“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.” ~ Dian Fossey
We have a passion for diversity—it’s what we’ve become known for at The Great Pumpkin Patch. The Homestead Seeds is no different. It was born out of a desire to preserve amazing, unique varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourds.
Seed varieties are falling off the face of the planet at an alarming rate. As larger seed companies are going to the laboratory to find the next new thing, at The 200 Acres we try to go the opposite direction. We go back in time and look for heirloom varieties that have cultural significance, historical significance, and tell a people’s story.
Back in 2000, Mac traveled to South Africa for an internship at Kirstenbach Gardens. Always thinking of cucurbits, Mac started hearing rumors from the locals of a pumpkin that stayed green. During a trip to the eastern side of South Africa, near the Drakenburg Mountains, he finally found someone who gave him directions to a farmer’s small patch, where he literally tripped over two Zulu pumpkins! It was exactly as had been described—small, dark green, and native to South Africa.
This Zulu pumpkin is one of nearly 200 rare and unique varieties that we offer to the everyday gardener. Some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into preserving a variety like this one comes from the generous work of local, and not-so-local gardeners that participate in our isolation plot program. We currently have 36 people from just down the road, to Milwaukee, to Spokane, that allow us to plant rare varieties like the Zulu pumpkin in isolation, to create pure seed.
The 63 acres we plant on our farm goes entirely to the pumpkins, squash, and gourds we sell during the fall. When we are saving seed, we have to plant these varieties at least ½ mile away from any other plant in the same species.
During the winter, after the pumpkin patch is finally put to bed, we start harvesting the isolation fruits, seed saving, and drying these seeds—for us to use next fall, and also to sell to gardeners like you. It’s a long process, and a lot of work, but it’s worth it all to be able to preserve these amazing varieties.
A more intimate way of connecting to the land and our farm is to become an isolation grower. Among our 36 iso gardens last year we had first-time gardeners to old-time farmers that allowed pumpkins, squash or gourds to grace their property. We coached inexperienced and experienced growers in how to help us build up seed stock for varieties that are quickly becoming obsolete. The successes and hardships of growing, caring for and seed saving heirloom cucurbits is a unique experience that brings unmatched joy. If you want to get involved in preservation and get your hands dirty (literally!) then email us at email@example.com.