A reader asked me about heirlooms: what are they? How are they defined? Good questions. There isn’t a consistent definition but for Terembry Farm, we note those items as heirloom that are designated as such by the seed vendor. That being said, one could go further and ask, why use heirlooms?
Lots of reasons exist, from taste, to sturdiness, to appreciation for the past, but there is one key area that’s important. Heirlooms–vegetables that were produced without today’s intensive technology–belong to us all. There should be no patent, no limitation on the vegetable that grandma grew in the garden. If anyone wants to save seeds, and see those seeds work well, heirlooms are an answer.
There seems something amiss when one buys seeds that produce plants and produce that can’t reproduce in the way that plants have for millennia. But that’s today’s modern–technologically shaped–reality.
The mission of Terembry Farm is to grow food sustainably, in a manner that supports good health and protects the environment. Heirlooms fit that bill because they are part of the gardening tradition of a past that worked with nature, not against nature.
For a less political assessment of heirlooms, this article is excellent: http://www.halcyon.com/tmend/define.htm.