Buying Heirloom Seeds Direct from the Farm

March 30, 2016

The first batch of seeds that I started indoors a few weeks ago was transplanted into the garden last weekend. They are hardy crops like lettuce, kale, collards, and broccoli that can handle a spring cold snap. There are also ginger and turmeric seeds pre-sprouting indoors in flats, and this weekend I will start planting seeds indoors for warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

There are a few standard seed sources that I use every year such as Baker Creek for heirloom vegetable seeds, Filaree Seeds for garlic seed stock, and Raintree Nursery for fruit trees and shrubs. But I’m always on the prowl for new and interesting seed sources and today I want to share some seed growers that I purchase seeds directly from.

Fruition Seed Company

Matthew and PetraFirst there is Fruition Seeds, a New York based seed house that has their hand in all aspects of growing, developing, and testing the seeds that they offer. They also have a unique focus on providing regional varieties that are adapted to local climates and conditions.

I met Petra and Matthew, the owners of Fruition Seeds a couple years ago in Vermont at a Seed School that was offered by Native Seed Search. Since then we have kept in touch, connected at various gardening events, and corresponded about what’s new and interesting in the seed industry.

Fruition Seeds grows 60% of their seeds and networks with other organic growers, mainly in their region for the rest of the seeds they sell. I love that they identify the grower/source of their seeds and provide information about the farmers that they collaborate with. This year I’m trying a Jamaican Burr Gherkin that I’m hoping will make for a great batch of miniature fermented pickles!

Carol Deppe Seeds

You may know Carol Deppe from her great books; “The Resilient Gardener,” “BreedBreed Your Own Vegetables Your Own Vegetable Varieties,” or “The Tao of Vegetable Gardening,” but did you know that she also sells seeds? And not just any seeds but Magic Manna Flour Corn, Beefy Resilient Grex Beans, Eat-All Greens, and Lofthouse Landrace Moschata Winter Squash, for example!

All you have to do is mention grex or landrace and you’ve got my attention when describing seeds, and I’m instantly curious about the diversity and origin of the seed’s genetics. Many of Carol’s selections are the unique and sometimes exclusive varieties that she writes about in her books. Some are varieties that she has developed special cultivation techniques to stretch the growing seasons or to yield more productive and longer harvests.

You won’t find a Carol Deppe Seed Catalog, or even a fancy website that you can order from, instead Carol does business strictly via mail order. She’s not entirely old school though as there is an email list and emails are sent out to subscribers every winter to share the seed offerings for the coming season. But don’t procrastinate because Carol only takes orders from January through April.

Amishland Heirloom Seeds

Amishland Heirloom Seeds was the initial source of one of my favorite tomatoes; the Amazon Chocolate variety. This seed supplier is the passion of one woman who manages the brunt of all the seed production and distribution. In this case there is a website to help speed the order taking but you’ll still have to be patient at times if there are backlogs on the fulfillment end.

Homegrown TomatoesIf you love unusual and heirloom tomatoes, peas, peppers, and beans this is a great place to explore for uncommon and rare varieties. I had to laugh the first time that I ordered a particular small fruited pepper and that was exactly what I received; a whole dried pepper with the seeds still inside and ready for extraction.

There are no frills here but I’ve always been satisfied with every purchase that I’m made from Amishland Heirloom Seeds. Be warned that quantities are limited and the seed counts are very small. You won’t fill the pantry with the harvest from a packet containing ten of the rare Blue Speckled Tepary Beans, but if you do like I do and grow them out for seed the first year it won’t be long before you have more than you can plant and share.

Common Wealth Seed Growers

Up next is Common Wealth Seed Growers which based in Virginia and I met a few of the farmers a Squash and Pumpkinscouple years ago at a PASA Winter Conference. They are a collaboration of small farms and growers with a focus on producing open pollinated, organic, Non-GMO, and regionally adapted seeds.

The thing that first caught my eye from the Common Wealth Seed Growers was their selection of squash, pumpkins, and gourds such as; African Drum Gourd, Thai Kang Kob Pumpkin, Choctaw Sweet Potato Squash, Zucca Gourds, Jamaican Tropical Pumpkin, and Bule Gourds.

I typically don’t grow pumpkins and vining squash varieties because of their space requirements but I think I will figure out a way to include their Choctaw Sweet Potato Squash and the Thai Kang Kob Pumpkin in my garden this season.

Supporting Small Scale Seed Farmers and Growers

TeosinteI noticed that Common Wealth Seed Growers is currently using an order and distribution platform called SeedWise. It looks like a great way for various seed suppliers to make their seeds available directly to the public from one convenient website. The goal of SeedWise is to increase seed diversity and to encourage growers of all sizes to save and exchange seeds. I will have to explore this further and might even use this as a way to share seeds that I save myself!

It’s rewarding to me to be able to support these smaller scale growers and businesses that are dedicated to preserving, improving, and supplying open pollinated and heirloom seeds in contrast to certain corporate interests that would prefer to control, monopolize, and patent our seed supply. I think that it is important to diversify not just our seeds, but also our seed suppliers, and that we should have many resources that we can turn to in order to fill the demand for quality seeds for our farms and gardens.

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  • Alvis Jenkins

    Heirloom seeds is best for new gardener’s. Then after growing a garden, you should allow plants to go to seed and then you have next season’s seeds. Heirloom seeds from Baker Creek was my choice and they have so many interesting varieties.
    They also oppose using Roundup as this is harmful over the long haul when consumed in the food supply. I will be experimenting this year to create my own insecticide using various weed plants and roots of vines that are present in my wood lot. Nothing like coming up with a natural product over harmful chemicals.

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