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US (WI): Seed saver preserves rare tomato varieties

When gardeners started reported back in 2003 that they couldn’t find Wisconsin 55 seeds from commercial suppliers or wasn’t producing the right fruit, Sun Prairie gardener Martin Longseth knew he could help.

The 79-year-old gardener has been saving and trading seeds all his life and had Wisconsin 55 seeds from his own plants since the 1980s. Longseth planted a crop, analyzed the fruit to make sure it was pure and then dried and started distributing the seeds worldwide at no charge, as far away as Australia, through private seed savers.

Longseth said Wisconsin 55 is one of his favorites, but he’s always looking over the horizon to discover more tomatoes.

Last year, Longseth grew 160 tomato plants and more than 80 varieties.

“If you go to a seed company, you can get maybe 40-50 varieties but there are maybe 30,000-40,000 tomato varieties in the world. It’s fun to see what you get, there are different shapes and colors,” said Longseth, who grows stripe, pink, yellow and blue tomatoes.

Read more at the Sun Prairie Star (Jennifer Fetterly)

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