Kentucky Heirloom Green Beans & Tomatoes: Berea Sustainable Agriculture Center


I love growing green beans; they produce a lot of food in a small space. If you don’t have a vegetable garden, they’re easy to grow even in an ornamental garden bed on a nice looking trellis, and it’s unlikely anyone would even realize you’re growing food.

By growing your own beans, you’ll be getting a bean that’s much more nutritious. From the grocery you find beans that are just a shell, they have no beans! The bean has been bred out of the green bean for preference. Although, the actual bean is what contains all the protein.

In the past few years I’ve been ordering my green bean seeds from Bill Best of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea, Kentucky. He has an amazing selection of Kentucky heirloom green bean and tomato seeds. It’s easy to order online at

‘Greasy, cut short, half runner, leather britches’- these are all green bean terms you can find explained on his website.

When you order seeds like this, you not only get heirloom seed, but you often get a story too. Last year I ordered the ‘Headrick Greasy Cut Short Bean’, here is the story that goes with it:

“Given to us by Tony Headrick and grown from seeds found some years ago in the floor cracks of an abandoned home in Harlan County, KY, this bean is one of the best of the greasy cut-shorts.  It has brown speckled seeds and is highly productive.”

Many of these beans and tomatoes have been developed by families or in certain counties across Kentucky. It’s so cool to know when you order seeds like this, you’ll be getting a unique variety of bean bred perhaps over hundreds of years just in that area of Kentucky. It sure beats the Burpee catalog, and you’ll be helping preserve these heirloom varieties, and supporting a small local business with a mission that Kentucky needs around.

Best has also written a book on saving heirloom seeds,

“Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste; Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia” 2013

which is available on his website or through Amazon.

Bill has also coauthored another book coming out this April 2017

“Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving”

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Best is a very knowledgable source on agriculture in Kentucky; he often works with the University of Kentucky Department of Agriculture. At the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea there is also a yearly seed swap in the beginning of October. Follow their Facebook page to keep up with this event.

You can also watch a Kentucky Life segment on Youtube about the Berea Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center.

Last year some green beans began growing on our ironweed as a trellis



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