Botany, Genetics and Horticulture
for SeedsaversTrading seeds: Seed Exchanges on the WebBuying
heirloom and OP seeds: Non-profit organisations Buying heirloom and OP seeds: Commercial sources Buying organic seeds NGOs and GOs concerned with Plant Genetic Diversity Books for Seedsavers Supplies for Seedsavers
For the German speaker here's a similar article "Verbotene FrŘchte", based on a visit to an heirloom garden in northern Germany, and an interesting article on the legendary Vavilov Institute in Russia where a number of scientists starved to death while guarding samples of grain varieties in the institute's seed bank during the German siege of Leningrad in WWII.
The Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) is an international non-governmental organisation, established in 1990, to help further a global movement of popular action against one of the world's most pervasive threats to world food and livelihood security: genetic erosion. The loss of biological diversity, particularly in the "gene rich" countries of the Third World, undermines the very sense of sustainable agriculture as it destroys choices for the future and robs people of a key resource base for survival. Genetic erosion is more than just the loss of genes. It is the loss of of options for development. GRAIN is registered in Spain as an international, non-profit foundation. It has offices in Barcelona and in Los Ba˝os, the Philippines. A wholly autonomous organisation, GRAIN is financed by grants from NGOs, governments and intergovernmental organisations. GRAIN's programme of work is currently implemented by a team of eight people, representing different nationalities and experiences. The organisation is governed by a Board composed of dedicated individuals - scientists, grassroots field workers, development NGOs and policy makers - acting in their personal capacity. The GRAIN website also comes in a Versiˇn en espa˝ol and a Version franšaise. GRAIN's newsletter "Seedling" can be accessed through the website. GRAIN also publishes the irregular e-mail newsletter BIO-IPR. Its purpose is to circulate information about recent developments in the field of intellectual property rights related to biodiversity & associated knowledge. BIO-IPR is a strictly non-commercial and educational service for nonprofit organisations and individuals active in the struggle against IPRs on life.
Information on and insights into the world seed industry can be found at
World Seed info. The site covers international laws, conferences, issues relating to IPR (Intellectual Property Rights), seed trade and certification, biodiversity, biotechnology, statistics, publications and Internet links.
In order to ensure varietal purity and to avoid inbreeding depression when saving seed one needs to have some idea of botany and genetics. See this excellent practical guide on Genetics for Seedsavers for details. The same website by Tom Clothier has loads of information on seed germination, taxonomy, seed viability, seed trading etc. on this page. A short "FAQ Regarding Seeds" is provided by Travis Saling. Also check out the books section on this site.
Where did agriculture originate and when? Where did our major crops originate? How were plants modified as a consequence of cultivation? The University of California provides an on-line tutorial on the "Evolution of Crop Plants" free for personal use. Other courses deal with the "Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources" and "Plant Breeding" but appear not to be online.
The Crop Index of the Center for New Crops and Plant Products of Purdue University, Indiana, USA provides a very comprehensive list of scientific and common names of crops giving access to crop profiles and scientific articles on crops of all sorts. Don't be put off by the name 'new' as virtually everything including many old neglected and unusual crops are included. Click on the link for the New Crop Resource Online Program.
The Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) web server provides germplasm information about plants, animals, microbes and invertebrates within the National Genetic Resources Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Grin taxonomic data provide the structure and nomenclature for the accessions of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). Many plants (35,000 taxa, 13,000 genera) are included in GRIN taxonomy, especially economic plants. See: World Economic Plants in GRIN.
Dave M. Ford's Seed Exchange Mailing List: "The purpose of the Seed Exchange Network is to allow those of us who garden as a hobby to find and exchange seeds that we either want or have excess of." To subscribe send a blank email with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home Grown Exchange, 16428 Woodstock, Macomb, MI 48044 -- Membership
$12/year --monthly issues of a newsletter which includes articles and
letters from seed savers as well as a seed exchange listing; send $2
for a sample copy or a send a listing of seeds you will offer for
exchange and get a free copy.
Bountiful Gardens is part of the Ecology Action group and sells seeds mail order. Bountiful Gardens email@example.com Ecology
Action 5798 Ridgewood Rd. Willits CA 95490 phone/fax (707) 459-6410 Rare
Seeds Catalgue $2.00 main catalogue? Not too far from Mendocino, if one was visiting the area... hulless barley and hulless oats.
