By Robyn Griggs Lawrence
Plant heirloom seeds and enjoy the same delicious produce and beautiful blossoms that your grandparents did. Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison
“Scientists know we must protect species because they are the working parts of our life-support system,” biologist Paul Ehrlich says. Planting heirloom, non-genetically modified seeds is a great way to do your part to preserve endangered plant varieties. Natural Home magazine’s rundown of heirloom seed companies makes it easy.
Baker Creek Heirloom SeedsOffering heirloom, non-genetically modified seeds, Baker Creek’s store in Petaluma’s historic Sonoma County National Bank building is a beacon for gardeners, foodies and tourists. Last June, Baker Creek added a new family member—Comstock, Ferre & Co., the oldest continuously operated seed company in the United States. Owner Jerre Gettle plans to preserve Comstock’s historic East Coast garden and create a green agro-tourism destination.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds Founded in a New Hampshire farmhouse attic in 1973 by a 22-year-old vegetable grower named Rob Johnston, Johnny’s is a partially employee-owned company dedicated to rigorous seed testing and top-quality, non-hybrid products. You can tour Johnny’s 40-acre research farm Monday through Friday, July through September.
Seed Savers Exchange Dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds, Seed Savers Exchange members have been distributing rare garden seeds for 35 years. Visit their 890-acre Heritage Farm to see the group’s gorgeous preservation gardens, the source of the largest nongovernmental seed bank in the United States.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, offers heirloom varieties tested for performance, flavor and disease resistance. Though the group focuses primarily on plants suited to the Mid-Atlantic, it provides seeds, education and services for gardeners nationwide. The small staff doesn’t accommodate farm visits.
Terroir Seeds/Underwood GardensFamily owned and operated, Terroir Seeds and its associated gardens, Underwood Gardens, specialize in heirloom, organic and rare seeds, soil building and seed saving. The group grows some of its seeds on its 3-acre garden in Chino Valley; the rest are grown by Terroir’s network of gardeners and family growers across the country.