The Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro was honored with a national Award of Excellence from National Garden Clubs Inc., at the organization’s 88th national convention in Richmond, Virginia. NGC is one of the nation’s most-recognized nonprofits and largest volunteer gardening organization in the world, according to a news release from National Garden Clubs Inc., in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nominated by The Garden Club Federation of Maine Inc., the Heirloom Seed Project at the high school is the oldest, and one of the largest, school-based seed saving programs in the United States. The project took root in 1991, stemming from a popular school horticulture class that began in the early 1970s, according to the release.

“The Heirloom Seed Project was created to teach students how to grow, collect and save heirloom seeds, pass down history to the next generation, preserve and promote the biodiversity of open-pollinated seeds and learn how to be self-sufficient by producing their own food for themselves and in their community,” said Neil Lash, director of Heirloom Seed Project, according to the release. Nearly 30 students participate each year on the project.

The project spans two acres on the grounds of the high school. It includes two greenhouses, a seed bank of more than 800 varieties of heirloom seeds collected from local, national and international sources, an online seed exchange catalog that is developed and managed by students and provides seeds to people globally, an onsite living history tree arboretum, a collection of 70 heirloom hosta plants and the newest addition — a collection of endangered heritage breed chickens, according to the release. In 2015, the project received a $20,000 grant from Seeds of Change, an organic seed and food company.

“The project fosters leadership skills in managing the greenhouses, working in the garden and provides a real-world experience in working with retail seed companies who partner with our program,” said Lash, according to the release.

The Waldoboro project is one of three Award of Excellence recipients recognized this year by National Garden Clubs Inc.

“Each year, NGC’s Award of Excellence recognizes exceptional individuals, organizations or institutions that have made significant contributions to their communities in such areas as environmental and civic responsibility, conservation or community beautification through gardening projects,” said Nancy Hargroves, president, National Garden Clubs Inc., according to the release. “The Award of Excellence is our organization’s highest honor for non-members and by recognizing these deserving recipients from different parts of the nation, NGC hopes to educate and inspire others in communities coast to coast.”

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