Record keeping makes it easier to add varieties to the SSE Collection
Do you have an important family heirloom you would like to have preserved in the Seed Savers Exchange Collection? SSE may be interested in maintaining and sharing your variety.
SSE's top Collection priorities are heirlooms with a history of being saved and shared within a family or community.
Ideal donations are:
• Well documented. They have a story with a clear chain of ownership and providence.
• Of suitable seed quantity to facilitate long-term preservation (usually 200-500 seeds, although this depends on the crop type).
• Stable. That is, they do not show different "types." Or, when they do show different types, these are well documented throughout the variety's history.
• Relatively free of seed-borne disease.
• Not restricted from distribution to members or use in support of SSE's mission.
The Gary Staley Collection
Gary Staley, an active member of SSE since 1983, passed away on January 25, 2015; he had over 1500 listings in the Yearbook, and was the source of at least 40 varieties in the Preservation Collection at Heritage Farm. Becky, his wife of 56 years, called us in February to ask if we wanted his seed collection - the varieties Gary had cultivated and cared for over the years.
Preservation staff invested about 100 hours researching the 84 tomatoes and peppers in Gary's collection, examining his Yearbook listings, his seed documentation, and our own documentation. After all the research was completed, eight varieties were added into the Preservation Collection, while 15 are being held in reserve as potential replacements for varieties already in the collection.
Without Gary’s meticulous record keeping and detailed yearbook listings, the whole research process would have taken much longer, and we may not have been able to gather enough information to move forward with accessioning any of his varieties.
Gary wrote his source on every seed packet, when he got it, the variety name, and what year the seed in that packet was harvested. This is a great first step, but we encourage seed savers to reach out to your seed sources to learn about their history with the varieties. Find out who they got the variety from and when they got it. Ask if they have a recipe to share, learn why they kept growing the variety, and see if it has a history within their family.
This kind of historical documentation isn’t just to edify the curiosity of the staff in the Preservation department. It’s directly related to the likelihood of your variety being requested through the Exchange.
Members rely on historical documentation
This year, SSE staff examined the Yearbook distributions made by Heritage Farm. Seventy-five percent of all requests made of Heritage Farm were for varieties that had historical documentation, but only 36% of our listings include this type of information.
This suggest that members rely heavily on historical information when making decisions about what varieties to grow in their garden. So, if varieties are safest when they’re growing in many gardens, the more historical information you can provide, the more likely it will be preserved for future generations.
SSE Collection priorities
All seed collectors, no matter the size of their collection, should try to gather historical and varietal information about their seeds. At a bare minimum, SSE recommends documenting the “Who, What, When, and Where” for every variety in your collection.
SSE's top Collection priorities are heirlooms with a history of being saved and shared within a family or community. Ideal donations are well documented and have a story with a clear chain of ownership and providence.