountains of northern Romania on the Ukraine-Romanian border.

2) Southern Poland – three 10-day collecting expeditions to genetically rich areas in the Carpathian mountains of southern Poland. Dr. Teresa Kotlinska – plant collector and head of the Institute of Vegetable Crops in Skierniewice, Poland- completed these missions by herself during September and October of 1993.

3) Azerbaijan – Kent Whealy worked directly with Elchin Atababayev from the Institute of Plant Science in Baku, Azerbaijan. Seeds collected throughout Azerbaijan by Elchin (and his father) during the summer and fall of 1993 were delivered to Kent Whealy by Elchin during a joint trip to Gatersleben with Nancy Arrowsmith during the winter of 1994.

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Exploration and Collection of Vegetable, Forage and Other Crop Seeds in the Ukraine

Ukrainian agriculture is characterized by technologically well-equipped land manage­ment and the wide availability of high-yielding cultivars of various economically impor­tant crops adapted to specific soil and climate conditions.  Intensification of crop production in several regions of the Ukraine has completely ousted local varieties and land­races of food and forage crops.  Large-scale plowing of cultivated areas and over­grazing of limited natural pasture land have led to the elimination of local phyto­coenoses, which in turn has caused considerable losses in the diversity of plants adapted to the local envi­ronments.

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Rescuing Traditional Food Crops in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union

Kent Whealy

As I was considering what to talk about today, I decided to speak – as Wes would say – about my passion, about what’s really driving me these days. So, if you will allow me the liberty of jumping around between various events of the last two years, I’d like to tell you how our international efforts are coming together, and then relate that to some of the new projects that we’re getting into at Seed Savers.

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Giraffe Hero Award Given to Kent and Diane Whealy

Kent Whealy, 43, also followed an idea all the way. A gardener extraordin­aire in Decorah, Iowa, Whealy’s passion is seeds – heirloom seeds, the ones that would become extinct unless someone kept them growing.

He can’t put his finger on the reasons for his devotion. But he remembers the spark: the gift of several rare seeds from his wife’s grandfather, seeds that had come from Bavaria four generations be­fore and had been passed down.

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