by Eve Allen, F14
On a warm Wednesday afternoon in early March, botanical explorer and ethnobotanist, Joseph Simcox, paid a visit to the Hampshire College Farm to distribute seeds in promotion of his Gardens Across America project.
Joseph has spent decades circling the globe documenting, tasting, and collecting the seeds of thousands of rare and underutilized edibles. Visiting over 100 countries and collecting the seeds of 15,000 crop varieties and wild species, his collection plays an important role safeguarding ‘agrobiodiversity’. While Joe may be a fanatical seed collector, he is no hoarder. The whole point of his relentless quest is to share what he has found. The survival of these priceless heirloom treasures depends on active growing and seed saving. Thus the idea for the Gardens Across America Project was born, to fulfill the need to promote season-to-season cultivation, seed saving, and sharing of his amassed rare, non-GMO, heirloom seed collection.
Hampshire Farm is participating in the Gardens Across America Project. After giving Joseph a tour of the farm, Nancy and he sat together to talk and swap seeds. The majority of new varieties the Hampshire Farm acquired are from the Solanum genus-peppers and tomatoes. They will be added to the farm’s already extensive heirloom tomato collection. However, one new species, Cyclanthera pedata, an Andean cucumber gourd known as ‘Lady’s Slipper,’ also found its way into the mix. These seeds will be grown out at the Hampshire Farm, new seeds will be saved and some of the new seed will also be made available next year in the Seed Library for interested community members to loan out. The seed sharing was not one-directional, Joseph left with a bag of Hampshire’s very own heirloom corn variety, ‘Mr. Warner’s Popcorn’ (pictured below).
Joseph will be back at Hampshire on April 6th at 7:00pm in the FPH West Lecture hall to give a presentation entitled, Embracing Earth’s Diversity. He will talk about how we can create more resilient food systems in the face of climate change through reviving crop diversity. In further promotion of the Garden Across America project, Joseph will be sharing more seeds from his Rare Vegetable Seed Consortium to passionate individuals and local organizations who are interested in growing out, selecting, saving, sharing, and returning a portion of the seeds back to the project. After all, “the best seed bank is in the soil.”
To learn more about Joseph and his projects check out these websites:
For more information about the event email Eve at email@example.com.
Interested in knowing more about the newly added varieties to the Hampshire College Farm and Seed Library? Check out the full list below:
Sweet and Hot Peppers – (Caspsicum annuum)
- Yellow sweet Amazon hot pepper
- Dominican “open” sweet pepper
- “Gori Blunt-nose”- Georgia
- “Piment de Bole”
- “Little Lady of Ijevan” – Armenia
- “Papacella Napoltana”- Southern Italy
- “Ox horn of Carmagnola” –Northern Italy (Fruits can get up to 1ft long)
- Catarina pepper
Habanero Peppers (Capsicum chinense)
- Habanero Mini White
Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
- Georgia green
- Milka’s Gelbe- Austria
- Kukla’s Portuguese Beefsteak
- Delano Green Ripe
- Smilyan Pink Beefsteak – Village of Smilyan, Bulgaria
- Captain Lucky
- Pusta Kolox Hungarian Beefsteak
- Juliette The Hillbilly- West Virgin
- Swag’s Pride
Lady’s Slipper (Cyclanthera pedata)
- Caigua – Boliva