One of the reasons many of us grow our own food is so we know it’s grown healthfully and according to our values, and that begins with seeds. The following companies are a few (but not all) of the conscientious seed companies you can buy from—they all guarantee reliable seeds and a dedication to sustainable agriculture and educational outreach. In addition, they’re committed to thoughtful customer service, environmental stewardship and employee welfare.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Mansfield, Missouri | (417) 924-8917
Baker Creek was founded in 1998 by then-teenager Jere Gettle, who grew his own seeds, storing shoeboxes full of them in his bedroom. Baker Creek now offers a whopping 1,800 kinds of seeds, 100 percent of which are open-pollinated, untreated and non-GMO. Specializing in heirloom seeds, including Asian and European varieties, Baker Creek boasts rare plant options.
• Notable Customer Service: The knowledgeable staff members at Baker Creek are happy to answer gardening questions on the phone, via Facebook and email, and in person at the company’s charming country store in Mansfield, Missouri.
• Education and Events: The National Heirloom Exposition, founded by Baker Creek, is a gigantic annual meeting of foodies, gardeners and farmers coming together to exchange products, services, knowledge and ideas in Santa Rosa, California.
• Environmental Commitment: Baker Creek was at the forefront of the movement against GMOs, and the company is exclusively committed to organic gardening. That’s how seed is grown on the company’s farm in Missouri, and all the advice the experts dole out is intended to help people grow plants organically.
• Social Responsibility: Schools, orphanages, nonprofits and individual gardeners in need benefit from the thousands of seed packets Baker Creek donates every year. The company also supports many small farms that are able to earn extra income by growing seeds for the catalog.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Albion, Maine | (877) 564-6697
The “Selected” component of this company’s name refers to the rigorous trials the group conducts in order to select only top-performing seeds (all non-GMO) for excellent flavor, appearance and yield. Johnny’s breeding team also develops new varieties—often award-winning—using old-fashioned plant breeding methods. The company prides itself on its high standards for seed purity, germination and pathogen resistance, which exceed those of the Federal Seed Act. If seed fails to meet its high standards, Johnny’s won’t sell it.
• Notable Customer Service: Orders are almost always shipped the same day they are received, and every product comes with a 100 percent guarantee or your money back.
• Education and Events: The people at Johnny’s refer to themselves as an information company that happens to sell seeds. You can access the extensive gardening content via the Grower’s Library on the website, the annual catalog, the call center, and an online Q&A service staffed by experts who promise a 48-hour turnaround. Johnny’s also provides detailed growing information for every variety it sells, based on observations made during its own trials and customer feedback. You can also tour the company’s beautiful, 120-acre farm from July through September.
• Environmental Commitment: Johnny’s has maintained its strong commitment to sustainable agriculture for 40 years. Part of the company’s huge research farm has been certified organic since 1979, and the group offers an ever-expanding selection of certified organic seeds and plants, as well as supplies to support organic gardening and farming.
• Social Responsibility: Encouraged by the “Dollars for Doers” program, Johnny’s employees actively engage in volunteerism. For every hour up to 20 hours per year that an employee volunteers for an approved nonprofit, Johnny’s donates $10 to that nonprofit. Since 2012, Johnny’s has been owned by its employees, whose collective mission is to help families, friends and communities feed one another. Johnny’s also donates money, goods and services to various local and national agriculture and horticulture programs, as well as organizations that support healthy eating habits.
High Mowing Organic Seeds
Wolcott, Vermont | (866) 735-4454
The only U.S. company offering 100 percent certified organic and non-GMO Project Verified seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds is dedicated to integrity and quality. The company grows many of its varieties on its verdant Vermont farm, and the team works with organic seed producers around the country to ensure every offering thrives organically.
• Notable Customer Service: Call the sales office to talk to knowledgeable farmers and gardeners who are also happy to answer questions via email and Facebook. High Mowing offers free shipping on all standard orders, with no minimum order.
• Education and Events: Visit the website for detailed information about growing and saving seeds, plus a handy planting chart. Or visit the farm for one of its educational events that bring together farmers and gardeners to share sustainable agriculture knowledge.
• Environmental Commitment: High Mowing believes that a rebuilt food system could support health on all levels—healthy environments, healthy economics, healthy communities and healthy bodies. To this end, the company is dedicated to partnering with numerous organizations to support environmental advocacy.
