Virtual Conference: July 15-16, 2022

Welcome to a weekend of virtual tours, workshops, panels, keynote presentations, and intimate virtual gatherings. We are excited this year to focus on the theme of community collaboration, and are especially excited to hear from long-time members and collaborative leaders about the work they are doing to create community around seed. Whether you are a first time gardener, first time seed saver, or someone who has been to every one of our 41 summer conferences so far, we look forward to gathering virtually with you on July 15 & 16 for this year's SSE conference.

Schedule & Recorded Videos

Please note that some sessions are pre-recorded and can be viewed at any time. Pre-registration is required to participate in live sessions.


Join SSE Education and Engagement Manager, as she welcomes you to the 42nd annual Seed Savers Exchange conference.

Featured Stories: Live Keynote Presentations

Sergey Jivetin: Chiseled in Seeds

LIVE SESSION - Friday, July 15 at 3:00pm CDT

Sergey Jivetin

Over the past 6 years of traveling and connecting with various individual horticulturalists and organizations, artist-miniaturist Sergey Jivetin has illustrated hundreds of stories of plants and their stewards. His canvas is the plants' seeds, onto which the microscopic portraits are hand-engraved under magnification. In this talk, Sergey will present some of the stand-out examples of this unique art format, including one specially commissioned for the SSE co-founder Diane Ott Whealey. In addition to highlighting the aesthetics, Sergey will also reveal some of the philosophical and psychological dimensions underwriting the connection between people and plants he encountered while working on the project.

Stephen McComber: Stewarding Indigenous Seeds and Planting by the Moon

LIVE SESSION - Friday, July 15 at 5:00pm CDT

Stephen McComber

Stephen Silverbear McComber has been connected to Seed Savers Exchange for many years and is connected to many of the Indigenous seeds we have in our care. Join us for this keynote presentation where Stephen will talk about planting by the moon and his connection to Indigenous knowledge and seeds.

Deb Freeman and Joshua Fitzwater: In Search of the Greatest Heirloom Watermelon

LIVE SESSION - Saturday, July 16 at 5:00pm CDT

Deb FreemanJoshua Fitzwater

Featured in the pages of Garden & Gun Magazine, Southern Foodways Alliance's Gravy Magazine, and The Virginian-Pilot for both growing rare heirloom watermelons and searching much of the East Coast for the South's greatest heirloom watermelons, food journalists Debra Freeman and Joshua Fitzwater will tell stories of their "Heirloom Hunters" adventures over the years, break down the history behind some of their favorite heirloom watermelons, and give tips for how to grow bigger and sweeter heirloom watermelons at home.

After Hours Community Building

Open Mic: Poetry, Music, Art and More

LIVE SESSION - Friday, July 15, at 7:15pm CDT

Bring your poem, story, art, song, recipe, dance - we want to see and hear it! The signup for guaranteed spots is now full, but please show up to watch, and if there is time left, decide to share in the moment. We look forward to seeing you there!

Pre-registration required to participate in live session

This session will not be recorded

Member-Exclusive Virtual Garden Party

LIVE SESSION - Saturday, July 16 at 7:15pm CDT

Join in for this member-exclusive Virtual Garden Party event to connect with other Seed Savers Exchange members. We invite attendees to "show and tell" around the guiding question: "What is something new you tried this year and are having success with?" We encourage you to have photos ready to share, or zoom in straight from your garden. Bring your own beverages and snacks!

Please note: this is for members-only. If you’re not already a member, it’s one of many good reasons to join today!

Pre-registration required to participate in live session.

Click here before 11:59pm on Wednesday, July 13 to sign up for this session.

This session will not be recorded.

Tour of Heritage Farm

Stories of Heritage Farm with Diane Ott Whealy

Join us on a tour of Heritage Farm and see the 890-acre farm through the eyes of co-founder Diane Ott Whealy as she tells of this land's journey from small homestead to 890-acre farm housing an internationally known nonprofit.

Community Seed Stories

John Swenson & Mason Welter: Passing on a Garlic Legacy

In 2015, teenager Mason Welter attended the Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout for the very first time, meeting legendary garlic man, John Swenson. Listen to this interview to hear all about how the two of them immediately hit it off, striking up a conversation that lasted for hours, and a friendship that is lasting a lifetime. Revolving around a shared passion for garlic, this friendship has not only provided a garlic mentor for Mason, it has also provided a way for John to pass along his garlic legacy.

Seed Savers Mentioned

Joel Girardin: Until his death in 2019, Joel was an avid grape and garlic grower, SSE advisor, Yearbook lister, and annual Conference and Campout attendee
Curzio: Curzio Caravati (WI CA C) is a long time seed saver, potato grower, garlic grower, Yearbook lister, seed community organizer, and SSE advocate

Neil Lockhart: A Passion for Tomatoes

Neil Lockhart (IL LO N) is currently listing 588 varieties of tomatoes on the Exchange and has a collection of nearly 5,000 tomato varieties. Join us for this interview where we hear all about how Neil got started growing tomatoes, how he's made lifelong friendships with others through seed, and hear about his passion for growing - and eating - tomatoes every day.

Glossary of Terms

Yearbook: Annual print publication of SSE's gardener-to-gardener seed swap
The Exchange: Online version of SSE's gardener-to-gardener seed swap (

Christopher Hoetschl: Start Small, Save One Thing

Chris Hoetschl (WI HO C) has a message for you: When an heirloom variety catches your eye, consider that it may never again be offered without your help. If you have been sitting on the fence about listing and requesting in the Yearbook, don't wait. As older listers drop out - which can and does happen without notice - it will take a new generation of seed savers to keep all of these wonderful varieties available. Watch to hear more about Chris's story of connecting with others through seed, his gardening partnership with his late wife, and his advice to new seed savers.

