Bootstrap Case

2015 Annual Report


acre headquarters, Heritage Farm, in Northeast Iowa


fulltime staff


visitors to Heritage Farm

Our Staff

Dear Seed Savers Exchange Supporter,

Seeds, in many ways, can be thought of as the foundation of modern civilization. Since the dawn of agriculture, more than 10,000 years ago, humans have domesticated, bred, and selected plant varieties that provide humans with nourishment needed to survive. One of the few unbroken traditions that we share with our ancestors is the saving and sharing of seeds.

For more than 40 years, Seed Savers Exchange has been a leader in the seed saving movement, supporting efforts to protect genetic diversity by encouraging amateur gardeners and small farmers to save and share heirloom and open-pollinated seed. Our motto has always been: Grow. Save. Share. Seed Savers Exchange is a community of supporters - members, gardeners, volunteers, donors and seed savers – people like you devoted to saving America’s heirloom seeds. This 2015 Annual Report reflects the support given by all of you and the outcomes achieved by all of us. On behalf of the board of directors and staff, I want to thank you for your many contributions that support our important work.

With gratitude,


John Torgrimson

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varieties grown for evaluation


garlic bulbs grown at Heritage Farm



seeds, tubers, and cuttings grown to refresh our seed supply

Edible Schoolyard Brooklyn

Edible Schoolyard NYC used donated seeds from the Herman’s Garden program to start a farm stand, kitchen classes, and garden classes at sites in Brooklyn and East Harlem. They plan to expand to 4 new locations in 2016!

Seeds Shared with Community Gardens

562 Seed Donation Kits, containing 50 packets each, were shared around the country with school gardens, community groups, and other nonprofit focused on food production and education. The Herman’s Garden Seed Donation Program is named after loyal member Herman Warsh and his wife Maryanne Mott.

The Seed Exchange

The seed exchange is our member-to-member seed swap, connecting gardeners nationwide.


varieties offered in the seed exchange


members offered homegrown seeds


visitors to our seed exchange online

Staff Highlights

Bill Musser

Our librarian, Bill Musser, was elected to the Board of the National Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries.

Tim Johnson

Our seed bank manager, Tim Johnson, was named to the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council by Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Our 40th Anniversary

Our 40th anniversary as a nonprofit was celebrated at the annual summer Conference & Campout. An evening reception was enjoyed by conference attendees, local community members, and close friends to help Diane Ott Whealy toast to 40 years.

“Some of us have been involved in seed saving and sharing longer than others, but one thing is true today: we are all in it, and we will not stop now!”

Diane Ott Whealy, Cofounder

The celebratory tone lasted throughout the month as July was also officially declared Seed Savers Exchange Month by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Within the proclamation, Branstad officially encouraged Iowans to celebrate and recognize Seed Savers Exchange for “diligent efforts and undying passion by which they complete this important work to preserve our rich heritage and encourage others to join this noble endeavor.” Read more about the proclamation.

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guests attended events at Heritage Farm


photos and letters related to seeds in our collection archived


toolkits shared with seed libraries and other seed groups


varieties grown out to regenerate new seeds

Seed Garden Cover

Award Winning Book Published

The Seed Garden – the Art and Practice of Seed Saving, was named one of the top five gardening books published in North America in 2015. The award is given annually by the American Horticultural Society (AHS).

The Seed Garden, a collaboration with Organic Seed Alliance, was five years in the making and details the seed saving practices for more than 70 crop types. Filled with advice for the home gardener and the more seasoned horticulturist alike, this book provides straightforward instruction on how to collect and save seed from your favorite heirloom and open-pollinated plants. The book was edited by Shanyn Siegel and Lee Buttala and authored by Micaela Colley and Jared Zystro.

“This is the only book people will need to grow plants and save their seeds.”

Jeff Cox, Garden Writer
Community Seed

Community Seed Resource Program

Over the past three years, your support has reached over 200 Community Seed Resource Programs around the country. An ongoing partnership with Seed Matters and funded by the Clif Bar Family Foundation, the program provides tools, educational materials, and mentorship to grassroots community partners who want to establish their own local seed banks and strengthen local food systems.

“We hope to continue growing our library and the resources we have to offer to our community. The Community Seed Resource Program by Seed Savers Exchange will help us do just that.”

-Katie of the Local Roots Seed Library


Withee Bean Project

In 1981, John Withee, the founder of Wanigan Associates, donated almost 1,200 varieties of beans to Seed Savers Exchange (SSE); many of which came with very little documentation. SSE has begun a wide-ranging research project to learn more about these beans, Wanigan Associates, and Mr. Withee himself.

Through these efforts we hope to halt the loss of information and tell the story of Wanigan Associates, a group of bean collectors founded in 1975. This project, funded in part by a grant from The 1772 Foundation, will culminate with the construction of a web exhibit of the Wanigan Associates collection.

Seed Research

Saving Seed Stories

Seeds donated to Seed Savers Exchange have evidence being passed down through generations within either a family or community pre 1950. The Collection Origins Research Effort project began in 2011 and is focused entirely on capturing the human story and stewardship behind the seeds in our care. Staff seed historians are responsible for doing investigative reporting to find the original owners of the seeds and capturing information that remains about each variety through phone calls, personal visits, letters, photos, and recipes.

