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Heirloom Seed Policy & Analysis

"A seed that is good, people will like. But, a seed that has a history that people will love that evokes a time and a place that is really special, and people will get so excited." - Ira Wallace


Heirloom Tomatoes

Radiators & Tomatoes

Ira Wallace tells this story about a man named MC Biles, he ran a radiator shop at the bottom of a hill, near a field of which he owned. His side hustle was to grow and breed heirloom tomato seeds. Every season, he took his seeds and grew starters, selling them to his community for $1 per plant, ultimately paying off his $6000 mortgage in a few years; way back in the 1930s, and they named the seed Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter.


Seed Policy

Seed sharing is an age-old practice of increasing plant diversity. When it comes to seed policy and state laws, California is one of the only exempt entities regarding seed sharing. Today, seed sharing is illegal in U.S. states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, and Nebraska. We’ll dig into the details later in my book, Heirlooms, The Seed Savers.


If seed sharing is not illegal in your state, it is important to apply for a permit and submit to testing requirements and other regulations to be empowered to store, share, or sell heirlooms and other heritage seeds - if you are looking to build a seed library.  Some seed libraries are allowed to sell commercially, and the buyers must agree to NOT save any seeds for years to come.  


heirloom tomatoes

The Organic Seed Alliance

In Port Townsend, Washington, is the Organic Seed Alliance, a group of farmers, policy analysts, champions ,and researchers who have built a network of partnerships whose mission is to “put the power of seed back into the grower's hands.” This 20-year-old organization advocates, researches, learns, and rationalizes The Federal Seed Act (FSA) and supplemental state law. 


Federal law requires seed shipments between States to be labeled with important quality information so seed buyers can make informed choices.  From a high level, the FSA operates amongst cooperative agreements that set the tone for inspection anywhere that seed is sold. 


All this data is agreed upon and written into a large Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help facilitate and run trueness to variety testing and labeling in seed sales. 

The seed records will be tracked for a period of three years with a complete record of the origin, treatment, germination, and purity of each lot of all seeds saved and in production.


heirloom squash





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