I am delighted to post this special guest blog written by Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) Exchange and Outreach Coordinator Kathryn Gilbery. It would be impossible for me to explain the incredible relevance of the SSE in the way we garden today, and in the vast array of heirloom treasures we who garden now are able to grow, enjoy and share.
Are you looking for a community of passionate and skilled seed savers or do you wish seed catalogs had more to offer? The Exchange, a gardener-to-gardener seed swap facilitated by Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), could be what you’re looking for.
The Exchange started in 1975 as the True Seed Exchange to allow gardeners to share their seeds with green thumbs around the country. Many of the original members were sharing their family’s heirloom seeds that may have been lost if other gardeners had not stepped up to grow, preserve, and share these seeds.
Today the Exchange features over 19,000 varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, and flowers grown and shared by hundreds of members. The Exchange still features many family heirlooms, such as the Bradford Watermelon, immensely popular in the late 1800s but almost thought to be lost until a 7th generation family member was found to still be growing the melon his family had developed so many years before.
The Exchange is also a source for rare and historic commercial varieties, and more common or recent varieties of open-pollinated seeds. Members of the Exchange grow and share their seeds from all over the United States and 8 other countries so they are regionally adapted to a wide variety of climates. Seed Savers Exchange also shares a selection of varieties from their seed vault, which is currently preserving over 25,000 varieties of seed. The Exchange is the only way for gardeners to access many of SSE’s these seeds.
Craig LeHoullier told me, “We’re the luckiest gardeners in the essence of time because we have Seed Savers Exchange.” Craig has been a member of SSE and has participated in the Exchange since 1986. He has cited SSE and the Exchange as fundamental in nurturing his garden obsession and acquiring many of the heirloom tomato varieties he has grown in order to write his best selling guide, Epic Tomatoes. He has also become good acquaintances with other Exchange listers, some of whom he has entrusted to grow plants for his dwarf tomato project.
Join the Exchange Today
Right now is a great time to join the Exchange because we are compiling the 2019 Yearbook, a print catalogue of our listers’ seeds, seen by thousands of people. Create a free account on the Exchange Website to share your seeds. The deadline to list seeds online is November 29th, which is fast approaching. Requests for seeds can be made all year.
Thanks for writing this, Kathryn - it is a pleasure to feature this on my blog.