Life + Outdoors » Down and Dirty

Sowing Seeds of Sustainability



I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do in this weather is go outside and muck around in the garden. I thought about writing an article entitled, "Things You Can Do in the Garden During a Torrential Downpour," but yeah ... no thanks!

Instead, let's explore some of the best places to get organic seeds. Yes, of course, it's great if you can grow all of your own seeds but realistically most of us buy at least a few packs every year. Sure, you can just go with what's available on the rack at your local garden supply store, but I prefer to order directly from the source.

Truly, supporting organic seed companies is one of the best ways to promote sustainability. You're not just "voting with your dollars," you are putting cash into the pockets of hardworking farmers who have dedicated their lives to preserving biodiversity and who work seven days a week in all kinds of weather to ensure that the rest of us have continued access to heirloom organic seed. Yes, it might seem like these seeds are expensive. But, trust me, these folks are barely making it. And in the current political climate of GMOs and rampant environmental destruction, growing and supporting organic seed is perhaps one of the most radical things you can do.

Here are my top picks for where to get seed that grows well in temperate and North Coast organic gardens. All of these companies are strictly organic and either grow all of their own stock locally on the West Coast, and/or buy seed directly from farmers who are working ethically toward sustainable agriculture for all of us.

Peace Seeds Corvallis, Oregon

Focused on providing mother stock for serious seed savers and plant breeders, Peace Seeds was founded by Alan Kapuler, one of the fathers of the organic food movement. The field is now managed by his children and they offer a unique and fascinating list of cultivars.

Seven Seeds Farm Williams, Oregon

These seeds are grown almost exclusively at their family farm, Seven Seeds Farm in southern Oregon. The farm also produces biodynamic fruits and vegetables and offers classes and workshops in permaculture and other sustainability-related topics.

Adaptive Seeds Eugene, Oregon

Focused on rare, diverse and resilient seed varieties for the Pacific Northwest and other short season northern climates (like the North Coast), Adaptive Seeds only sells public domain, open pollinated (OP) seed as well as many diverse gene pool mixes.

Renee's Garden Seeds Felton, California

Another of the pioneer organic seed companies on the West Coast, Renee's has been supplying top-quality organic seed for more than 20 years.

Territorial Seed Company Cottage Grove, Oregon

Founded by garden writer Steve Solomon (Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades), Territorial has offered locally-sourced, bred for temperate climate, organic and non-GMO seed for more than 30 years. Plus, its website offers a cool garden planner feature at

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply Grass Valley, California

More than just a seed company, Peaceful Valley offers a wide variety of garden supplies and its website is packed full of useful information. All of its stock is 100 percent certified organic and non-GMO and the company offers a money-back germination guarantee.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company Mansfield, Missouri

Founded by Jere Gettle when he was just 17 years old, Baker Creek now sources seeds from all over and distributes to farmers and gardeners all over the world, offering the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the country. It donate seeds to many of the world's poorest countries, as well as to school gardens and other educational projects. The company also founded the Petaluma Seed Bank in Sonoma County, which is one of the world's largest selections of organic seeds available in a storefront environment.

High Mowing Organic Seeds Wolcott, Vermont

It is located in Vermont but buys seed from all over the country and is focused on varieties that do well in cold and temperate climates. High Mowing offers over 600 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seed.

And of course, don't forget about Seed Savers Exchange! It is not a seed company, but rather an international network of seed savers sharing stock from their farms and gardens. Because most of the seed comes from amateur growers, quality can vary widely but participating is a lot of fun and you might find just what you're looking for at

To learn more about saving your own seed and/or about organizing local seed swaps, see my previous Journal articles "Organize Your Own Seed Swap" (March 1, 2015) and "Seed Saving Made Simple" (Oct. 22, 2015).

Heather Jo Flores is an avid seed saver and the author of Food Not Lawns, How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community. Find her at

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