Bill Best has been an heirloom gardener all his life but most intensively for the past fifty years. He is the director of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center which houses an heirloom seed collection, sponsors a yearly seed event, and ships seeds to all fifty states and many countries around the world. Bill won the Keeper Of The Flame Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2003 and the Berea Farmers’ Market gives an annual award to a vendor in my name.
Bill keeps almost 700 varieties of heirloom bean seeds at the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, which is at his farm in the Knobs country of Madison County just outside of Berea. But it’s not just beans Best is preserving.
He’s also continuing a way of life Appalachian farmers have handed down for generations: cultivating an appreciation for the tenderness and fresh flavor of favorite home-grown fruits and vegetables, teaching the process of producing and saving seeds from one season to plant in the next, and engaging the support of a like-minded community.