Seed Savers Exchange, or SSE is a non-profit organization based near Decorah, Iowa, that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration, distribution and seed exchange. It is one of the largest nongovernmental seedbanks in the United States.
The mission of SSE is to preserve the world’s diverse but endangered garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, and educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity. Since 1975, Seed Savers has produced an annual yearbook of members’ seed offerings, as well as multiple editions of The Garden Seed Inventory, and The Fruit, Nut and Berry Inventory. SSE also publishes Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners.
Seed Savers Exchange offers an alternative model to big agriculture through our work, encouraging participatory preservation among our members, and by signing the safe seed pledge. Seed Savers Exchange knows that the future of our planet depends on a genetically diverse food supply and carries out our important work by:
- Maintaining thousands of varieties of different plant types - from amaranth to watermelon - in one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America.
- Regenerating seed in isolation gardens and storing them in ideal conditions.
- Documenting valuable cultural information on varieties and their histories.
- Distributing heirloom varieties to members and the public through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog
- Storing varieties in back-up locations at the USDA Seed Bank in Fort Collins, CO and at Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. These off-site deposits remain the property of SSE.
Seed Savers Exchange has been promoting the preservation and utilization of heirloom varieties for 37 years. Working with our members--farmers and gardeners--to ensure that these unique varieties are not lost forever, SSE encourages "participatory preservation" through membership in the Seed Savers Exchange. Each year thousands of seed varieties are exchanged among backyard preservationists through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook for diverse reasons such as connecting to our garden heritage, finding varieties suited to a particular region, enjoying the diversity of heirloom varieties, and sourcing material to use in localized breeding projects.
These preservation methods keep many open-pollinated and heirloom varieties circulating in the hands of gardeners and farmers, making them available to everyone.
Safe Seed Pledge
The strategies and tactics being employed by the agricultural biotechnology industry are diametrically opposed to our efforts to protect and share our garden heritage, and to increase the genetic diversity available to gardeners and farmers growing healthy food for their families. 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."
All varieties offered for sale by Seed Savers Exchange in our catalog and on our website are untreated, non-GMO varieties.