Seed Saver's Exchange3076 N. Winn Rd. Decorah, IA 52101 (319)382-5990 fax (319)382-5872 free; publishes a Garden Seed Inventory periodically which contains information on substantially all heirloom/OP varieties of vegetables offered in North America over the past 15 years or so, including all known seed houses still offering them. They also have a Fruit, Nut and Berry inventory that covers those classes of edibles. The Garden Seed Inventory is invaluable for determining if a variety is OP or not and if so, where to find it. The latest edition consists of 803+ pages of the names and describtions of open-pollinated plants. It also lists commercial sources in both the US and Canada. The softcover edition is $26
plus $3 shipping to US addresses. Shipping overseas is c. $9. A hardcover edition is available too for $32.
HDRA Heritage Seed Library
Pro Specie Rara is a Swiss NGO, founded in 1982, which aims at preserving as many agricultural/horticultural plant varieties and domestic animal breeds as possible. They have five part-time employees who co-ordinate projects with the bulk of the actual preservation work carried out by more than 1000 private volunteers. Finance is practically raised entirely from private donations. Pro Specie Rara is constanty looking for custodians of plant varieties. Contact them at Pro Specie Rara-Sekretariat, Engelgasse 12a, CH-9000 St.Gallen, Switzerland, Fax +41-71-223 74 01. Their website contains a 'Variety finder' searchable database "Sortenfinder" for vegetables, grains, fruit (with pictures of apple varieties).
The Eastern Native Seed Conservancy concerned with saving especially the varieties native to this country.
They have a participant growers program where you can grow a certain
variety and send them the seeds to help in their efforts.
Another list of seed suppliers in the US can be found here.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Home Page Although they emphasize varieties adapted to the Mid-Atlantic region, they serve gardeners throughout the United States and Canada. A large percentage of the seed and bulb varieties they offer are grown by themselves or their growers. They are family-owned and operated. Much of their seed is organically grown. All their seed is free of chemical treatment and they do not offer genetically engineered varieties. They grow at least 40% of their own seed and offer over 550 varieties of open-pollinated, heirloom, and traditional varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs; large selection of garlic cultivars and rare perennial onions. Also included are books, gardening supplies, and seed-saving supplies and information.
FYI, Chase Organics, Suffolk Herbs, Kings Seeds & Tamar (& no doubt others) are all in fact supplied by Kings Of Kelvedon, seems the only difference is in packaging, marketing strategies & prices!!! (eg, Suffolk Herbs have a nice high production value, colour catalogue with tasteful water colours of the plants, etc- Tamar are far more basic & so are their prices). Suffolk Herbs are now owned by Kings - Kings are a major supplier to the UK seed market, however there are others, Thomas Etty, for instance also gets seeds from French and Italian suppliers.
Grandview Tomatoe Farms (heirloom and open pollinated varieties) 12942 Dupont Rd. Sebastopol, CA 95472 free list, may also send Irish Eyes with a Hint of Garlic firstname.lastname@example.org POB 307 Ellensburg WA 98926 (509)925-6025 fax (509)925-9238 free; garlic, potatoes, onions and other tubers with lots of planting info sample seeds
Horizon Herbs Strictly Medicinal email@example.com POB 69 Williams OR 97544 (541)846-6704 fax (541)846-6233 $2.00 A family run business, and more delightful folks than most! A bible of herb information.
J.L. Hudson, Seedsman Ethnobotanical Catalogue of Seeds Star Route 2, Box 337 La Honda CA 94020 $1.00 Quirky, but dedicated and knowedgeable to a fault. Incredibly detailed listing.
Fedco POB 520 Waterville, ME 04903 (207) 873-7333 fax (203)872-8317 free Best prices, generous packets, volume discounts, free shipping. Besides, they quote Walt Whitman throughout, what better endorsement do you need?
Native Seeds/SEARCH firstname.lastname@example.org 526 N
4th Ave Tuscon AZ 85705 $1.00 Fascinating reading, tribal info., rare seeds, Desert Foods for Diabetes Control, tepary beans, sorghums. or http://www.desert.net/seeds/home.htm preserves southwestern Native American seeds.
Oregon Exotics 1065 Messinger Rd. Grants Pass OR 97527 (541)846-7578 $4.00 Wapato, chinese yam, water chestnuts...
