Seed Savers Exchange Receives Grant

Posted June 20th, 2017 by maryalbro and filed in News & Announcements
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The 1772 Foundation has awarded a grant of $40,000 to Seed Savers Exchange [SSE], located in Decorah, IA.

This grant is for The Rise of Heirloom Seeds, an initiative to document and research the histories of garden varieties preserved in the SSE collection, which over time have been discovered and shared commercially with heirloom seed companies. Leading the heirloom seed movement since its founding in 1975, SSE has acquired over 25,000 garden seeds and plants, many donated because family or community members no longer gardened and feared that treasured varieties would be lost. SSE has inspired a generation of seed companies to focus on selling and marketing rare, regionally adapted, unusual, delicious, and irreplaceable open-pollinated varieties. Many of these companies were founded by SSE members.

It has not always been possible to evaluate the historical significance of seeds as they were accepted into the SSE collection. The 1772 Foundation grant will be used to fund research on 18 companies that have contributed at least 1,834 varieties to SSE. The stories of these companies, the people who started them, and the varieties they have introduced into commerce, many originating from SSE members, are important to the collection. SSE will research 1,000 varieties in the coming year using seed catalogs, institutional documents, and personal accounts. During interactions with each company’s founder, SSE will seek opportunities to obtain primary source materials (notebooks, seed catalogs, images, print media, audio recordings, recipes, and other documents).

The final product of this project will be a digital exhibit, similar to From Maine to Main Course: The Life and Legacy of the Bean Man (John Withee, founder of Wanigan Associates), which also received funding from The 1772 Foundation. The new exhibit’s focus will be the connection between the heirloom seed companies and SSE and the ways that these seed companies have brought heirloom varieties to the public.