Finding Heirloom Seeds – Merchants and Seed Exchanges

Finding Heirloom Seeds – Merchants and Seed ...

Finding Heirloom Seeds – Merchants and Seed Exchanges


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 vegies are here, too, just in smaller numbers.
Bountiful Gardens
18001 Shafer Ranch Road
Willits, CA 95490
(707) 459-6410
Catalog: Free online.
Offers only open-pollinated varieties, including some newer varieties as well as a fair number of old-timers. Of these, only a few are identified as heirlooms, even though many others, including some fairly rare ones, are also heirlooms.
Colonial Williamsburg: The Colonial Nursery Seed List
The Colonial Nursery
P. O. Box 1776
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776
Catalog: Seed list free online.
Gardening was part and parcel of colonial life, and this remarkable museum displays everything from the aristocratic pleasure grounds for the governor to a work-a-day kitchen garden of vegetables and herbs, all carefully researched and authenticated. Their "Colonial Nursery" sells period-appropriate vegetable, flower, and herb seeds, plus bulbs, gardening accessories, and other goodies.
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 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.
Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes
5423 Princess Drive
Rosedale, MD 21237
Catalog: Free online.
Donna Meinschein is now shepherding Chuck Wyatt's astonishing collection of tomatoes, and carrying his tradition forward. As before, this website offers hundreds different heirloom tomatoes — red, pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, and black tomatoes, big ones, little ones, short-season tomatoes, hot-weather tomatoes, and everything in-between. Best of all, Donna even has tomatoes that taste like real tomatoes.
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
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.
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
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 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, and is worth a browse.
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.
Nichols Garden Nursery
1190 Old Salem Road NE
Albany, OR 97321-4580
(800) 422-3985, Fax: (800) 231-5306
Catalog: Free online.
Offering an intriguing assortment of new and old plants, Nichols' catalog is always a treasure-trove. It has a good selection of heirloom vegetables, including some old-timers that have become popular again, and some odd-balls nobody else seems to have.
Old Sturbridge Village Seed Store
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
(508) 347-0270 (Gift Shop)
Catalog: Free online
One of the premier living-history museums, Old Sturbridge Village has extensive period gardens. They also sell seeds, and the thirty or so heirloom vegetables in this flyer are classics.
Plimoth Plantation
Plimoth Plantation Museum Shops
PO Box 1620
Plymouth, MA 02360
(800) 262-9356 x8332, Fax: (508) 747-0884
Garden like a Pilgrim, circa 1620. The seeds from the prestigious Plimoth Plantation museum are all the real deal — Cornfield Beans, old pumpkins, Indian corn and others that the Pilgrims grew. Plimoth also has an interesting collection of herbs and other useful plants of the time, plus seeds of the native plants the Pilgrims encountered.
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.
Ronniger's Potato Farm
12101 2135 Rd
Austin, CO 81410
(877) 204-8704
Catalog: Free online. Ronniger's Potato Farm has long been known for its amazing collection of interesting potato varieties, including a number of rare spuds. Many are new or relatively so, but they've also got a fine selection of heirlooms. Many of the old-timers here had faded to obscurity, but Ronnigers brought them back and now offers them virus-free thanks to the high-tech world of meristem tissue culture. Certified organic.
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 vegies.
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
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—seeds-seeds.html
Catalog: Free from web site.
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.
Vermont Bean Seed Company
334 West Stroud Street
Randolph, WI 53956-1274
(800) 349-1071. Fax:(888) 500-7333
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 print version
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 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 have 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.

Garden State Heirloom Seed Society
PO Box 15
Valley Road
Delaware, NJ 07833

The Garden State has a long and distinguished history of fine horticulturists and choice plants. Keeping that tradition alive, their Heirloom Seed Society is active on several fronts. They coordinate an heirloom seed exchange, host a tomato tasting, hold plant sales, and offer workshops. And they are developing a farm museum in northwestern NJ. Their website has lots of interesting information.

Heritage Seed Library
The Henry Doubleday Research Association
Ryton Organic Gardens
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7630 3517

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 sponsor 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

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

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 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.

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