An Afternoon in the Preservation Lab

The Preservation Lab at Seed Savers Exchange was buzzing with activity on this Friday afternoon in February. With about 13 full-time employees whose specializations range from germination testing to seed storage and everything in between, there’s always something interesting happening in the Preservation Lab.


After soaking a number of bean varieties overnight, the Evaluation Team boiled them and tasted each variety, noting their culinary characteristics. Bean #4378 shown here, ‘Alfred Watling Pole,’ has a strong pole habit and is edible as a snap bean although the pods are somewhat fibrous. As a dry bean it is meaty with a slightly musty flavor. From growth habits to taste, evaluation is an important part of our work.

Germination Technician Andrea Springmeier evaluates the germination rate of Celery #52 in the collection, ‘Pink Plume.’ The results of Andrea’s testing let us know which varieties need to be pulled out of long-term storage and grown-out for regeneration.

As the Field Manager at Seed Savers Exchange, Bryan Stuart has the task of mapping out garden plans for the many hundred varieties being grown-out in 2014. A number of precautions have to be taken in order to prevent cross-pollination and ensure varietal purity.

As Tissue Culture Lab Manager, Philip Kauth oversees the laboratory where our collection of potatoes and sweet potatoes are maintained. Preserving these varieties “in vitro” cuts back on space and ensures they stay virus free.

Seed Historian Sara Straate meets with the Junkert family from Montana to talk about a lima bean Carol Junkert’s father donated to Seed Savers Exchange in the late 1980s. The variety, Lima #148 ‘Whitesitt Family Baby Lima,’ dates to at least 1887 in the Whitesitt family and received high praise in a taste evaluation conducted last year at Seed Savers Exchange.

Read more about the plant materials preserved at Seed Savers Exchange and the activities that keep our staff busy.

Interested in accessing some of the diversity we are preserving? Become a member of Seed Savers Exchange and take part in the Exchange, where we are offering 2,579 varieties from the collection to our members. In addition to what we are offering to share in the Exchange, our members offer thousands more varieties, bringing the total number of unique varieties our members can access to 13,012. Browse the varieties offered in the Exchange here.


Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

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