From Seed to Farmers Market in Decorah, Iowa

I recently had the opportunity to join some other travel writers in Decorah for a culinary tour of the area. We knew that our taste buds would be satisfied, but what I didn’t realize is how much I would learn during our adventure. Our tour included food from its infancy as a seed and followed it all the way to the table.

Seed Savers Exchange

At Seed Savers Exchange, I found it fascinating that the seed for any particular fruit or vegetable has a history behind it.  In perusing the catalog, it is interesting to see where some of these varieties come from. From the “Holmes’ Royal Red” Radish to the “Myers Family Heirloom” Mustard and thousands more, Seed Savers Exchange serves as a living museum for fruits and vegetables.
They have been celebrating the mission of sharing, collecting and growing heirloom seeds for 40 years.  I’ve probably thought that there was only probably about a few dozen varieties of apples for example, but in truth, there are hundreds. Not only does Seed Savers Exchange house the seeds they collect, they also grow them on the farm. Their orchard is home to over 1,000 heritage apple varieties.
The crops grown on the farm and seed collection is a big part of what Seed Savers Exchange is about; however, they also have another unique asset onsite. They also are home to a herd of ancient white park cattle. They also have a long and storied history, dating back thousands of years. They used to roam the British Isles. They have been part of a conservation effort at Seed Savers Exchange since 1988. Since then, they have been upgraded to from “threatened” to “critical” as of 2012. Love hearing success stories like this.
I may not have a green thumb (I have killed a cactus before), but I loved our visit at Seed Savers Exchange. For more information on Seed Savers, check out their site at

Peake Orchards

When the Fall season rolls around, the taste buds start turning towards all things apples. We visited an apple orchard.


Located just outside Decorah is the family-owned apple orchard. However, during the season they open up their orchard for hayrack rides and teaching opportunities for school children.


I love all things apple and there are so many varieties. One of my current favorites is the honeycrisp. I like the sweet and crisp taste. The honeycrisp also is a very pretty apple. We saw both the honeycrisp and cortland apples in the orchard.


We took a hayrack ride out to the orchard to view them on the trees and it was a perfect way to spend an early Fall day.


Later in the day we got a taste of the delicious apples in a crumble and pie at our stop at Empty Nest Winery.

Patchwork Greens

We made our way past several more corn and soybean fields and found some rolling hills. On one of those hills was the farm run by Erik Sessions and his family, that they call Patchwork Greens. It has been a labor of love for their annual vegetable production. They farm on just five of their 40 acres.


Erik works with the community and chefs at local restaurants to help determine what will be in his upcoming crop rotation. The farm produces 200 varieties of vegetables annually. They keep trying new varieties. They sell to local restaurants, farmers market and community supported agriculture memberships.

Winneshiek Farmers Market

I love a good farmers market. We’ve been to several great ones in the Midwest.


Decorah has a flourishing farmers market with about 40 vendors. It currently operates on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings May through October.


Winneshiek Farmers Market allowed us an opportunity to see people we’d met during our tours, including the folks from Empty Nest Winery, Patchwork Greens and Peake Orchards.


There were several vendors selling sweet treats, fresh flowers, homemade soaps and much more. This was a great market with passionate sellers.

I enjoyed our tour of the farms and learning about how food goes from seed to market.

Thanks to Travel Iowa, Winneshiek County and all the partners that took their time and provided their hospitality to our group.