How we support sustainability in food production

Through multiple means, we strive to promote organic gardening, sustainable agriculture, and everyone's right to save seed. The selection of seeds we offer is chosen with these values in mind. We also promote these values through projects and initiatives including the following.

  • One of us, Ira Wallace, serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming. One of us, Irena Hollowell, serves on the board of the Grassroots Seed Network. We also donate 10% of the sales at our winter events to the Organic Seed Alliance

  • A tomato tasting at our open house
  • We are sponsors of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference, the Virginia Area Biological Farmers Conference, and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference.

  • We are active members of Seed Savers Exchange.

  • We donate 30% of the proceeds from our Virginia Heritage Seed Collection and Rainbow Starters Mix to the Piedmont Environmental Council and Buy Fresh, Buy Local.

  • Together with Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson, we co-organize the annual Heritage Harvest Festival.

  • Our Young Farmers Initiative began with a Young Farmer Zone tent at the 2012 Heritage Harvest Festival. We hope to continue strengthening the Young Farmers Initiative in Virginia, facilitating future events and collaborating with organizations such as the VA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Coalition, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Greenhorns to recruit young farmers, help them develop visions and business plans, and connect beginning farmers with educational opportunities and with land to farm on. For more information, contact

  • We have given money to Seed Programs International, to support their work in providing international NGOs with culturally appropriate seed for agricultural programs. In the future, we expect to give bulk seeds to Seed Programs International, when we have large enough surpluses to suit their needs.

  • Several of us intermittently give presentations to groups of farmers, gardeners, gardening enthusiasts, schoolchildren, and the general public. Many of our presentations revolve around why and how to save seeds; however, we also occasionally give talks on growing particular crops such as garlic; on fall and winter gardening; etc. We also host tastings where the public can have free samples of different varieties of tomatoes and sometimes of melons or other crops. Most of our presentations and tastings are in our region. If you'd like us to have a presence at your event, contact us for more information.

  • A school garden to which we sent a donation of seeds
  • In the spring of 2012 we started a pilot program called Seeds for Schools, in order to provide alternatives to highly processed sugar-and-fat-laden cafeteria "food" and to school fundraisers based on candy, wrapping paper, and cheap plastic. We provide schools with easy-to-grow, organic vegetable seeds at close to the cost of production, accompanied by a user-friendly gardening guide.

  • We came together with over 80 plaintiffs in 2011 to ask the courts to keep Monsanto from suing us if their frankengenes contaminate our seed crops! Read about the lawsuit, the partial victory we gained in 2013, and our anti-GMO policy

  • We work together with certain other small and medium-sized seed companies to better accomplish common goals such as preserving varieties and making them available to gardeners and farmers. For example, when one of our growers has excess seed of a particular crop, we try to refer them to another company that might be interested in buying it. Rather than hoping to increase our own share of the heirloom/organic seed "pie," we hope to make the pie bigger by spreading knowledge about heirlooms and about gardening.

  • Upon request, we are often able to send donations of seeds to school gardens, community gardens, seed preservation initiatives, historical societies, Master Gardeners' groups, agricultural conferences, and NGOs that work for causes related to sustainability and equity. To request a donation, send us an e-mail including your address, how much land area and/ or how many people you work with, and a short description of your program.

  • In early 2012, SESE joined forces with several other local organizations to start up a local chapter of Plant a Row for the Hungry, a national program that encourages gardeners to plant an extra row of produce to donate. The local chapter also has a Teaching Garden next to the Louisa County's Community Cupboard food pantry, hosts free gardening workshops and workdays, and educates about the benefits of gardening and eating more fresh vegetables.

  • In order to promote seed saving and traditional plant breeding, we provide a variety of seed saving equipment in quantities appropriate to home seed savers in our Supplies section, as well as seed saving resources in our Books & DVDs section. Our catalog would not be possible without the efforts of the seed savers who created, refined and maintained these heirlooms.

  • We provide free basic information on how to save seeds.  See the bottom of our Growing Guides and Library page.