The Roughwood Seed Collection
" The point to raising heirloom vegetables is not so much an escape into the past, but rather a search for greater diversity in our present diet and a healthy rejection of industrial agriculture. " William Woys Weaver
The Roughwood Seed Collection, which now comprises circa 5,000 varieties of heirloom food plants, was begun informally in 1932 by William Woy Weaver's 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, H. Ralph 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.
H. Ralph Weaver
In 1979, William moved the seed collection to Devon, Pennsylvania. Since the collection had no official name, he dubbed it the Roughwood Seed Collection after the Victorian name of the old house in which he now lives. Since moving the collection to Devon, it has grown dramatically over the years; many are unique and not found in other seed collections. In 2014, Owen Taylor became the Seed Collection Manger followed by Drew McCaskey in 2016.
H. Ralph Weaver's untimely death brought an abrupt end to his chapter of the Roughwood Seed Collection story but his legacy still lives onward. 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.
Seneca Blue Bear Dance Corn, a rare flour corn soon to be available through the SHOP.
Various, unique seeds we hold in the Roughwood Seed Collection.
2018 saw maize specialist and part Cherokee Stephen "Dancing Wolf/WhiteWolf" Smith become hired as the current Seed Collection Manager. The Seed Collection is currently undergoing restructuring within The Roughwood Table, growing out its seeds, and working on its new seedstore. Any rare, local, regional, or just unique heirlooms or family hand-me-down varieties are always of interest and we would be excited to test their culinary merit and place them within the Collection!