LBCC horticulture students took part in a project that has put Linn-Benton Community College on the
international map for seed preservation.
It all started last spring with about 40 bean seeds, which students planted in a test plot on the college organic farm.
The seeds, called Oltman Bush Beans, came from Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit that works with people all over the world to preserve heirloom seed varieties for future generations. The heirloom Oltman beans had been grown and stewarded for generations by one family in South Dakota.
Miriam Edell, instructional specialist and adjunct faculty in the LBCC Agriculture Science department, led the project.
Students in the Organic Farming and Gardening class planted the bean seeds last spring, Small Farms students made sure the seeds were well cared for through the summer growing season, and Sustainable Agriculture students took over to harvest and clean the seed for shipment in September.
Once tested by Seed Savers, a portion of the seeds will be shipped to the USDA Seed Bank and to the Svalberg International Seed Vault in Norway for preservation, with recognition to LBCC as the grower.
“From one small packet we were able to grow about three pounds of bean seeds, or about 400 seeds, that were packaged and sent back to Seed Savers,” said Edell. “This is great work that our students are doing in the world - a bit of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world.”
Seed Savers Exchange will grow and evaluate the seeds grown by LBCC to assess purity and collect phenotype data. If all goes well, the seed will be available to the public for purchase through Seed Savers, most likely beginning in 2020, with credit given to the LBCC Horticulture Program.
“I’m thrilled to say that the seeds look fantastic,” said Steffen Mirsky, assistant curator for Seed Savers Exchange. “We are deeply appreciative of all the time and effort you [LBCC] put into regenerating this variety for us.”
Once the bean seed is put into the deep freeze and the samples are sent to the USDA and Svalbard, the variety will have been preserved at least for our lifetime, said Mirsky. “That's a gift to us, to the family in South Dakota who stewarded the variety for so many decades, and to all people concerned about crop diversity and cultural preservation…. we couldn't do our work without the passion and dedication of members like you [LBCC].”
About Linn-Benton Community College: More than 18,000 students rely on Linn-Benton Community College each year for higher
education including career technical education, transfer degree programs, professional
development, corporate training, small business development, community education classes
and more. Serving the mid-Willamette Valley with six locations including its fully
comprehensive campus, LBCC partners with multiple business and industries to enrich
the community and support economic growth. LBCC students choose from more than 80
programs and go on to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders, skilled workers and community
Story and photos by: Lori Fluge-Brunker, LBCC Advancement Office