The Roughwood Seed Collection
"The Walden Pond of Heirloom Seeds"
The Roughwood Seed Collection, now comprising over 5,000 varieties of heirloom food plants, was begun informally in 1932 by my grandfather H. Ralph Weaver (1896-1956). During the Great Depression, when food was scarce for many households, he set out to feed his family from a one-acre plot in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Since he had been working on the Weaver family genealogy, my grandfather used his Lancaster County family connections to acquire heirloom seeds that had been grown in the Dutch Country for many generations. His passion for rare old-time varieties snowballed so that by the 1940s he managed to create one of the finest kitchen gardens in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Among the many frequent visitors to his garden was West Chester folk artist Horace Pippin from whom he acquired many rare peppers.
My grandfather’s untimely death brought an abrupt end to his chapter of the Roughwood Seed Collection story. Some 10 years later, while a student at the University of Virginia, I discovered his seed collection at the bottom of my grandmother’s deep freezer. My grandfather knew that by freezing seeds they could be kept for a long time, so by this stroke of luck, many of his most valuable seeds were still viable when I began to tinker with them. By the mid-1970s I brought most of his original garden back under cultivation.
In 1979, I moved the seed collection to Devon, Pennsylvania. Since the collection had no official name, I dubbed it the Roughwood Seed Collection after the Victorian name of the old house in which I now live. Since moving the collection to Devon, it has grown dramatically over the years; many are unique and not found in other seed collections.
The Roughwood Seed Collection, now part of The Roughwood Table, is a non-profit, charitable organization devoted to promoting traditional foodways based on traditional seeds. The Collection is managed by Stephen Smith, who is part Cherokee and brings vitally important expertise in plant breeding, genetics and Native American seeds.
With the collaboration of several select organic growers, we are now planting large-scale GMO-free seed crops at Kutztown University, Willow Streams, Bryn Mawr, Pa; and many other growers in the United States and South America. For more information please go to our site at www.roughwoodtable.org. We have an online store featuring unusual seeds, books, and more! Click the button below to visit The Roughwood Table!