Bill Best has catalogued 175 to 200 varieties of old-time beans and numerous heirloom varieties of tomatoes, for preservation and growing on his farm located outside of Berea, Kentucky. Bill Best grows and sells seeds, plants, and his yearly harvest of beans and tomatoes at the Lexington and Berea Farmers Markets, which he helped to establish three decades ago while working as a professor and administrator at Berea, College.
Since his retirement from Berea College and as a swim coach, Bill has had more time to pursue his passion by working with the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center that he helped to organize. This nonprofit center promotes and teaches sustainable farming techniques as well as encourages seed saving as a way of preserving genetic diversity for the unusual strains of beans and tomatoes surviving in the Appalachian Mountains and foothills.
After many years of collecting seeds throughout North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, Bill has found that there is a richer lode of genetic diversity among beans in Appalachia than anywhere else in the world!
Bill states, “I believe heirloom tomatoes and other heirloom vegetables and fruits will have an increasingly bright future. Many people are becoming tired of the same old dreary vegetables and fruits with the shiny uniform look and the cardboard taste. People are looking for flavor and quality.”
Bill Best’s heirloom beans can be found at the Sustainable Mountain Agricultural Center outside Berea, KY; online at www.heirlooms.org and at the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea, KY.