This year 10 heirloom and historic varieties from the Heritage Farm Collection, as well as their stories, were introduced and distributed through our catalog.

We urge individuals who have previously donated seeds to Seed Savers Exchange 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 or by calling 563.387.5655.

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grafted apple trees shipped to 46 states


seed varieties distributed through catalog sales


certified organic varieties offered in our seed catalog


requests from members for seeds from our collection

Research Identifies Rare Varieties

Researching and documenting the growth and decline in the abundance of non-hybrid varieties is vital to sustaining our agricultural diversity and is at the core of the Seed Savers Exchange mission.

The Garden Seed Inventory has been updated for the seventh time. It is now renamed the Directory of Non-hybrid Seeds in the United States, and upgraded to a digital database format that can be freely and publically accessed online. The new Directory of Non-hybrid Seeds will allow Seed Savers Exchange to monitor changing trends in non-hybrid vegetable varieties, year after year. Seed savers who are concerned about availability of open-pollinated varieties will be able to identify which varieties are in the most danger of disappearing from the seed trade.

The 2015-2016 gardening season, 65 percent of the 461 vegetable varieties available through the Seed Savers Exchange catalog were offered by fewer than 30 other seed suppliers nationally, and Seed Savers Exchange was the only commercial source in the United States for 52 of these varieties. The Directory of Non-hybrid Seeds in the United States is also informing the varieties that Seed Savers Exchange offers in its own seed catalog.

These research efforts and digital databank development were funded by a grant from the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust.

65 Percent

65% of our catalog seed varieties are offered by fewer than 30 other seed suppliers

2015 Catalog Cover
Orchard Dedication

Board member Neil Hamilton, Co-Founder Diane Ott Whealy, Special Advisor to the Board Amy Goldman, and Chairman of the Board Keith Crotz at the dedication ceremony.

Orchard Dedication

Special guests and Conference & Campout attendees gathered for the official dedication of the Amy P. Goldman Heritage Orchard on Friday, July 17, 2015. Amy Goldman currently assists as a special advisor to the board of Seed Savers Exchange. She served as Board Director from 2001-2012, five of those years as Chairman of the Board. The Heritage Orchard contains 400 varieties of apples, many of which were originally grown in the Upper Midwest, as well as other rare American and European varieties of apple trees dating back to the early 1800s.

Fundraising Event

Bay Area Fundraising Event

A benefit dinner, From Seed to Table, was held in the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday, August 22. The evening featured special guests Aaron Keefer, culinary gardener at The French Laundry, and Diane Ott Whealy, co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange, as they explored the importance of biodiversity and the role of Seed Savers Exchange in preserving and sharing heirloom seeds.

From Seed to Table featured the work of Mindful Meats, Hirsch Vineyards, Matthiasson Wineries, M.H. Bread and Butter, Tarine, and Small Potatoes Catering & Events. The dinner featured produce courtesy of Rosalind Creasy, Kater Cuervo, and Seed Savers Exchange.

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hours volunteered at Heritage Farm


of our spending is directed to programming and outreach


supporters, from every state and 38 countries


Your investment supports the preservation of heirloom varieties for future generations.

Donate Today

Support and Revenues

Corporate Contributions$445,803$486,298
Foundation Grants$227,224$352,025
Investment Income$22,696$3,517
Other Income$40,079$59,701
Total Revenue$6,044,316$6,156,355


Programming and Outreach$4,216,624$4,308,335
Management and General$1,532,721$1,715,674
Total Expenditures$5,882,614$6,110,936

Board of Directors

David Cavagnaro
Oona Coy
Rosalind Creasy
Keith Crotz
Larry Grimstad
Neil Hamilton
Rob Johnston, Jr.
Jovan Sage
Hope Shand
Rowen White


The 1772 Foundation
Clif Bar Family Foundation
Amy Goldman
Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust
Alice & Doug Rimer
Schlinger Family Foundation
The Seattle Foundation
United Natural Foods
Walton Family Foundation
Kari Wenger & Peter Henry

Full list of supporters of $100 or more


Decorah Bank & Trust
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Toppling Goliath
Organic Valley
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply

Arrowhead Mills
Bliss Gourmet Foods
Bruening Rock Products
Caves of Fairbault
Chelsea Green Publishing
Country View Dairy
Dragonfly Books
Dug Road Inn
Edward & Sons Trading Co.
Grass Run Farms
Hawkeye REC
Homestead Dairy
Indus International
Java Johns
Kalona SuperNatural
LaCrosse Graphics
Leon’s Auto and Truck Repair
M&M Lawn & Leisure
Meredith Corporation
Milton Creamery
Once Again Nut Butter
Oneota Food Coop
Rocketdog Books
Seward Coop and Deli
Storey Publishing
Times Printing


Decorah Chamber of Commerce
Decorah Urban Gardeners
Growing Interactive
The Livestock Conservancy
Minnesota State Horticultural Society
Native Seeds/SEARCH
Ogden Press/Mother Earth News
Organic Seed Alliance
Pepperfield Project
Seed Matters
Seeds of Diversity - Canada
Slow Food USA
Southern Global Seed Bank
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Sustainable Economies Law Center
Svalbard Global Seed Vault - Norway
Terrace Hill, Iowa Governor’s Mansion
Trout Unlimited
University of Wisconsin-Madison
USDA, National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation
USC Canada
Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau

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