Westport65

TOPTO BOTTOM: SOUTHPORT ONIONWORKERS; SOUTHPORT ONIONWAREHOUSES, 1880 TO 1900 PHOTOS COURTESY OF FAIRFIELD MUSEUM& HISTORY CENTER

a proud onion farmer, the school days were structured around needs in the field, and young boys could be seen playing onion stems as flutes as they walked home. White onions found in the field with a blush of red were given as valentines to loved ones, in what then was recognized as “The Onion Capital of the World.”

prohibition, ushering in a revelrous and rebellious era. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his new wife Zelda were frequent patrons, while he was writing The Great Gatsby and renting a cottage on the property of the elusive millionaire F.E. Lewis–what is now Longshore in Westport, Connecticut. Fast forward to winter of 2017, and this delightful and rich

replanting of this crop. Onions are biennials, which means it takes two years for them to go back to seed. The first year they develop the large bulb that we typically eat, and when we replant them the second year, they develop the iconic allium globe flower head, which, when it desiccates, (dries out) is when the new seed can be collected. During the fall, my dear friend William Bernie, “The Onion King,” and I wildcrafted local seaweed to add nutrients to our plot and salt hay for mulch (traditionally used in the transport of onions). In an effort to revitalize the agrarian community through permaculturian principles, we solely utilized resources that were locally available and I must say, our soil is rich and populated by the largest earthworms I’ve seen. In 2019, by early October, the onions had all flowered and the seeds of this illustrious onion were joyfully gathered and safeguarded. In the great Connecticutian tradition of revelry, what did we do to celebrate? We threw the Southport Globe Onion Festival of course! Now in its second year, the power of a shared community- based agricultural initiative can be seen on the smiling faces of those planting, harvesting and preparing delicious dishes once again with the great heirloom of this area. An ecoregional seed hub has been formed with local schools and farms, together rooted in the shared stories of these sacred lands. From all of us onion farmers here, we are delighted to have the Southport Globe Onion back in the terroir of our quaint seedside village. * Sefra Alexandra, The Seed Huntress, is on a perennial expedition to safeguard the biodiversity of our world’s seeds. She is a Genebank Impacts Fellow for the Global Crop Diversity Trust, establishes community seedbanks on island nations after natural disasters (her parents are delighted she finally went into banking) and is reviving the Southport Globe Onion heirloom in her home soils of Connecticut. Currently she is working with CT NOFA to establish an ecoregional pollinator seed hub. Save seeds–seeds save. WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM 173 Sefra Alexandra /o\ The Seed Huntress

agrarian history had been all but forgotten in these lands that now germinate illuminated mansions rather than alliums. As the Seed Huntress, I have worked to safeguard our global biodiversity through seed conservation and was determined to revive the once prolific agrarian

Every Thursday and Saturday, carts and carriages from all the farms would bring their bounty down muddy and rutted roads to the Southport Harbor. Overseen by Commodore Perry, famous sloops such as the Mary Elizabeth were loaded up and sent to New York City markets carrying onions and intrepid young lads looking for adventure during the one-

week round trip. The Long Island sound was the I-95 of this time, a thoroughfare of commerce and transportation. About 200,000 barrels were sent each year, with demand increasing during the Civil War in the 1860s, when the onions were pickled and sent with troops to minimize scurvy due to their high vitamin C content. 1890 unfortunately brought with it a devastating blight of cutworm, which is the larvae of Agrotis segetum , the Turnip Moth. A soil-borne fungi– Urocystis colchici – known as smut, was also proliferating in the soils. These two factors effectively ended the industry, in 1894, of a crop that had been the anchor of the local economy since colonial times. Twenty-five years later, during the roaring twenties, the old onion warehouses were turned into speakeasies during

enterprise of this area by putting the Farm back in Greens Farms! Luckily, a seed company I had worked with in the past to establish community seed banks on island nations after natural disasters–Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds–was still maintaining the Southport Red and Southport White Globe Onion varieties (I am still on the hunt for the yellow!). So, after 125 years, I welcomed this wayward prolific allium heirloom back to its home soils! The Southport Globe Onion Initiative was begun, a seed library at the Pequot Library in Southport was established to hand out free seed to all who wanted, and the Audubon generously allowed me to cultivate an onion patch in the historic soils of the H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve. Family, friends and neighbors all joined together in May of 2018 for the

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