Seeds, Soil and Biodiversity
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties.” Stewardship of heirloom and open-pollinated plant varieties and the saving of their seeds preserves biodiversity, cultural heritage, and positively contributes to food sovereignty. Plant biodiversity and efforts to improve soil health and structure aid carbon sequestration to counteract the effects of climate change. Heirlooms seeds (typically defined as varieties that have been saved for at least 50 years) also carry our familial and cultural stories as well as a sense of place and terroir.
We source our seeds from the following providers who hold and inform our values:
Garden Hoard (Howell, Michigan)
Garden Hoard offers certified organic seeds. They have operated out of their Michigan farm, Renegade Acres, since 2015. Katie and Christian started Garden Hoard so that Katie could share her own “hoard” of seeds and plants that she propagated in their home garden.
Pinetree Gardens (New Gloucester, Maine)
Pinetree Gardens provides low-cost seeds to the home gardener as a family-owned and operated seed business since 1979. Their catalog offers over 1300 plant varieties with a large selection of seeds for herbs and medicinal plants. Pinetree continues to increase organic and heirloom seed stock.
Seed Savers Exchange (Heritage Farm, Decorah, Iowa)
Seed Savers Exchange maintains a seed collection representing over 20,000 different varieties of heirloom and open-pollinated plants. Their mission statement is: “Seed Shavers Exchange stewards America’s culturally diverse and endangered garden and food crop legacy for present and future generations. We educate and connect people through collecting, regenerating, and sharing heirloom seeds, plants, and stories.”
Seed Savers Exchange has online and catalogue sales (as well as in-person at Heritage Farm in Decorah, IA). In addition, members can access seeds listed for purchase by other members—nationally and internationally—through the Exchange and the annual comprehensive catalog, The Exchange Yearbook.
Seed Savers Exchange’s website contains many educational resources related to seed starting, pollination, seed saving, as well as specific gardening tips. They also host webinars and educational events, and an annual conference.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Mineral, Virginia)
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) is a worker-run cooperative located on their 72-acre farm in Central Virginia. SESE specializes in varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast region and also offers a diverse selection of Southern heirlooms.
Their catalogue lists almost 800 varieties sourced from seeds saved from their own garden as well as from small farmers with whom they directly contract. Over 60% of their seeds are certified organic. Their website offers excellent propagation and growing tips. SESE hosts a yearly open house on their farm (tomato and watermelon tasting and farm tours) and also participates in local public events.
Seeds can be purchased online via their website and at local stores and food coops in our region.
SESE values workers’ rights and fair pay. Every employee has a voice in their business process.
Terroir Seeds (Chino Valley, AZ)
Terroir Seeds are located in Arizona and offer a variety of unique vegetables and herbs. Their website has great gardening advice from soil management to seed starting to growing specific vegetables. Terroir Seeds was one of the first signers of the Safe Seed Pledge which pledges to not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered or modified seeds.
Truelove Seeds (Philadelphia, PA)
Truelove Seeds sources seeds from local urban and rural farmers focusing on culturally important seed varieties. Truelove Seeds’ mission is to work with growers and farms who are saving their ancestral seeds. Truelove Seeds values “food sovereignty, cultural preservation, and sustainable agricultural practices.”
Truelove Seeds believes “Keeping SEEDS is an act of TRUELOVE for our ANCESTORS and our collective FUTURE”
Truelove Seeds hosts a Seeds and Their People radio show—archived episodes available on their website.
Their farmers receive 50% of the sale of each seed packet.
Two Seeds in A Pod Heirloom Seed Collection (Reedsville, West Virginia)
Two Seeds in A Pod was started by Mehmet and Amy in Tampa, FL in 2013. This small family-owned heirloom and open-pollinated seed company focused on saving Mehmet’s Turkish seed heritage (read more about the ANATOHUM—Anatolian Seeds Recovery and Education Project—on their website). In 2019, Two Seeds in A Pod moved to West Virginia where Amy is also working on cataloging and saving Appalachian seed heritage.
Additional Seed Source Information:
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s website links to this list of small seed companies who promote sustainability, social justice causes, and seed saving.