• Social Responsibility: High Mowing donates more than 100,000 seed packets each year, organizes fundraising programs for schools and nonprofits, and donates thousands of pounds of produce each year to those in need throughout Vermont.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Mineral, Virginia | (540) 894-9480
The 700-plus heirloom, open-pollinated, organic and untreated seeds offered by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange are all selected for good performance on the company’s 72-acre certified organic farm. To further genetic diversity in our food supply, in addition to many popular heirloom food plants, Southern Exposure specializes in rare heirlooms and unusual food crops that came to the U.S. with immigrants, such as Southern peas and peanuts, naturally colored
cotton, and corn varieties for roasting and cornmeal.
• Notable Customer Service: Here’s a comment from a gardening website not affiliated with Southern Exposure: “Talking to them on the phone is like talking to your mama. They’re warm, they care.” The Southern Exposure team uses this comment as its official inspiration for every customer interaction, whether by phone or email.
• Education and Events: It’s hard to find a more picturesque location for an annual educational event than that sponsored by Southern Exposure—the Heritage Harvest Festival held each September at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. And in an effort to build a more sustainable food system in the Midatlantic and Southeast regions of the U.S., Southern Exposure works cooperatively with numerous nonprofits to offer seed-saving education and resources for home gardening and small-scale agriculture all over these regions. The group also works with school gardens and homeschoolers to help their children learn to grow their own seeds.
• Environmental Commitment: The company aims to be a resource base that can continue indefinitely, so its employees attempt to further an agriculture system that values soil conservation and integrated pest management. The employees live and work cooperatively, and they build their own buildings with smart, sustainable techniques such as passive solar construction, living roofs and water reclamation. They also support regional organizations that work for a sustainable future.
• Social Responsibility: Southern Exposure is a worker-owned and managed cooperative that believes everyone has a right to save seed. The company promotes this and other core values through programs such as Plant a Row For the Hungry, donating thousands of seed packets to schools and community organizations each year, and donating seeds, money and information to Seed Programs International, which works to reduce world hunger by empowering people to grow their own food. Southern Exposure also operates a farming internship program to keep the local food movement growing.
Broomfield, Colorado | (877) 821-4340
For 20 years, this family-owned company has employed a staff of dedicated gardeners; the company’s motto is “by gardeners, for gardeners.” Botanical Interests’ goal is to inspire and educate people to create beautiful, successful gardens, and its beautifully illustrated seed packets are packed with information, inside and out. The company offers quality, non-GMO seed from thoroughly vetted sources, including many certified organic and heirloom, and all seed varieties are routinely tested for successful germination.
• Notable Customer Service: Besides offering same-day shipping, the company’s staff personally answers all customer queries within 24 hours, including questions via social media.
• Education and Events: One of the founding sponsors of our own Mother Earth News Fairs, Botanical Interests offers information and presentations at our six Fairs across the country. Find out where you can attend one.
• Environmental Commitment: Botanical Interests started with the goal of maintaining our long cultural heritage of organic farming information, which its owners believed was being lost as fewer people took an interest in gardening. To that end, they created their information-filled seed packets, designed to be “mini-encyclopedias, full of information to inspire and assist every type of gardener.” Longtime organic gardeners, the family behind Botanical Interests believes organic products are crucial for the health of the environment, and they support organic farmers who grow their seed. All their seeds are untreated and non-GMO.
• Social Responsibility: Botanical Interests hosts an annual Harvest Moon food drive and donates seed packets to schools and other nonprofits. Last year, Botanical Interests donated more than 10,000 seed packets to National Wildlife’s Be a Butterfly Hero campaign.
Territorial Seed Company
Cottage Grove, Oregon | (800) 626-0866
A family-owned and operated business, Territorial Seed Company offers organic and biodynamic seed, all untreated and non-GMO, much of it grown on its own 75-acre farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range. The company’s mission is to help improve people’s self-sufficiency by enabling gardeners to produce an abundance of good-tasting, fresh garden food 12 months a year. Growing in a short gardening season at an elevation of 900 feet, the company’s gardeners like to say, “If it will grow on our farm, it will grow just about anywhere.
• Notable Customer Service: Customer service representatives are always available by phone, and the company strives to answer all emails within 48 hours.
• Education and Events: Territorial offers tons of information online including spring and winter growing guides and a handy online garden planner. Its annual catalog is also chock-full of extensive cultural and growing information. The company is a sponsor of our Mother Earth News Fairs, where they offer seeds and information to thousands of people each year.
• Environmental Commitment: Territorial considers itself “capital-O Organics,’’ and its team is excited about taking leadership in advising the evolution of organic agriculture from a movement into a mainstream market. It employs 20 full-time and 25 seasonal employees locally, builds strategic alliances with universities and European plant breeders, and makes use of a zillion worms to make compost and plant teas.
• Social Responsibility: Each year, Territorial Seed Company supports many local, national and international organizations by donating seed at the end of each year.