DT Brown in the UK: An old established company enjoying an impressive revival with an excellent choice of modern and traditional varieties. Their Heritage range includes many heirloom varieties incluing striped zinnias, striped French marigolds, dark-leaved nasturtiums and other varieties usually unavailable elsewhere. Their vegetable range is also one of the best in the UK, with some modern F1 hybrid vegetables as well as heirlooms like the pink and white flowered 'Painted Lady' climbing bean. The catalogue includes plants and seedlings which cannot be sent overseas. DT Brown also publish an excellent trade catalogue, specifically aimed at smaller commercial growers.
--> Ordering British Seed from the USA: A number of British seed companies will supply seed to gardeners in the USA. American gardeners will find varieties of seed raised plants in British mail order seed catalogues which are not available in the USA; some will be heirloom varieties which have been kept going in Europe or recently reintroduced, others will be new varieties which have not yet been listed in American catalogues.
Mr Fothergill's Seeds: One of Britain's newer seed companies but one which lists many unusual varieties in its two seed catalogues, the general catalogue and the enthusiasts' catalogue. Both catalogues include a number of excellent nineteenth century heirlooms, as well as modern varieties in single colours where most companies offer only mixtures. Webpage?
Chiltern Seeds specialises in annuals and bedding plants in separate colours along with many unusual botanical items ranging from cacti and palms to trees and vines. E-mail only.
Seeds-by-Size sells vegetables, herbs and flowers, including many unusual annuals and many single colours reputedly available to home gardeners from no other company - anywhere in the world.
Thompson & Morgan offer a comprehensive list of seeds, including thousands of varieties of flowers and vegetables. Their site includes catalogues for USA and Worldwide Sales, both wholesale and retail. They also have a catalogue specialising in young plants for sale only to the United Kingdom. Their seed catalogues (available from 1st August 1999) include thousands of varieties and are fully indexed and searchable.
Sand Hill Preservation Center 1878 230th St Calamus IA 52729-9659 319-246-2299 (business hours) - specializing in heirloom open-pollinated seeds, sweet potato slips and rare poultry breeds. This is an excellent source of op corn, squash and tomatoes. They personally grow out over
2,000 varieties of heirlooms. family run
Flowery Branch Seed Company PO Box 1330 Flowery Branch, GA 30542 Phone: (770) 536-8380 - Flowery Branch Seed Company in Flowery Branch, Georgia is a superb source of seed for those of us who are
addicted to growing old-fashioned and uncommon flowering garden plants. don't concentrate exclusively in heirlooms they list almost no F1 hybrid bedding plants.
Nicky's Mail Order Flower Seeds Worldwide. On-line seed store for the amateur and professional gardener. Seeds for bedding plants, hanging baskets, house plants, containers, patio and rockeries. Some F1 varieties but also lots of open-pollinated varieties.
Chase Organics (Great Britain) Ltd. Despite the name only a small (but growing) section of the seed Chase are selling is actually certified organic. All of the organic varieties I have tried (lettuces, radishes, onions) have grown exceptionally well here in the West of Ireland.
The Henry Doubleday Research Association HDRA, Britain's Premier organic gardening organisation, maintains the Heritage Seed Library of endangered vegetables containing over 700 varieties of interesting and traditional vegetables that can't legally be traded in Europe. These seeds cannot be purchased but Members of the Library can receive free seed packets each year.
The Natural Gardening Company is a certified organic nursery in the US selling vegetable, herb and flower seeds as well as beneficial insects, drip irrigation, composting equipment, tools and wildflower seeds.
Ronniger's Seed Potaotes, a small and family run business, offers an incredible selection of potatoes as well as some other tubers/bulbs like sunchokes, onions, and garlic along with some books and tools. They are known for excellent service. Organic, disease free, etc. They also encourage growers to save their own seed potatoes from year to year if you grow in disease-free soil. Their address is now Ronniger's Seed Potatoes PO Box 1838 18705 188th Street East Orting, WA 98360, 360-893-8782 , 360-893-3492 Fax.
NGOs and GOs concerned with Plant Genetic Diversity
The Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) publishes the irregular e-mail newsletter BIO-IPR. Its purpose is to circulate information about recent developments in the field of intellectual property rights related to biodiversity & associated knowledge. BIO-IPR is a strictly non-commercial and educational service for nonprofit organisations and individuals active in the struggle against IPRs on life.
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) is an international non-governmental organization headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) with affiliate offices in Pittsboro, North Carolina (USA). RAFI is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable improvement of agricultural biodiversity, and to the socially responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies. RAFI is concerned about the loss of genetic diversity - especially in agriculture - and about the impact of intellectual property rights on agriculture and world food security.
