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5 Heirloom Seed Companies To Know

"The tiny seed knew that in order to grow it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered in darkness, and struggle to reach the light."  - Sandra Kring

Heirlooms Foraging and Farming

Growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs around our personal ecosystem defines who we are or atleast what we like, and maybe even our tastes.  Planting flowers with hints of yellows, magenta, and peach creates a brilliant mix of color in our lives. Heirloom Dahlias are unique, and if we plant Tubers, they can be dug up and stored in the greenhouse until planting season the following year, and they come in seed form, too. The role of seeds in agriculture is a diverse one and can also be a controversial conversation when scale and mechanization are topics. Heirlooms are varieties of seeds passed down from generation to generation; some plants, that have been with us since the early 1700s - exhibiting historical value - tracing back to our ancestors. They are open-pollinated, meaning each plant was pollinated naturally, which is done through wind, water, bees, and other insects. 

Heirlooms Foraging and Farming Dahlias

Improving Biodiversity  

Heirlooms aren’t perfect in shape, like, for instance, the tomato - some with an almost perfectly round shape, bright red, with juicy pulp. These tomatoes have been designed, through scientific creation - to grow a perfect fit for a sandwich or hamburger bun. But, Heirloom seeds are seeked out by plant scientists, called seed explorers.  There are stories passed on by families where their elders brought the seeds from Ukraine, where Turkey Red - a Hard Winter Wheat is grown; or wild cranberries from Germany, grown in cold spring bogs and harvested in the Fall for breads, muffins, and jams. These Heirloom seeds are being grown on farms all over the world, sharing in the heritage created through the stories of seeds coming into the United States in burlap sacks, and grown to build supplies and feed the families that brought them here to share with us. 

Heirlooms Foraging and Farming Dill

In 1898, The United States Department of Agriculture, guided un the direction of David Fairchild - hired explorers to seek out seeds from all corners of the world to introduce them to the U.S. There are many stories of ‘Seed Explorers’ returning with rare wheat and grains from Iraq, Russia, and Europe. The ‘Seed Explorers’ would return with the seeds, and were ultimately responsible for germinating and growing them for open pollination at home. Their expeditions were documented, and shared through journal entries and documentaries.  

Heirlooms Foraging and Farming Dill Pickles

Seeking Out Those Perfect Heirlooms

When researching heirloom seed companies, begin searching for catalogs, order or download them and review the product textures, flavor profiles, and coloring of their products. Read the backstories point of origination, and time markers on when these seeds made it to the United States. That way, you become invested in the storytelling aspects of growing the plants. Learn the names, and pay special attention to pollination. 

Yonder Hill Farm

Located in Nova Scotia, Garrett and Chris have been growing heirloom seeds since early 2009, launching Yonder Hill Farm by 2012 in Northeastern Canada. They produce over 200 varieties of grains, fruits, herbs, and vegetables, offering high-quality seeds for the garden.  Their catalog offers Waltham Butternut Squash, San Marzanos, and Manitoba Brown Soybeans. They offer bulk seed sales, with approximately 500 seeds per packet.

Waltham Butternut Squash - Foraging and Farming

Turtle Tree Seed 

Located in the Tri-State area of Copake New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, Turtle Tree Seed is a non-profit creating Demeter Certified Biodynamic seeds for sale. Their mission is simple: Our mission is to improve the quality, variety and availability of biodynamic seeds and to promote and provide a seed supply from diversified biodynamic farms and gardens.”They sell some of the most beautiful flower seeds, annuals and perennials. 

Turtle Tree Seed Foraging and Farming

The South Georgia Seed Company 

Andy and Jenny run an off-grid solar-powered heirloom seed farm in Ellijay, Georgia, called The South Georgia Seed Company. They do everything by hand from tilling to packaging and shipping. Their herb selection is robust, extraordinary, and diverse. Selling herbs like Dark Purple Opal Basil, Common Sage, Cumin, and Lavender Vera English. Their website is beautifully crafted, and the seeds sold come in lots of 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. 

Lavender Vera - Foraging and Farming

Rare Seeds/Baker Creek 

Driving through Mansfield Missouri, Rare Seeds - known as Baker Creek offers over 1400 products from their seed stock. Jere Gettle founded Baker Creek’s Rare Seeds in 1998 as a hobby, now selling some of the most interesting seeds - creating the best culinary gastronomy all over the globe. One of the most robust and striking catalogs, the seed offerings span from cacti to grass seed. Their herb offerings begin with items like Burdock, dill seeds, and Horehound, an herb used in throat lozenges. They also operate a seed store in Petaluma, California - located at an actual bank - the product and building are amazing. 

Rare Seeds Heirloom Foraging and Farming

Restoration Seeds 

Restoration Seeds is based in Talent, Oregon, just north of Ashland off Highway 5. Offering nine cover crops, like French Sorrel and Crimson Clover. They grow nine type of beets, like Rainbow Mix, and Chioggia Guardsmark. Along the left hand margin of their website each product is broken down by scientific name, certification, color, shape, heritage, and season. 


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