Cherokee Trail of Tear Heirloom beans.
This Seed and the Story column originally ran in the Courier newspaper on May 4th, 2014.
If you’re a regular reader of this column you’ve heard a lot about the annual heirloom seed swaps that take place in Pope County each year. Hosted by the the CAAH Organization (Central Arkansas New Agrarian Society), these swaps take place at the Episcopal church in Russellville and bring gardeners and growers together to share seeds with both their neighbors and the CAAH organization, a group working to preserve these Arkansas seeds for future generations. Over the years I’ve been attending these swaps and have watched them grow from a handful of folks to a crowded room full of gardeners both novice and experienced alike. Those attending the swaps find regional vegetable varieties like Moon and Stars watermelons, a host of heirloom okra varieties, peas, greens, and all kinds of flowers. Everyone goes home with a basket full of seeds to grow, save, and pass on to others.
Formerly located at University of Central Arkansas in Conway, the CAAH organization is now under the direction of the Southern Center for Agroecology, an organization dedicated to “protecting and improving the genetic diversity of unique heirloom seed varieties.” CAAH continues to partner with a network of small farmers, backyard growers, and garden lovers throughout the area to preserve agricultural folkways and keep these seed varieties alive and thriving. When the seed bank was under the direction of UCA all of the heirloom seeds gathered by the organization were kept at one central location on campus where they were grown out by students and affiliates of the program. The Center for Southern Agroecology has decided to take a different approach and decentralize the locations of the seeds, leaving the care of the seeds to partnership organizations across the station.
We are so excited to announce that the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources and Community Action will soon be home to the Pope and Yell County seed bank, which we will house at our our soon to be open center at 420 South 2nd Street in Dardanelle. We’ll be partnering with the Dr. Joshua Lockyor and students and faculty in the anthropology program at Arkansas Tech University to make this project possible and we can’t wait to begin working closely with community gardeners and growers throughout the region.
If you’re interested in this program and want to know more, please send me an email to the “contact us” link above call or send a letter to the McElroy House address. I’d love to hear from you! Thanks so much for reading.
The Seed and the Story is a partnership with the Courier newspapers in Pope and Yell County, Arkansas. This weekly column explores folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. Columns are often written in partnership with the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources and Community Action and humbly attempt to bridge intergenerational themes in the region.
Resources and Related Past Postings:
Voices from the 2011 Seed Swap, produced for Ozarks at Large:
2013 Pope County Seed Swap
2013 Seed Swap and Film Showing via the Seed and the Story
2012 Seed Swap via the Seed and the Story
The Southern Center for Agroecology
Seed Swap Documentary from CAAH:
Following the documentary on facebook here.