Participants in the Exchange have saved thousands of rare heirlooms from extinction by connecting with new seed stewards to carry on seed saving traditions to the next generation. Many of the heirlooms that have entered the marketplace in recent years were shared here first, and many more heirlooms are still only found in the gardens of this community.
This grassroots seed-saving community is saving and sharing America’s gardening heritage for future generations. The more people that participate, the stronger it will be. Please join!
Exchange community members offer thousands of homegrown, heirloom and open-pollinated seeds to other Exchange members. “Homegrown” simply means the seeds were not grown by a commercial operation. We define “heirloom” as a seed that has been passed down from generation to generation within communities and families.
All of the seeds offered by Exchange listers are open-pollinated and non-hybrid – if you grow these seeds into mature plants, the plants will produce seeds that you can harvest and plant again next year. They are also non-patented, meaning that they can be grown, saved, and shared freely. Many, but not all, of Exchange listers offer organically-grown seed.
You’ll also find potato tubers, garlic bulbs, apple tree cuttings, and other non-seed material for propagating new plants within the Exchange.
Offering seeds to other gardeners is a fantastic way to participate in our work to protect rare and heirloom seeds. Before you get started, please review these listing guidelines. Note that you may add new listings or change old ones any time of the year. To appear in the print-format of the Exchange (called the Yearbook) for the following year, you must list your seeds online by December 8.
Listing well-documented varieties is incredibly important to maintaining the integrity of the Exchange. Including the histories of the varieties is important for many reasons: it reduces duplication, prevents varieties from being incorrectly renamed, and allows for easier identification and preservation of unique varieties. If you believe you have a unique variety, it is very important to preserve that seed and its story. Take the time to learn the history of the variety, and include that history in your listing.
Listers can share non-patented vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, spices and grains through the Exchange. Please adhere to the ‘Listing guidelines,’ which appear below.
Any infraction of these guidelines can result in your listings and account being deactivated by Seed Savers Exchange administration.
- List only open-pollinated seeds.
- Do not list genetically engineered plants, F1 hybrids, poisonous, noxious, or controlled seeds and plants.
- Do not list any seeds or plants that are considered illegal, either federally in the United States of America or in the state of Iowa.
- Crossed varieties or potentially crossed varieties should not be listed. Unstable varieties should not be listed until they are stabilized.
- Grow all seeds out yourself before offering. You may not immediately divide and re-offer seeds received from Exchange users that you have not yet grown yourself.
- Do not list patented varieties. Although it is legal for gardeners to grow and save patented varieties, it is illegal to distribute them. Refer to the USDA website for a list of patented varieties.
- Do not list unknown seed from volunteer plants.
- If a variety name is known, do not deliberately rename a variety.
The Exchange is a place for gardeners to share seeds. Although listers set prices to cover their costs of shipping and handling, the Seed Exchange is not a place for commercial distribution.
Listers that wish to only offer seeds to participants who will commit to growing those seeds and offering them again in the future should say so in their listing descriptions. While we hope that requesters will honor that wish, it is up to the individuals involved to make that determination.
Participants in the Exchange are providing a small seed sample, not a commercial-sized packet. We encourage you to share enough seeds to preserve the genetic diversity of each variety. Reference this guide for crop type-by-crop type seed saving recommendations from The Seed Garden: The A rt and Practice of Saving Seeds. The minimum amount of propagative material you can expect to receive per sample is:
- Seeds – At least 25 seeds. Exceptions are corn (at least 200 seeds) and seed-propagated Alliums and Umbels (at least 60 seeds)
- Tubers – Four medium-sized tubers for potatoes and other crops
- Garlic Bulbs – At least two whole garlic bulbs
- Scions – At least two scions, 8” long, each with four buds
- Plants – From two to four plants, depending on size
Shipping and Handling
The prices of seeds in the Exchange are meant to reimburse the lister for the cost of packing and shipping seeds. The seeds and plant materials exchanged on this platform are exchanged for free, in accordance with seed sharing laws. Listers are allowed to set their own prices for shipping seeds, so be sure to pay attention to the profile of each lister you request seeds from. If a lister has not set their own prices, please use the recommended prices:
- Small Seeds – $3.00
- Large Seeds and Biennials – $4.00
- Roots, Bulbs, Tubers, Cuttings and other Non-Seeds – $5.00
Use this chart
to find out which seed classification (small seed, large seed, etc.) each plant type belongs to.
Policy Against Dividing and Re-Listing Seeds
You should not immediately divide and re-list samples of seeds obtained from the Exchange or the Yearbook. After being re-grown once, the resulting seeds, plants and produce are yours to use however you please. Violations of this rule should be reported to the Seed Savers Exchange office. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 563.382.5990 if you need to report any problems you observe of users immediately dividing and re-listing samples of seeds obtained from the Exchange.