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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink What information can you give me on seed exchange groups?


Answer: Thank you for requesting information from ATTRA on seed exchange groups and organizations.

There are several long-established national groups that publish materials and facilitate trades among member seed savers. Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) (1), founded about 1979, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds. This organization publishes an annual Yearbook; yearly membership is about $30. This year it is instituting a seed forum on its Web site.

Southern Seed Legacy (SSL) (2) grew out of a 1996 project funded by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Its objective is to keep southern agrobiodiversity alive, not in gene banks, but in the fields and gardens of people. Any registered member of the SSL can receive free seed under the program “Pass Along Southern Seeds.” (See Web site for links to membership and the seed program.)

The nonprofit Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO) maintains an extensive seedbank of tropical and subtropical seeds (especially suited to the Caribbean). I often consult their Web site in search of rare and unusual varieties while researching ATTRA inquiries. ECHO charges a nominal fee per packet requested, so it is not a true “seed exchange.” Native Seeds/SEARCH is a similar, non-profit organization. For a list of other organizations that specialize in heirloom seeds, see the Seed Suppliers Database on the ATTRA Web site (

SSE and ECHO are good ways to access the biodiversity of tomatoes.

Some commercial companies that specialize in heirloom seeds will exchange seeds for credit. One company that advertises this is J.L. Hudson, Seedsman ( A number of specialty horticulture magazines also offer seed exchanges for members.

On-line Seed Swapping

In doing an AltaVista search on the terms seed exchange, I was surprised at the number of pages of new, on-line seed exchanges that came up. (You might want to do a search on these terms, as I stopped with page 12.) Some “Seed Swap Links” have been compiled at

GardenWeb ( is a well-established on-line exchange. Also see
Backyard Gardener Seed Exchange (,, and Yahoo’s SeedExchange group.

I found Web sites for in-state seed trading organizations in Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Massachusetts. You may have some interest in The Ozark Seed Exchange (, since the Ozarks cover parts of eastern Oklahoma. Unfortunately, its Web site had not been updated since 2005. A North Carolina group—Carolina Seed Traders (—may be of special interest to you, as they specialize in on-line exchanges of heirloom tomatoes and chile peppers.

Seed Swap Meets

Several of the above organizations hold annual seed swap meetings, as do GrowSeed ( and a California group (


1) Seed Savers Exchange
3094 North Winn Road
Decorah, Iowa 52101
Ph: (563) 382-5990
Fax: (563) 382-5872

2) Southern Seed Legacy
Department of Anthropology, 250A Baldwin Hall
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
Ph.: (706) 542-1430



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