Collection Origins Research Effort (CORE)

After 37 years of growth and change, the SSE collection has evolved into a remarkable but complex pool of seed and stories. Though SSE was founded to facilitate off-site exchange of seed between members, Heritage Farm has since become a site for the ex-situ preservation of thousands of varieties of heirloom seed.

Many changes have occurred over the years, including constant development and re-development of the way we keep track of information. Each accession we maintain is linked with information about its plant characteristics and history. Data has been gathered over the years by all available means including phone conversations, e-mails, letters, and personal meetings. The result is a complicated web of information, much of which still exists only in hard-copy form in file cabinets and folders.

Seed Savers Exchange initiated the CORE (Collection Origins Research Effort) project in 2010 to consolidate, verify, and further organize the information on each variety maintained in our collection. The expected outcomes of CORE are:

  1. -Improved quality of information associated with each variety in the collection, enabling better utilization of its biological and historical value.
  2. -An enhanced understanding of the practice of seed saving, including its cultural, familial, and agricultural implications.
  3. -Identification of varieties most in need of preservation and promotion.

After centralizing relevant hard-copy documents from various locations throughout the SSE campus, SSE is now researching the origins of accessions with incomplete documentation. Research efforts include identifying, locating, and contacting original donors and/or family members familiar with the history of an accession. These efforts will enable SSE to verify key pieces of accession information such as the donor, the earliest known seed source, and significant dates within the history narrative.


With thousands of varieties in the SSE collection, the CORE project is an enormous undertaking.

How You Can Help
We urge individuals who have previously donated seeds to SSE to contact us. Your information may enhance our understanding of a variety’s origin, history, or cultural and familial ties. Please contact Sara Straate at sara@seedsavers.org (preferred) or by calling 563-387-5655.

To support our work with a donation click here. You can also support us by becoming a member.


Read our blog for an example of how Sara Straate and our CORE project uncovered the story behind the Collier Cucumber.