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Natural Awakenings Boston

Seed Savers Exchange: Conserving America’s Endangered Garden and Food Crop

Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that conserves and promotes America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. Founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, SSE’s collection started with seeds from two garden plants that Diane’s grandfather brought with him when he immigrated from Bavaria to St. Lucas, Iowa in the 1870s. The Whealys realized that if they did not keep these varieties alive, they would become extinct. It was in this spirit that they created a network of gardeners that shared and grew each other’s seed in case of crop failure or sickness. To this day, the exchange remains at the heart of Seed Savers Exchange, however membership is not required in order to purchase from their on-line catalog.

SSE members are as diverse as the varieties they offer. The network of more than 13,000 backyard preservationists in all 50 states and more than 40 different countries includes novices as well as lifelong seed savers. Every year, members exchange thousands of fruit, grain and vegetable varieties through seeds, plants, roots and bulbs in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook. This person-to-person seed exchange creates a resilient and diverse seed system able to withstand changing climates and consolidating seed companies. Many of these varieties are not commercially offered and are available only because of the preservation work of listed members.

Seed Savers Exchange was one of the original signers of the Safe Seed Pledge in 1999:

“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing are necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds.”

For more information, visit SeedSavers.org.

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