The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project (FCGPATM1L1) is a collaborative effort to return farmers and gardeners to the practices of characterizing and saving seed. With support from the Fund for Rural America, and administered by Oregon Tilth, the FCGP explores the feasibility of a cooperative marketing structure that rewards producers for maintaining the nation's
most vital resource base - the seed. The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project is a three year project to assemble a farmer owned seed cooperative. Participants in the effort
will learn how to work with the United States* repository of seeds (the National Plant Germplasm System) and other seed resources, learn how to characterize or describe varieties, learn how to grow true seeds, and develop plant varieties for preservation and sale. For more information contact: JJ Haapala at Oregon Tilth.
The Henry Doubleday Research Association HDRA, Britain's Premier organic gardening organisation, maintains the Heritage Seed Library of endangered vegetables containing over 700 varieties of interesting and traditional vegetables that can't legally be traded in Europe. Many are family heirlooms nurtured from generation to generation; others were once commercial varieties, now no longer offered by seed companies, the seeds being victims of commercial pressures and draconian European rules. Members of the library are able to receive up to seven packets of free seed each year. These seeds cannot be purchased but Members of the Library can receive free seed packets each year.
In a small village in Uttar Pradesh is a collection of native Indian seeds that would put even a genebank to shame. Vijay Jardhari, a farmer in Chamba in the Garhwal Himalaya has a rare collection of traditional seed varieties which he maintains by cultivating in small plots of land. There is an urgent need to promote more such seed banks writes Indira Khurana at http://www.oneworld.org/cse/html/dtedte981231/dte_grass.htm.
Detailed information on the FAO's work on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture can be found here.
The Solomon Islands Planting Materials Network has for the past four years worked directly with rural communities, development aid agencies and government agricultural research and extension organisations to make available the non-hybrid seed of food crops used by village subsistence farmers and has achieved recognition for its pioneering work throughout the South Pacific as well as in Australia.
Pro Specie Rara is a Swiss NGO, founded in 1982, which aims at preserving as many agricultural/horticultural plant varieties and domestic animal breeds as possible. They have five part-time employees who co-ordinate projects with the bulk of the actual preservation work carried out by more than 1000 private volunteers. Finance is almost entirely raised from private donations. Pro Specie Rara is constanty looking for custodians of plant varieties. Contact them at Pro Specie Rara-Sekretariat, Engelgasse 12a, CH-9000 St.Gallen, Switzerland, Fax +41-71-223 74 01. Their website contains a 'Variety finder' searchable database "Sortenfinder" for vegetables, grains, fruit (with pictures of apple varieties).
Ashworth, Suzanne. SEED TO SEED (ISBN 0-9613977-7-2). Seed Saver Publications, RR 3 Box 239, Decorah, Iowa 52101, 1991 (my own No. 1 reference book). Also available from the Abundant Life Foundation. The German Language edition is called Saatgutgewinnung im Hausgarten.
'THE SEED SAVERS HANDBOOK' by Micheal & Jude Fanton, Grover Books, available from Ecologic Books, 19 maple grove, bath, BA2 3AF. Write for their catalogue.... Bountiful Gardens is part of the Ecology Action group and sells seeds mail order. They do have a web site [check for URL] You used to be able to download their catalog. They also have a separate one of rare seeds and a whole library for sale on biointensive gardening, permaculture and other topics.
SEED SOWING AND SAVING by Carole B. Turner, published at $28.95, is available for $7.24 from Gardener's Book Club at www.booksonline.com/gbc
Ausubel, Kenny. SEEDS OF CHANGE: THE LIVING TREASURE.
Nabhan, Gary Paul. ENDURING SEEDS: NATIVE AMERICAN AGRICULTURE AND
WILD PLANT CONSERVATION. North Point Press, San Francisco, 1989
Raeburn, Paul. THE LAST HARVEST: THE GENETIC GAMBLE THAT THREATENS TO
DESTROY AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.
Any book or article by Jeremy Rifkin.
Shiva, Vandana. BIODIVERSITY, BIOTECHNOLOGY AND PROFITS. in Vandana
Shiva et al. Biodiversity: Social and Ecological Perspectives. London:
Zed Books Ltd., 1991. pp. 43-58.
Shiva, Vandana. THE SEED AND THE EARTH: BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE
COLONIZATION OF REGENERATION. in Vandana Shiva, ed. Close to Home:
Women Reconnect Ecology, Health and Development Worldwide. Gabriola
Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 1994.