In Christian Biblical text, there is a universal message that says if people have faith even as minuscule as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for them. When this philosophy is planted in a different context such as the fertile grounds of U.S. food movements and is invigorated with active members from around the country, the Seed Savers’ Exchange is what sprouts.
As a non-profit whose roots were planted in 1975, the Seed Savers’ Exchange has blossomed into an organization abounding with thousands of members who contribute to the preservation of heirloom fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables seeds. Heirloom, in this sense, refers to seeds that were commonly planted in our food history but are not conventionally produced in Big Agriculture today. These seeds carry the piquancy of generational food stories passed on by family members through successive growing seasons. These food stories are then chronicled in the extensive Seed Savers’ Exchange database.
The Seed Saver’s Exchange intertwines its mission to build a network of people who work toward conserving and sharing the endangered garden heritage for future generations while also educating the public about the myriad benefits of plant diversity. This mission reverberates amidst the current debates regarding genetically modified foods derived from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Working antithetically from GMOs, the Seed Savers’ Exchange has committed to the Safe Seed Pledge, which acknowledges seeds, plants, and agriculture as our foundation for sustaining our future progeny. The Safe Seed Pledge also disassociates pledging organizations from any genetically modified agriculture to ensure purity and quality of the seeds they regenerate.
Located in the lush farmlands of Iowa, the Seed Savers’ Exchange plants and cultivates these seeds of hope at the Heritage Farm, which also shelters a preservation garden, historical orchard, and Ancient White Park Cattle Preserve. At Heritage Farm, Seed Savers’ staff and volunteers have preserved thousands of rare garden seeds through their ongoing efforts.
The Seed Savers’ Exchange is often referred to as a seed bank where heirloom and open-pollinated seeds are planted and cultivated as well as exchanged with members. However, it extends its tendrils even further. In reality, the Seed Savers’ Exchange is a gene bank which preserves fruits, flowers, and vegetables that regenerate not only from seeds but from bulbs and roots. Continuing its efforts toward plant preservation, the Seed Savers’ Exchange forges on through research partnerships with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Educational seed programs at local schools and events for members and the public are also offered.
The Seed Savers’ Exchange has demonstrated a type of triple bottom line commitment toward the benefit of people and the planet by creating a world replete and profitable in plant diversity. Seed Savers literally offers the tiny seeds of hope and faith by retaining heirloom plants that weave our current food stories with those of our ancestors to create a quilting that will sustain our future.