Mother Earth Living

Saving Our Seeds: The Story Behind Seed Savers Exchange

At the breathtaking Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, centuries of history meet our nation’s agricultural future through the preservation of thousands of heirloom seeds.

Classic Amish architecture and idyllic red barns belie the science going on behind closed doors at Seed Savers Exchange's Heritage Farm—where scans of seeds become the basis for some of the nation’s most intensive cataloguing of America’s genetic biodiversity.
Photo By Barry Rustin
A Seed Savers Exchange employee dries Edmonson cucumber seed.
Photo By Barry Rustin
Isolated potato tissue cultures grow in test tubes inside the SSE lab. Growing the potatoes in test tubes helps ensure the plants don’t have to be unnecessarily exposed to environmental pressures such as pests and disease.
Photo By Barry Rustin
A demonstration garden filled with garden flox sits next to a classic barn used for seed processing and drying and grown over with Grandpa Ott’s morning glories—one of the seeds that helped found the organization.
Photo By Barry Rustin
Sunflowers provide beauty for humans and seed for birds.
Photo By Barry Rustin
Seed Savers Exchange maintains two herds of Ancient White Park Cattle along with its vast variety of heirloom plants.
Photo By Barry Rustin
Seed Savers Exchange cofounder Diane Ott Whealy raised her family while developing SSE from the ground up, starting in the late ’70s.
Photo By Barry Rustin
Five Color Silver beet has brilliant red stalks.
Photo By Barry Rustin
A Seed Savers Exchange employee cuts Lacinato kale from the garden.
Photo By Barry Rustin
Allium flowers are a favorite among honeybees.
Photo By Barry Rustin
Seed Savers Exchange cofounder Diane Ott Whealy shares the compelling, charming story of the organization and its founding family in her memoir, "Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver."
Photo Courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
Castor bean stands out against a bright blue sky.
Photo By Barry Rustin

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