Seed Celebration

Seed Celebration

A day at the National Heirloom Exposition, a celebration of heirloom produce at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Grades

4 - 12+

Subjects

Biology, Geography, Human Geography

“Oh boy,” a woman proclaims as she approaches a stand at the first National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California. “Free seeds! How fun is this?”

She is not the only one excited by the exposition, an event co-organized by the Petaluma Seed Bank in nearby Petaluma.

Attendees are amazed by towering stacks of pumpkins and gourds that rise nearly 5 meters (16 feet) into the air. People taste little-known varieties of fruits and vegetables at one of the exposition’s 250 vendor booths and exhibitor stands. And more than 70 speakers fire up the crowd about heirloom produce. The speakers include Paul Blundell of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and celebrity chef Alice Waters, owner of the famed restaurant Chez Panisse.

Heirloom plants are varieties cultivated by early farmers. Most heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, meaning they are naturally pollinated by wind, insects, or birds.

Jere Gettle, owner of the Petaluma Seed Bank, says there is one simple reason for putting on the three-day event: “The overall thing is to bring everyone together around the produce,” he says.

At a booth nearby, Patrick O’Connor and Mat Rogers of Berkeley, California, discuss the importance of getting seeds into the community. O’Connor is a volunteer at the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL), and Rogers is the director of Agrariana, a nonprofit organization focused on urban agriculture and sustainability.

“I think the whole point is to come to realize that there is not only one type of tomato,” Rogers says.

As if on cue, Ursula Silva, a neighborhood gardener from Livermore, California, wanders over to the booth with a bag full of more than 70 varieties of tomato seeds. “I’m actually looking for more heat-tolerant tomato seeds,” she says.

O’Connor and Rogers suggest she visit a booth helmed by Native Seeds/SEARCH, a nonprofit organization from Tucson, Arizona. Native Seeds/SEARCH preserves and distributes seeds for plants that grow in the arid Southwest.

Organizers estimate the mid-September event drew more than 10,000 people. Visitors came from as far away as Hawaii, Maine, and Canada.

“Everyone is asking,” Gettle says, “is it going to happen next year?”

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Writer
Stuart Thornton,
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West,
Producer
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources