Heirloom Seeds – Merchants & Seed Exchanges

March 17th, 2015 by Loretta Lanphier, NP, BCTN, CN, CH, HHP

Heirloom Seeds – Merchants & Seed Exchanges

Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. How experts define heirlooms can vary, but typically they are at least 50 years old and are often pre-WWII varieties. In addition, they tend to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. Many gardeners agree that most heirloom varieties boast greater flavor than that found in hybrids, especially among tomatoes. While hybrid plants typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing, heirloom vegetables produce a “mixed bag” harvest. The harvest may come in less predictably, and fruit size can vary greatly even on the same plant.

A hybrid vegetable is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant, aiming to produce an offspring, or hybrid, that contains the best traits of each of the parents. Cross-pollination is a natural process that occurs within members of the same plant species. In hybridization, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve the desired combination of characteristics, such as bigger size or better disease resistance. The process of developing a hybrid typically requires many years. In general, hybrids offer some combination of these favorable traits: dependability, less required care, early maturity, better yield, improved flavor, specific plant size, and/or disease resistance. Hybrid vegetables typically look like the veggies you’d find at a supermarket.

GMO plants, on the other hand, are the result of genetic engineering. (“GMO” stands for “genetically modified organism.”) This is a process during which the plant’s DNA is altered in a way that cannot occur naturally, and sometimes includes the insertion of genes from other species.

Here is another useful list of  230+ companies supplying heirloom / non-GMO / organic seeds. If health is wealth, then this page is solid gold!

The importance of preserving our seeds is quickly becoming urgent! Chemical companies are continuing to adulterate our seed supply through genetically modification tactics. Below is a list of companies that continue to sell heirloom seeds.

List of Companies Selling Heirloom Seeds – Updated 2022

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

2278 Baker Creek Road
Mansfield, MO 65704
(417) 924-8917
Catalog: Free online.
Baker Creek has been issuing catalogs for ten years now, and the current one builds on their already impressive offerings. They feature hundreds of non-hybrid vegetables, flowers, and herbs, this catalog is especially strong on hot-weather crops. It lists 44 different eggplants, 175 tomatoes, plus ample numbers of old-time corn, squash, and melons. The other garden veggies are here, too, just in smaller numbers.

Eternal Seed

657 Pritchard Road
Farrellton, Quebec
J0X 1T0
(819) 827-8881
Catalog: free
This young company has assembled a fine selection of heirlooms, including some nice short-season varieties and some that are very rare. Many are grown organically and packaged without pesticides. They also offer many old-fashioned flowers (including some choice vintage sweet peas) and a long list of herbs. BTW, I’ve never had any problems with customs or plant quarantines when I’ve ordered seeds from Canada.

Fedco Seeds

PO Box 520
Waterville, ME 04903
(207) 873-7333
Catalog: Free online. I was hooked the minute I read the cover banner: “30 Years of Spring Fiction”. In addition to undeniable charm, vintage woodcuts, and amusing illustrations, this 100-page catalog has a mix of modern varieties and heirlooms. Among the latter, some are superstars, others are family favorites, many are historic. Informative write-ups help sort out which is which. Fedco has some rare varieties. In fact, they may be the only commercial source for some of them. Of course, you’re going to want these seeds. Order early. The deadline for mail orders is March 22.

Filaree Farm

182 Conconully Highway
Okanogan, WA 98840
(509) 422-6940 (Message only)
Catalog: Free online.
This organic farm offers hundreds of garlics gathered from literally all over the world. Some are heirlooms.

Heirloom Seed Project

Landis Valley Museum
2451 Kissel Hill Road
Lancaster, PA 17601
(717) 569-0401
Catalog:$4, refundable with first order.
The Landis Valley Museum is a living history museum with a farm that showcases Pennsylvania German rural heritage. Exhibits include gardens planted with crops that date from the early 1800s to 1940. They sell seed from these plants through their dandy catalog, which features more than 200 heirlooms grown at the farm. This link gives contact information, but you’ll have to snail-mail for their catalog. It’s worth the effort.

Heritage Farm

3076 North Winn Road
Decorah, IA 52101
(563) 382-5990
Catalog: Free online.
Associated with the Seed Savers Exchange, Heritage Farm maintains an astounding 20,000 endangered vegetable varieties. To help finance that worthwhile effort, Heritage Farm sells seeds of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers plus books and posters. Their collection of vegetables, which numbers more than 500 popular varieties, is particularly strong on heirloom tomatoes, beans, and peppers, but also has a nice selection of others.

Heritage Harvest Seed

Box 40, RR3
Carman, MB, R0G 0J0
(204) 745-6489
email: seed@heritageharvestseed.com
Print Catalog: $2.00 in U.S. Free in Canada.
Specializing in rare and endangered varieties, this young company’s catalog is chock-full of intriguing heirlooms. Some, such as ‘Champion of England’ peas, ‘Boston Marrow’ squash, and ‘Tip-Top melon’ are vegetable superstars of days-gone-by. Others, including ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes and ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelon are popular today. If those weren’t quite enough, HHS offers Canadian originals, Native American vegetables, and short-season varieties. For many of them, HHS is the only commercial seed source. A laudable effort, especially since without niche seed companies like this one, many rare and choice heirlooms would simply cease to be.

Hudson Valley Seed Library

Hudson Valley Seed Co.
4737 Route 209
Accord, NY
Phone: 845-204-8769
Email: mail@hudsonvalleyseed.com

The Hudson Valley Seed Company: your source for heirloom and open-pollinated garden seeds and beautiful garden-themed contemporary art. We are a values-driven seed company that practices and celebrates responsible seed production and stewardship. We have our own certified organic farm in upstate New York where we produce much of what we sell. On our site, you’ll find photos and artwork that stoke your horticultural imagination—along with tips to make your garden dreams a reality.

Here at the Hudson Valley Seed Company, we are both farmers and storytellers. We are committed to growing organically, sourcing locally and sustainably, and preserving crop diversity by selecting unique, rare, and hard-to-find varieties. Every seed in our catalog is open-pollinated, many are heirloom and organic, and they are never GMO. We were one of the first companies to sign the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), and we will remain committed to our values of sustainability to the last. We believe that a seed is more than meets the eye: it is a time capsule telling tales of the plants, crops, and people that came before us, and we work with a range of artists as diverse as our seeds to pass those stories down to present and future gardeners.

Irish Eyes – Garden City Seeds

PO Box 307
Thorp, WA 98946
(509) 964-7000, Fax: (800) 964-9210
Catalog: Online.
Irish Eyes, known for garlic and seed potatoes, and Garden City Seeds, known for short-season vegetable varieties for northern gardens, now offer more than ever. Their combined catalog offers hundreds of varieties, and features a category titled “heirloom varieties.” It includes more than 125 varieties. A few of them seem fairly new. The ‘Oregon Spring’ tomato, for example, was released in 1984. (On the plus side, it’s especially tasty and it performs well in the Pacific Northwest.) Such quibbles aside, this website is definitely worth a browse.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

955 Benton Avenue
Winslow, ME 04910
(207) 861-3900 Fax (US Only): 1-800-738-6314
E-mail: rstore@johnnyseeds.com
Catalog: Free online.
While Johnny’s specializes in short-season crops, it also offers a nice selection of heirlooms identified as such.

Landreth Seed Company

180 West Ostend Street
P.O. Box 6398
Baltimore, MD 21230
(800) 654-2407
Catalog: Free online.
This historic company (founded in 1784) offers an assortment of old and open-pollinated vegetables. This year, they added a page devoted entirely to the heirloom vegetables, many of which they have offered since these varieties were new. The 193 varieties listed here (with nifty vintage images) include many classics.

Native Seeds/SEARCH

526 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705-8450
(520) 622-5561, Fax: (520) 622-5591
Catalog: Free online.
Specializing in the traditional foods from the American Southwest and northern Mexico, this non-profit organization offers a wide variety of crops developed by the Hopi, Apache, Navajo, and other farmers throughout the region. This catalog is strong in the “Three Sisters” of American agriculture: beans, corn, and squash, but it also has chile peppers, tomatoes, melons, and lots of other goodies including tomatillos, teosinte, gourds, and traditional cotton. The descriptions here are short, but these plants tell the real story about biodiversity and the people who care enough to preserve them.

R. H. Shumway’s

Customer Service
334 W. Stroud ST
Randolph, WI 53956
(800) 342-9461
Catalog: Free online.
Under a vintage banner “Good Seed Cheap,” Shumway’s catalog is illustrated with old woodcuts and color images from Victorian catalogs. The thing is, the “heirloom look” of their catalog is nothing new. This seed company has been around for more than 100 years, and their catalog looks like it did decades ago. Could it be that they never changed? In any case, styles have finally caught up with them. Some of the vegetable varieties Shumway sells have been around a long time too. Many of them are now heirlooms, although the catalog does not always identify them as such.

Maine Potato Lady

Alison LaCourse
The Maine Potato Lady
PO Box 65 Guilford, ME 04443
(207) 717-5451

Located in the foothills of Central Maine, the LaCourse Family Farm, home of The Maine Potato Lady™, has been in operation for more than 25 years. Our 100-acre piece was once part of a 560-acre farm that dates back to the 1600s.

Our custom-designed and hand-built home crown our hill-top farm, which slopes up from a stream valley a mile down an unpaved country road. The stream feeds the cedar bog which provided the logs for our home. We gathered stones from field edges and milled our own lumber to finish the building, which has sheltered our family for many years. We are pleased to live “off the grid,” with a solar system to provide electricity.

Our south-facing fields are rich with fertile, well-drained silt loam. Our sugar bush produces fabulous maple syrup, and the cedar bog is a special habitat with sphagnum moss and rare pitcher plants. We are privileged to work in this rural environment, where deer, moose, turkey, ravens, eagles, and a variety of beautiful trees, plants, and birds are all around us.

The Maine Potato Lady is a certified organic handler (#0706) through MOFGA Certification Services, LLC. All our seed is untreated. We do not knowingly use or sell any genetically modified plants or organisms (GMOs). Certificate is available on our website.

Sand Hill Preservation Center

1878 230th Street
Calamus, IA 52729
Catalog: Free online.
What they’re preserving at this small Iowa business is rare poultry breeds and a fine collection of heirloom vegetables. They sell seeds of about 350 different tomatoes including red, orange, white, yellow, purple, green, paste, winter-keepers, and who knows what else. They also offer more than 50 different sweet potatoes. In addition to these in-depth collections, they also have nice selections of corn, melons, peppers, squash, and other hot weather crops for sale. The catalog lists a smaller (but still interesting) selection of other open-pollinated veggies.

Seeds of Change

P.O. Box 15700
Santa Fe, NM 87592
(888) 762-7333, Fax: (888) 329-4762
Catalog: Free online.
Lots and lots of heirlooms, grown organically.

Skyfire Garden Seeds

1313 23rd Road
Kanopolis, KS 67454
no phone
email: seedsaver@myvine.com
Catalog: Free online.
Operated by a long-time member of the Seed Savers Exchange and organic grower, Skyfire specializes in heirloom and open-pollinated vegetables and easy flowers. The catalog offers a wide assortment of all the different vegetables, plus several intriguing in-depth collections. For example, the catalog lists more than 100 different tomatoes, more than two dozen different carrots, about that same number of peppers, and more than a dozen different summer squash. There are some real treasures here, including some hot-weather varieties and others that are rarely sold in the seed trade. What’s more, the seeds are priced at only $1.50 per packet. New to this list, and a worthy addition.

South Carolina Foundation Seed Association

1162 Cherry Road
Box 349952
Clemson, SC 29634
Perhaps the most interesting source of pass-along and handed-down heirlooms from Georgia and the old South, this foundation offers beans, butterbeans, corn, peanuts, squash, pumpkins, and others adapted to hot summers. Each of these varieties has a rich history, including some traditional Native American and African-American varieties. Dr. David Bradshaw, a professor at Clemson University, originally collected these varieties and kept them going. Now, the Foundation has made it possible for gardeners everywhere to grow treasures such as the plumgranny, healing squash, cornfield beans, multi-colored beans, and many, many more. A very cool list.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

P.O. Box 460
Mineral, VA 23117
(540) 894-9480, Fax: (540) 894-9481
Catalog: Free online.
Offering more than 500 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other seeds, Southern Exposure has an impressive assortment of heirloom tomatoes, plus many other choice varieties. The catalog includes lots of historical information.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants

PO Box 316
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Orders: (800) 243-1743. Customer service: (800) 243-0743
Catalog: Free from website.
Like his home, Jefferson’s beloved gardens have been carefully restored and planted with the vegetables, herbs, and flowers he knew. Their 32-page catalog (illustrated with vintage woodcuts) is chock-full of history and lists an impressive collection of heirlooms.

True Leaf Market Seed Company

175 West 2700 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84115
Phone: 801-491-8700
Fax: 801-467-5730

Since 1974, True Leaf Market’s brands: Mountain Valley Seed and Handy Pantry, have been providing a multitude of high-quality seeds to residential and professional growers alike, which include flowers, vegetables, grasses, herbs, sprouting, long-term storage, and wildflowers. As an independent seed company, we’ve been thrilled to hear the feedback we get from our customers about their stellar results with their seeds. We hope to build and rebuild communities through growing by making gardening an accessible practice for all.

Many of our varieties of seeds are recommended by the Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service. We are intent on building strong relationships with suppliers and customers alike to ensure that we are providing the best seed possible. Since our inception, True Leaf Market has been dedicated to helping anyone begin gardening or sprouting, so we try to provide as much customer support and online growing information as we can because we believe that when we all grow together, we grow together. We hope you’ll make us your seed company of choice.

We especially like their Emergency Seed Assortment of Annuals and Perennials. Non-GMO. Heirloom. Open Pollinated. Bug Out Seed Bag delivers 34 of the easiest and most prolific fruit and vegetable seeds for emergency preparedness and home gardening. Sealed in a weatherproof mylar bag, each of these 34 heirloom varieties can be safely stored for both emergency and seasonal planting without fear of spoilage. Includes a 75-page Vegetable Growing Guide full of garden tips, maintenance, and harvesting instructions to get the most from your emergency garden. The Emergency Heirloom Bug Out Seed Bag is a staple for any camping bugout bag or preparation kit to allow you to start your survival garden anywhere. 3oz bag featuring ~22,000 seeds.

Vermont Bean Seed Company

334 West Stroud Street
Randolph, WI 53956-1274
(800) 349-1071. Fax:(888) 500-7333
email info@vermontbean.com
In addition to a huge assortment of vintage beans, this seed company offers a good selection of other vegetables. Some are heirlooms, but not all of them are labeled as such.

The Victory Seed Company

P.O. Box 192
Molalla, Oregon 97038
(503) 829-3126
Catalog: free online or $2.00 (refundable with order) for the print version
email: info@victoryseeds.com
Along with some nice information about World War II Victory Gardens> accompanied by original posters and pamphlets, this family seed company offers a good-sized assortment of heirloom and more recent vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Seed companies are not the only source for heirloom varieties. Many heirlooms are not even available from commercial seed companies but circulate from gardener to gardener in trades facilitated by seed exchanges. These exchanges are not seed companies and they usually do not sell seeds. Instead, they are forums where people who grow heirlooms and people who are looking for them can find each other. Most provide members with publications that operate a little like classified ads. In them, gardeners with seeds to share can list what they have and those who are looking for a particular variety can post what they want. Members browse these lists, hopefully making a match. While there is no guarantee that a particular variety will appear in any given year (or for that matter, ever), these exchanges are the best place to look for rare heirlooms. Each year, they list literally hundreds of different varieties. Many of them, including many that are at risk of becoming extinct, are available nowhere else.

Appalachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy

Box 519
Richmond, KY 40476
Dedicated to preserving Appalachia’s edible heritage, this young non-profit has already added 50 regional varieties to its seed bank, and is preserving several hundred more. Since so many of these rare heirlooms came as just a few seeds from a single source, the AHSC is currently building inventory. In time, they plan to offer these seeds to AHSC members and others. They published a quarterly newsletter, with info on what they grow and how you can help preserve heirlooms from the Appalachians.

CORNS [Seed Exchange]

c/o Carl L. Barnes
R.R. 1, Box 32
Turpin, OK 73950-9714
No web address.
Info: $1.00 and SASE Carl and Karen Barnes, who has been collecting and growing corn for 50 years, started this exchange, which is devoted entirely to corn. And lest you think that means plain old ordinary yellow grocery-store corn, CORN has some remarkable things–old dents and flints, flour corns, popcorn, white, red, black, blue, orange, purple, and multi-colored corn, old Native American varieties, and plenty more. That’s just part of what this exchange has to offer. The growers in this exchange maintain many other kinds of corn, save seeds (it takes some skill to keep corn varieties pure), and trade it with others who do the same. They also offer two or three varieties for a donation of $3.00 per packet.

Heritage Seed Library

The Henry Doubleday Research Association
Ryton Organic Gardens
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7630 3517
email: enquiry@hdra.org.uk
Europe’s largest organization for organic gardeners, the Henry Doubleday Research Organization is also involved in the heirlooms movement. Their “Heritage Seed Library” works to bring back endangered varieties, and issues a yearly catalog. So far, they are preserving some 700 rare varieties, and offer 200 of them in their catalog. They are sponsoring a seed swap and need volunteers to adopt and grow rare heritage varieties. They do plenty of other things, too. They have display gardens, sponsor lectures, and offer sage advice about organic gardening.

