Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) has released their 2016 Yearbook, a listing of fruit, vegetable, grain, flower, and herb seeds that SSE members have harvested and would like to share with others. The 2016 Yearbook has over 16,422 unique varieties of plants listed; many of them are available nowhere else in the United States.Read More
The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) Yearbook has been sent to the printer! If you’re a long-time member, the arrival of the Yearbook may be the most anticipated garden-planning event of the year. If you’re new to SSE, however, the term ‘Yearbook’ can be a bit perplexing, and may conjure up memories of unfortunate portraits and embarrassing club associations.
The annual Yearbook is one way of accessing the Seed Savers Exchange, a network of gardeners, farmers, plant breeders and chefs who contribute to the most diverse seed exchange on the planet. Heritage Farm (where our staff maintains a permanent seed collection, sells seeds commercially, hosts events and publishes the seed exchange) is one part of this network.
Each year, hundreds of SSE members put together a list of fruit, vegetable, grain, flower and herb seeds they have harvested and would like to share with others. These seeds are organized in a database that is available online (exchange.seedsavers.org) and printed out annually as our Yearbook.
Entering thousands of open-pollinated plants into a publicly accessible database each year requires hundreds of hours of staff time. From September to January, SSE staff is busy pouring through lists of tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, potatoes, watermelons, rutabagas, apples, peaches, kiwis, sunflowers, hops, hollyhocks and zinnias (and at least 200 other plant types). When these lists are entered, we have about a week to proof 500 pages of nearly 20,000 offerings.
Since 1975, the Seed Savers Exchange has been connecting our members to one another through the annual Yearbook. All SSE members can participate in the seed exchange by requesting seeds (there are 13,000+ different varieties to choose from), offering seeds, or both.
It is never too late to offer seeds; although the 2014 Yearbook is already being printed and shipped, the Online Seed Exchange is always open to new members and new seeds.
The Seed Savers Exchange is one of the most resilient tools for preserving rare garden varieties. As a member, you have the opportunity to contribute to the seed exchange by growing your favorite fruits and vegetables, saving seeds, and sharing those seeds with others.
To browse the exchange online, learn how to save your own seeds, request rare varieties, or to offer seeds yourself, visit exchange.seedsavers.org. Membership is required to log in, but educational resources are open to everyone. If you’d like to be a part of the exchange and receive the-500 page Yearbook, join SSE today.
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.
The first sentence in my book, Gathering, reads “I grew up knowing that you harvest horseradish only in the months with an “r” in them and that every day gets a “rooster step” longer after the shortest day of the year.”
I understood the horseradish part, but for the longest time I was never quite sure of my Grandma Einck’s observation. The stride of a rooster—especially our bantams—isn’t much to speak of; it’s more like a baby step. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand her wisdom. The shortest day of the year is December 21 (when the sun set this year at about 4:30 pm), but by the end of January it might stay light until 5:15 p.m. And of course, by the first day of summer, the days seem longer by a thousand rooster steps. One rooster step isn’t much, but a couple hundred rooster steps is the difference between a cold long winter’s night and a glorious summer evening. You can get a lot done with a few more rooster steps.
Grandma Einck’s insight has come to mind many times in my adult life. When folks ask, “How did Seed Savers Exchange get started?” and “How did we get to where we are today?” I tell them that it certainly didn’t happen all at once, but it did happen with the certainty of a rooster’s step.
I am especially reminded of this when I see the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook being compiled around this time of year. Our first six-page seed listing in 1979 was so small we printed our 29 members’ seed listings along with their letters in their entirety. The next year our group had grown to 142 and we printed the seventeen-page booklet on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine set up in an unheated back bedroom of our farmhouse. Today our members list more than 12,000 varieties in a 500 page book and we send it to more than 13,000 members. We also organize the listings for easy online access at exchange.seedsavers.org. Amazing to think of the growth in all areas of Seed Savers Exchange that has transpired with 40 years of roosters steps.
Solutions to problems like genetic diversity don’t have to all be complicated or large; they can be as bold or as small as you like. Just one simple act can make a difference. Plant a seed, save a seed, support your local farmers market, CSA or community gardens, and simply ask your grocer or restaurant about where your food comes from. These small acts, added together, will make a difference. Small is underestimated, small is a beginning; small can make an important contribution to your planet and family, even something as small as a rooster’s step.
