Community Science Program

RENEW

The RENEW program is a valuable way for people with seed saving experience to help us steward the collection. Our location in northeast Iowa presents unique challenges to regenerating certain varieties. Some may require a longer growing season than our location affords, while others do not overwinter well here. The time and effort required to participate in this program are significant, but they go to the heart of our mission.

How It Works

The RENEW program involves growing varieties from the collection for seed, known as seed regeneration. Varieties most in need of regeneration have low seed quantity and reduced viability. Therefore, regeneration can be a challenging task, but it is vital to preserving and sharing these varieties.

Participants in the RENEW program must follow strict parameters regarding population size, isolation distance, and harvest quantity. We provide some basic criteria and guidance to help you plan your seed regeneration and increase the likelihood of success. Participants are limited to one variety in their first year.

We provide some basic criteria to help you plan your seed regeneration so that you can be successful in your growouts. Participants will be limited to one variety each their first year. The table below lists the crop types we are offering this year and the requirements for regenerating them. If this program interests you and you feel that you are an experienced seed saver, please email Emily Hagerott, Seed Bank Manager, at ehagerott@seedsavers.org or call (563) 387-5685. If this is your first year, anticipate a 20-30 minute phone call to talk about the program and see if this is a good fit for your system.

About Our Collection

The seed collection began soon after Seed Savers Exchange was founded in 1975 as home gardeners started to donate their own treasured varieties to Kent Whealy and Diane Ott Whealy for preservation. Primarily focused on garden fruits and vegetables, herbs, and flowers, the seed collection holds many varieties with ties to cultural heritage and traditions. The stories behind the varieties also illustrate the significance and symbolism these varieties hold for their stewards. Therefore, we value these stories as much as we value the seeds themselves.

Seed Collection by Plant Type

Stewardship Notes

CropSpecial NeedsQualificationsPlanting Requirements
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Brassica oleracea
Need to be overwintered (vernalized) in the ground at temperatures below 50°F for 10-12 weeks but can’t be exposed to temperatures below 20°F. Require a large population and isolation from all other Brassica oleracea crops.Must be grown in the Pacific Northwest in USDA Zone 8 or higher.
  • Isolation distance minimum: ½ mile (2,640 ft)
  • Harvest mature seed from every plant
  • Population minimum: 100 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 4,500 seeds
Bean
Phaseolus vulgaris
N/AN/A
  • Must be grown on a trellis (unless bush variety)
  • Isolation distance minimum: 100 ft
  • Harvest mature seed from every plant
  • Population minimum: 60 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 2,000 seeds
Cowpea
Phaseolus unguiculata
Late maturingMust be grown in USDA Zone 6 or higher
  • Isolation distance minimum: 100 ft
  • Harvest mature seed from every plant
  • Population minimum: 60 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 2,000 seeds
Fava Bean
Vicia faba
Grows best where summer temperatures do not exceed 85°F.Must be grown in regions with cooler summers, such as the Pacific Northwest, New England, or Great Lakes regions.
  • Must be supported to prevent lodging
  • Isolation distance minimum: 100 ft
  • Harvest mature seed from every plant
  • Population minimum: 60 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 1,500 seeds
Lima Bean
Phaseolus lunatus
Late maturingMust be grown in USDA Zone 6 or higher
  • Must be grown on a trellis (unless bush type)
  • Isolation distance minimum: 600 ft
  • Harvest mature seed from every plant
  • Population minimum: 64 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 1,500 seeds
Pea
Pisum sativum
N/AN/A
  • Must be grown on a trellis (unless bush variety)
  • Isolation distance minimum: 100 ft
  • Harvest mature seed from every plant
  • Population minimum: 60 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 1,500 seeds
Squash
Cucurbita spp.
Late maturingMust be grown in USDA Zone 6 or higher
  • Isolation distance minimum: ½ mile (2,640 ft)
  • Harvest fruit from every plant
  • Population minimum: 12 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 1,000
  • seeds
Tomato
Solanum lycopersicum
N/AN/A
  • Isolation distance minimum: 100 ft
  • Harvest fruit from every plant
  • Population minimum: 12 plants
  • Harvest return minimum: 700 seeds