Seed Savers Exchange
Seed Savers Exchange, or SSE is a non-profit organization based near Decorah, Iowa, that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration, distribution and seed exchange. It is one of the largest nongovernmental seedbanks in the United States. The mission of SSE is to preserve the world’s diverse but endangered garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, and educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity. Since 1975, Seed Savers has produced an annual yearbook of members’ seed offerings, as well as multiple editions of The Garden Seed Inventory, and The Fruit, Nut and Berry Inventory. SSE also publishes Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners.
The SSE was founded by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy in 1975, inspired to protect and preserve heirloom varieties after Diane was bequeathed the seeds of two heirloom plants that her great-grandfather had brought to the U.S. from Bavaria in 1870. It has more than 13,000 members worldwide, passing on more than one million seed samples and distributing over 20,000 varieties of endangered seeds. The SSE publishes a list of members' seeds annually in the Seed Savers Yearbook, complete with a description of the crop and its known history.
It is headquartered at the 890-acre (3.6 km2) Heritage Farm, located six miles from Decorah, Iowa. A certified organic farm, Heritage is called the "most diverse farm in the world" by ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan. At Heritage Farm, more than 25,000 rare fruit, vegetable, and plant varieties are regenerated, refrigerated and preserved in a central collection. A herd of White Park Cattle is also maintained on the farm.
In December 2007, Seed Savers Exchange made an inaugural deposit of nearly 500 varieties to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that opened on February 26, 2008 in Svalbard, Norway. It was the only citizen-led group in the United States to contribute to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault for opening day.
- Siebert, Charles (July 2011), "Food Ark", National Geographic: 114–115.
- Perkins, Jerry (March 2, 2008), "Iowa Seeds Stockpiled Deep Inside Mountain", Des Moines Register.
- Higgins, Adrian (March 6, 2008), "Preserving Precious Seeds, In Norway and Your Way", The Washington Post.