I've been aware of SSE for several years but this was the first season I've ordered seeds from them. So far, I've been quite happy with the results. I will post an opinion on Garden Watchdog at the end of the season.
What I'd like to ask about is the value of membership in Seed Savers Exchange. I've read their website so I've gotten their "take" on it (i.e. support a good cause and get a yearbook with many rare varieties not found on their commercial website). I'm just curious if anybody here is an SSE member, if you recommend it, and (if you join) can you order the "rare" seeds just like you would from their commercial website or do you have to save seeds and trade them? (I'm not opposed in principle to saving and trading at all, but just have not done it and am still working on several other gardening related projects and goals before I get around to learning the seed saving art).
I've been a member of SSE for about 8 years now and I can relate my personal feelings on being a member.
SSE exists to preserve old and rare OP seeds. It is Nonprofit. My membership dues help maintain Heritage Farm and the seed bank that is housed there.
Sometimes I never even request seeds from the Yearbook...just knowing that my donation is helping preserve these varieties is good enough in some years.
With your membership, you get the Yearbook which is a very large publication containing the listings of the many seeds, roots, graft wood, nuts and tubers that members have to share. You can request samples of these from members.
Now, I say 'samples' because the whole purpose is for you to take this material and in turn, increase it in your own garden...it is NOT a retail catalog thing where you buy seeds. (they have one of those...and it's great though)
This is two people exchanging seeds for postage...the person who receives the seeds has the responsibility to grow them out. Many seeds such as peas and beans, you only get 25 or 30...with the understanding that the first year, you are increasing for the seed production. The next year, you can re-offer the seeds, and hopefully, have enough harvest to eat.
It is not allowed to request seeds, split them up into smaller packages and re-offer them elsewhere...such as Ebay. When you have actually grown your own stock, then you can do as you please...but not with someone else's seeds that they labored over.
You get publications a couple times a year with news relating to subjects that we would be interested in.
There is also a wonderful slide show that is available to members who do lectures...I've requested it on numerous occasions. They will send it to you UPS and all you have to do is send it back in good condition. They ask for a small donation when you send it back to help cover their end of the postage...it's well worth getting it...I've used it in schools, nursing homes, garden club meetings, Master Gardener classes...bunches of venues.
SSE exists only to preserve these old varieties...and you should feel that your dues are doing exactly that...no more. You should have no other expectations...if you find something that you'd like to grow...and then, in turn, list it yourself...or have an old seeds that you'd like to offer...that's even better.
Like I said, some years, all I do is pay my dues...and that's enough.
That's a very helpful, first hand perspective on being a Seed Savers Exchange member. Thanks!
I agree that SSE sounds like a most worthy cause and I'm hoping I can do one of their farm tours someday, since I get up in that region every couple of years for some family visits. It all looks very interesting and worthwhile.
The reason I asked about the availability of seeds beyond the retail store (which I like very much, as I said in the earlier post) is because I've not yet learned the art of "seed saving" (and it sounds like you need to know how to do that in order to participate fully in the seed trading offered by SSE). That's entirely reasonable on their part: they are called "Seed Savers Exchange" for crying out loud! :) Not to sound defensive, but that just isn't something I've taken the time yet to learn. There are so many aspects of gardening to learn: how to germinate seeds, how to make good compost, how to keep soil and plants healthy, how to properly harvest and preserve the harvest, etc. (I'm about the only person among my circle of friends, for example, who orders seed and germinates it every year even though many of them are gardeners). Seed saving is on my "to do" list but probably not as high as some other things at the moment.
As far as selling rare SSE seeds on Ebay (i.e. violating the terms of the seed saver agreement) that's disgusting. I hope that has not been a common experience for SSE. Always somebody out there looking for a way to make a buck, sadly, even in our mostly honorable world of gardening.
Anyway, thanks for the detailed response. Very helpful. I think an SSE membership is in my future :)
I joined last year, and though I did not request any seeds this season (a bit too complicated for Spring learnin'! I will study up this fall and winter, and be all set for next year!), I am happy to have joined. Their listings are informative, and when I get comfortable with the in's-and-out's of their system, I'm sure I will have fun being involved in the Exchange.
Hi, BDale. I'm a member. Currently, I'm a nonlisted rather than a listed one, meaning that in the most recent yearbook I didn't offer any seeds for exchange. As a non-listed member, I can request seeds from listed members' offerings, except those marked L.Q. (limited quantity - please reoffer). The postage rates for nonlisted members are about $1 higher per category (large seeds require more postage than small, and cuttings still more).
I placed only four orders this year, but even if I don't order at all, I feel I am helping sustain our gardening heritage.
I joined SSE's affiliated group--the Flower and Herb Exchange--last March. Have the 2007 book but haven't requested anything. Not a member of SSE itself but did order peppers, tomato and squash from them last spring. I'll be more careful on the squash next time. There is a reason Wood's Prolific Bush Scallop squash was overtaken by other cultivars--there is nothing prolific about it.
Hi All; I see that the Seed Saver's Exchange is having a Seed Saving Workshop On Saturday, September 1st. 1:00 - 5:00. Lillian Goldman Visitors Center Decorah, Iowa. I am trying to find time off from work so I can get there. Workshops at 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00. In my newsletter you would have an opportunity to taste over 50 varieties of tomatoes. Also organic garlic will be available for eating or planting. I hope you can take a look at the gardens, I have no luck with lettuce, I would like to know how to grow it! Maybe they could show me, I could learn how to save seeds, an taste some great tomatoes all at the same time. It says for more details visit www.seedsavers.org
I joined this last year. I've sent in seeds to the SSE. It is for any open pollinated variety, not just "rare" types. They are trying to preserve varieties from all over the world. The seeds that I "acquired" came from the middle east. The idea is to preserve as much of the genetic diversity of all plants as possible.
I find these events to be very troubling. I am currently a non-listed member but have been a listed member for many years from the very early days. There are apparently personal/family issues at work here as well. Much we are not privy to - "wait and see" is not a satisfactory solution but I don't know anything else to suggest.