A few of you have asked what it is I do, and what the company I now work for is all about. Keep in mind that I've only been working here a week, so most of what I have to go off of is what I learned in preparation for my interview, the interview itself, and the bit of research and reading I've been doing in the past week or so to learn about the company and growing things in Iowa.
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit company that was founded with the idea of preserving seed that has a national heritage in an effort to protect genetic diversity of historically important vegetables, herbs and flowers. This is done through connecting people from around the country with like minded goals through membership in Seed Savers. Members can list what seeds they are willing to offer, and each year a Yearbook is printed and shared with each member of Seed Savers so that they can directly request seed from each other, including seed that Seed Savers Exchange preserves.
Heirloom seeds often have a history of being passed down through generations in a family, specifical culture, or within a group of people. Seed Savers helps with this mission by preserving many of the seeds through regeneration efforts at Heritage Farm, where I work. For many years, people from all over have sent in seeds with their stories, which Seed Savers then cultivates and saves for years to come. Seed Savers also evaluates different crops each year, taking immense amounts of data on plant growth, plant growth type, fruit and seed - and taking plenty of pretty pictures, too.
I work mostly in preservation, which is why my understanding of the company focuses mostly on that. There are other, more visible parts too - if you request a catalog you can order any number of heirloom vegetable and flower seed to grow yourself, wherever you are. You don't have to be a member for this part. Additionally, Seed Savers runs programs that gives seeds to non-profits looking to start community gardens, encourages garden programs in schools, and runs education programs at the visitor center at Heritage Farm. Several events are put on each year to help educate the public and members about seed saving, such as an Apple Grafting workshop and Seed Saving workshop. [... Seed Savers also maintains an orchard of historic apples as well as a herd of White Park Cattle that almost went extinct and heirloom chickens in the summertime].
My official title is Horticulture Technician for Education and Outreach. As I understand it, I'm going to get involved in a lot of different things - just the way I like it. I'm going to plan and plant the demonstration gardens at the visitor center, help with displays about plant preservation inside the visitor center, help create education out reach materials for members and visitors, and keep abreast of the many projects my department is doing so that the website can be up to date. I'm also going to help out a great deal with evaluation of some of the collection - specifically corn. This involves planting, taking care of, hand pollinating, and measuring everything about the corn and the corn kernels. This last year they did 25 or so different varieties, with at least 200 plants per variety. Whee!
There's a lot to this company, and I barely understand all of it. But I'm beyond excited to be working here - it's pretty much my dream job, where I get to work with plants AND people, making people happier with plants and getting a little dirty myself. How did I come to be so lucky?