Irish Seedsaver Association

County Clare
Ireland Gardening is an ancient tradition in Ireland, and growers there have developed many fine varieties of vegetables, grains, and fruits. Today, many of these fine heirlooms are increasingly scarce. To help stop this genetic erosion, gardeners joined together in an organization that is finding and saving vegetables, potatoes, apples (they maintain 140 varieties from Ireland), and cereal grains. The group also does research and outreach, and is hoping for its own farm.

Maine Seed Saving Network

PO Box 126
Penobscot, ME 04476
No web address.
Devoted to preserving and sharing heirlooms, this organization hosts an annual seed swap each spring and serves gardeners and organic farmers in Maine and the Northeast.

Ozark Seed Exchange

33018 Hwy 123
Hagarville, AR 72839-9374
email*: dcoda@ozarkseedexchange.com
A relatively recent addition to the world of seed exchanges, d’coda organized this one to save primarily regional heirlooms from the increasing incursion of GE pollen into traditional crops. This pint-sized exchange has a big heart and the feel of friendly gardeners swapping seeds and stories on the front porch.*d’coda prefers snail-mail, as she lives computer-free.

Seed Savers Exchange

3076 North Winn Road
Decorah, Iowa 52101
As Tim Berners-Lee is to the World Wide Web, so Kent and Diane Whealy are to the heirloom vegetable renaissance. They founded the non-profit Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), which gives gardeners access to thousands of heirlooms. Here’s the way it works. The SSE publishes an annual yearbook in which members offer seeds to share and/or seeds they want. Gardeners can contact each other, and work out a swap. In recent times, the list has included thousands of postings. While many of the varieties in the Yearbook are familiar ones that also appear in the seed trade, there are always a fair number of rare heirlooms that either never appeared in catalogs or ones that were once in the trade but have since been dropped. And if you are looking for something really unusual, the SSE is the place to look. They also have varieties from around the world, not just ones from the U.S.

Seed Savers’Network

Box 975
Byron Bay, NSW 2481
Founded in 1986, the Seed Savers’ Network is working to preserve heirlooms in Australia and elsewhere around the globe. They have worked with more than 5,000 varieties and currently help growers share more than 1,300 different seeds and other plant materials each year. In addition to a quarterly newsletter, they publish a handbook each year in which members list what they have to share. They also host conferences, workshops, and have an impressive outreach program to start and support seed-saving organizations around the globe.

Seeds of Diversity Canada

Box 36, Station Q
Toronto, Ontario M4T 2C7
Another of the leaders in the heirloom seed movement, Seeds of Diversity Canada also has an impressive seed exchange. They publish an annual seed listing, plus newsletters. Canadian gardeners also host “Seedy Saturdays.” They operate a bit like swap meets, but with table after table of seeds. Details are on their website. So is plenty of other good information about growing heirloom vegetables.

Southern Seed Legacy Project

105A Baldwin Hall
Department of Anthropology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30605
Heirlooms go to college! This program, which is dedicated to identifying and preserving heirlooms from the South (Texas to Virginia), looks at heirlooms as cultural indicators. They hunt for seeds, but also for the gardeners who developed and maintained these varieties so they can preserve both the seed and human legacies. There are some very interesting vegetables here. Some of these heirlooms seem to resist disease and insects better than their modern counterparts. Others have different, but equally intriguing traits. The researchers here work with rank-and-file volunteer gardeners who grow heirlooms and share seeds. Check their website for more information.

Loretta Lanphier is a Naturopathic Practitioner, Board Certified Traditional Naturopath, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner and Certified Clinical Herbalist as well as the CEO / Founder of Oasis Advanced Wellness in The Woodlands TX. She has studied and performed extensive research in health science, natural hormone balancing, anti-aging techniques, nutrition, natural medicine, weight loss, herbal remedies, non-toxic cancer support and is actively involved in researching new natural health protocols and products.  A 21-year stage 3 colon cancer survivor, Loretta is able to relate to both-sides-of-the-health-coin as patient and practitioner when it comes to health and wellness. “My passion is counseling others about what it takes to keep the whole body healthy using natural and non-toxic methods.” Read Loretta’s health testimony Cancer: The Path to Healing. Loretta is a Contributor and Editor of the worldwide E-newsletter Advanced Health & Wellness. Check out Oasis Advanced Wellness and our natural skin care products Oasis Serene Botanicals.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.

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