As part of our mission to preserve and showcase turn of the century life in the rural Midwest, Poplar Heights Farm is working to ensure the survival of old breeds of farm animals, flowers and vegetables. Many of the chickens, hogs, horses popular on farms in the 1800’s are nearly extinct today. Hundreds of species of heirloom flowers and vegetables are also endangered.
An active program to preserve heirloom flowers and vegetables is underway. Today, nearly 20,000 square feet of gardens test how these old varieties survive hot, dry Missouri summers. Taste is very important along with their look, shelf life, preparation ease for canning and reliability. Staff and volunteers planted nearly 4,000 seeds this spring in the farm’s own old style greenhouse.
Tomatoes such as yellow pear, Cherokee purple, Abe Lincoln, and mortgage lifter are made into juice and salsas and sampled at many of the farms programs and events.
From burgundy amaranth to lemon drop peppers, Queen Ames’ pocket melons to Boothby’s blonde cucumbers, red caribe potatoes to bloody butcher corn, these old time varieties are winning blue ribbons at the county fair and catching the interest of home canners, restauranteurs and everyday home gardeners.
Long range plans include sales of plants and produce and establishing grower cooperatives to promote and market these vegetables. Not only will genetic diversity and great taste be preserved, but growing heirlooms produces more income per acre than many traditional area farm crops without the heavy expense of modern machinery.
The old orchard, planted as early as 1875, has been replanted with heirloom varieties of fruit and nut trees. The first peaches and pears were picked last year. Old favorites like Red Haven peaches grow near Arkansas Black apples, Bartlett pears, and a few crabapple trees from long ago. Paw Paw trees have been added around the original pond.