Reprinted with permission from Baby C Farms Newsletter:

Many people have asked us, “Why Grow Heirloom Vegetables, and what are they anyway?!?”
Heirloom vegetables are those that are older varieties (some dating back to the 1700’s) that have been saved down through multiple generations of families and are open pollinated instead of hybrids (genetically modified). Here at Baby C Farm, most of the seeds we purchase are from Seed Savers Exchange of Decorah, Iowa. This non profit group currently maintains thousands of donated heirloom varieties on their 800 acre farm.
There are numerous reasons for why to grow heirloom vegetables. First off, many find they taste better than hybrid or genetically modified varieties. George Devault, executive director of Seed Savers notes, “A lot of the breeding programs for modern hybrids have sacrificed taste and nutrition. The standard Florida tomato is a good example. Instead of old-time juicy tangy tomatoes, it tastes like cardboard. It was bred to be picked green and gas-ripened because that’s what’s needed for commercial growing and shipping.”
Growing heirlooms is also important for protection of rare varieties and overall plant biodiversity. Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste project has identified two hundred varieties that are at risk of becoming extinct. We currently grow seven of these varieties in our efforts to introduce the local community to these fabulous vegetables! By growing heirloom varieties, we (and you!) are also helping to promote overall crop and food supply biodiversity in our area. This protects our food supply and introduces some fabulous new flavors at your own table!