Diane Ott Whealy is Co-Founder and Vice President of Seed Savers Exchange, the nation's leading non-profit seed saving organization. She wrote Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver to chronicle the organization's humble beginnings and growth into a respected leader in the grassroots movement to preserve our agricultural heritage.
Join Seed Savers Exchange and gain access to the world's largest seed exchange.
Our non-profit mission is 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.
Become a Seed Savers Exchange member during October to take advantage of these special offers:
Join Seed Savers and get a one-year subscription to Fine Gardening magazine - all for one low price of $59.99. Save $10 with this limited-time offer. Click here to join.
Join Seed Savers and get three issues of Grow - all for one low price of $55.00. This is 38% off the cover price. Click here to join.
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization 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.
In order to fulfill our mission, we:
- Maintain thousands of varieties of different plant types in one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America - Regenerate seed in isolation gardens and store them in ideal conditions - Document valuable cultural information on varieties and their histories - Distribute heirloom varieties to members and the public through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog
We rely on membership to support our organization and to help sustain the diversity of heirlooms in our seed bank. Join the 13,000 other gardeners and seed savers who support our mission!
Learn more about Seed Savers Exchange in this video:
Exerpt taken from "Garden Guardians" by Alyssa Gammelgaard and Bryce Kilker.
A Seed Savers Exchange membership entitles you to a variety of benefits:
Access to the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and online seed exchange, an exclusive network of SSE members sharing over 12,000 unique plant varieties with one another
- The Heritage Farm Companion, an award-winning quarterly membership publication
- 10% off all purchases from SSE’s catalog, website, and Visitors Center
- Discounts on registration for workshops and events
- Enrollment in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program, offering free admission to botanical gardens, arboreta, and conservatories across the country.
Show your support for pure seed and good food by becoming a Seed Savers Exchange member today.
These days, speaking of a “mailbox” might bring about images of our virtual mailboxes, not the charming metal containers at the end of our driveways. When Seed Savers Exchange began in the pre social media days of 1975, our members were older and living in rural parts of the country. They relied on these physical metal boxes to not only exchange hand-written letters but heirloom seeds as well. This unique club of seed savers referred to each other as “mailbox friends.” This week our 2013 Yearbook will be mailed out to more than 10,000 members—the 38th year in a row—to continue facilitating this connection between seed saving brethren. This Yearbook might well represent the largest private index of seed varieties in the United States.
While it is always a considerable challenge to compile the listings of more than 19,000 varieties from nearly 700 seed savers each year, one of the fun experiences is reading the many descriptions of varieties offered.
Passing by the office kitchen table on my way to get a cup of coffee a few weeks ago, two staff members were proofing the listings from the upcoming Yearbook and reading some of the anecdotes out loud. Christy was amused by an Iowa member who wrote, “In keeping with my penchant for selecting seed based on names (I buy wine the same way- don’t you?), ‘Little Brown Cat’ has joined my collection because, as my son observed, you really don’t see brown cats.”
Sarah said, “Listen to the history of the ‘Doloff’ bean.” First grown by Roy Dolloff in Vermont, he gave it to Hattie Gray who remembered walking with her mother to Burke Hollow and back to get the seed from him when she was a girl in the 1920’s. Hattie grew the seed for 60 years and gave it to Leigh Hurley who listed it in 1986. Today, 27 years later, five members are still listing the ‘Dollof’ bean.
Those hand-written letters are treasures which support Seed Savers Exchange’s belief that every seed has a story to tell. Whether you choose to utilize the yearbook as it always has been—through the print copy coming to your mailbox at the end of the driveway, or through the recently offered electronic version on our website, consider the people who have chosen to carry these varieties forward. Along with a check, send them a note of thanks in appreciation for preserving our garden heritage.
No matter the form of mailbox you use, we are thrilled to see Seed Savers Exchange members utilizing the Yearbook not only as a way to acquire and cultivate seeds, but relationships as well. As one member proudly told us this year, “In 2008 I contacted a SSE member in my area and we have been great friends ever since." Mailbox friends.
To learn more about the Yearbook and the additional benefits of becoming a SSE member, visit www.seedsavers.org/Membership/.