By SARAH MCCLELLAN-WECH
Eva Welch, age 5, accepted three gallons of a rare, pure line of Cherokee white flour corn seed from seed-saver Keith Nicholson on Saturday, May 28. Eva returned the seeds to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians through her father, Kevin Welch, who heads up the Tribe’s seed bank and the Center for Cherokee Plants.
Nicholson related that these seeds are from a pure line of flour corn grown by a Cherokee family in Tuckaseegee. Ronnie Creasman, a Tuckaseegee gardener and heirloom seed enthusiast, was given some of the seed many years ago. He understood the rarity of this pure flour corn line and kept it from crossing with other varieties.
In 2008, Creasman shared some seeds with Nicholson who is an enthusiastic seed-saver and specializes in the seeds of the mountain region.
Nicholson grew the flour corn for two seasons in order to have enough to make a substantial gift to the Tribe. Thanks to Keith’s efforts, a piece of Cherokee heritage has been returned to the Tribe.
Interested Cherokee growers should contact Kevin Welch in the EBCI Cooperative Extension office for information about how to become a seed-share partner. Seed-starter packets will be given to growers who agree to grow the seed in isolation to keep it pure, and share 10% of their first harvest back with the Center for Cherokee Plants. To keep this flour corn pure it can not be grown within 700 feet of any other type of corn. Care must be taken because there are so many gardens with sweet corn and fields of feed corn in the area.
Sarah is the EBCI Agriculture Extension Agent for the EBCI Cooperative Extension office.