Links Mentioned

Glossary of Terms

Yearbook: Annual print publication of SSE's gardener-to-gardener seed swap
The Exchange: Online version of SSE's gardener-to-gardener seed swap (
Lister: Someone who lists seeds in the Yearbook and on the Exchange
Listing: The description of a lister's seed offerings in the Yearbook and on the Exchange
Request: Contacting a lister to ask for the seeds they are offering
Being Offered: This phrase is often used to describe things that are listed in the Yearbook
WI HO C: This is an example of a lister code in the printed Yearbook. All listers are given a code according to their location, last name, and first name. (WI = Wisconsin; HO = Hoetschl; C = Chris)

Tools to Start Your Own Seed Story

Why Save Seeds?

There may be as many reasons to save and keep seed as there are people who save and keep them. From saving money to reconnecting to your ancestral foodways, watch this video to explore some of the reasons we save seed, and leave a message on this board with your reasons. Why do you save seed?


Click here to list your answer: Why do you save seed?

Start with Beans

Dry beans are an easy place to start for a beginning seed saver because the seed is both what you eat and what you plant. Watch this short video to learn more about the process of saving seeds from dry beans.

Land Access

You have the seeds, desire, you are learning the tools and tips to grow and save seeds on your own, but where do you grow them? Land access is a challenge for many, and often one not easily surmounted. Join this presentation with Hannah Breckbill to hear some creative ideas of how land stewardship, like seed saving, can also be about creating community.


Seed Access

Before you can plant seeds to start your own seed saving journey, you need seeds to plant. So where do you get them? Sometimes it can be as simple as knocking on your neighbor's door. Watch this video to learn about and explore a number of seed sources, including seed exchanges, donation programs, seed catalogs, and more.


The Exchange
Community Seed Network
Seed Savers Exchange

Soil Health

Plants want to grow. But like all of us, they do best with proper nutrition, and healthy soil is the humble and crucial foundation. Join SSE Field Operations Coordinator Brennan Allsworth and SSE Greenhouse Coordinator Kate Rowe as they teach us about the four basic principles that help us grow and maintain healthy soils.

Seed Germination

When planting seeds you saved, knowing your seed's germination rate can be key. Learn how to test your saved seeds for viability in long and short-term preservation. This video walks you through setting up and reading a seed germination test according to crop type, and will highlight the best conditions for preserving seeds.


Home Germination Test Guide
Germination Test Conditions Reference Sheet
Germination Test Evaluation
Germination Test Recording Form
More Resources

Seed Processing

Once you've grown the seed, you'll need to know how to harvest it from the plant in preparation for storage. Watch this video to learn some easy tricks for processing seed from the garden produce you grow and love.

Seed Storage

After harvesting and before planting, seeds need to be stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry. Watch this short video to learn more about why proper moisture, temperature, and protection increase the likelihood that seeds will sprout when they are planted.

Discussion & Inspiration

Seed Names Discussion

LIVE SESSION - Saturday, July 16 at 3:00pm CDT

Seed names can be a beautiful connection to identity, culture, worldview and history. Varietal names can often indicate a seed's origin, stewardship history, and phenotypic characteristics, yet many seeds have names that are derogatory in nature or simply incorrect. How do we as a seed community honor seeds, their stewardship history, and where they have come from while addressing seed names that may need to change?

In February 2022, SSE Education & Engagement Manager Jeanine Scheffert hosted a panel of community seed activists, seed breeders, and representatives from the commercial seed industry to introduce the idea of coming together around these questions. As part of that panel, SSE made the commitment to continue this discussion at future conferences and gathering opportunities.

This session was not recorded, but we would like to share a few recommended resources to inform and inspire future discussions.

Pre-registration required to participate in live session

Inspiring Art

Not only can seeds create food that is nourishing to the body, but also ideas that are nourishing to the soul. Visit our curated gallery to see a showcase of our seed community's talent and creativity through art, based on the idea of how seeds inspire them.

Seed Art Gallery

Inspiring Recipes

Looking for a unique new recipe to try out at your next family gathering or potluck? Check out our SSE Recipe Collection to see a compilation of recipes submitted by our seed community that are sure to be crowd pleasers.

SSE Recipe Collection

Conference Survey

To help us improve future conferences and for a chance to win a $50 gift card (redeemable online or at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center), please fill out this short survey by July 29, 2022, and tell us what you'd like to see in future conferences. No registration required to enter the drawing

Conference Survey

Keynote Speakers

Deb Freeman

Deb Freeman hosts the critically acclaimed podcast, Setting the Table. She has written for The Local Palate, Plate, Food 52, Epicurious, Garden and Gun, Pit, Gravy, Southern Grit, and Gastro Obscura; has had her work featured in Huffington Post; and has done cultural commentary for BBC Radio and other international outlets. Freeman writes about the intersection of race, culture, and food.

Joshua Fitzwater

Virginian Joshua “Fitz” Fitzwater, founder of Southern Grit magazine, has been featured in Garden and Gun, Gravy, and the Virginian-Pilot newspaper for his work with heirloom watermelons. He has searched for the South’s rarest and greatest heirloom watermelons, led large-scale heirloom watermelon grows in Fredericksburg (Virginia), and gotten many heirloom watermelons into the hands of Virginia chefs and restaurateurs. This work led to a collaboration with Hampton Roads chefs to make watermelon hot sauce and barbecue sauce that garnered both national and regional press.

Sergey Jivetin

Artist-miniaturist Sergey Jivetin connects with growers, breeders, and seed savers and memorializes their contributions into actual seed pods through the art of hand engraving. He displays this work in the traveling Furrow project. Growing up in Uzbekistan, the site of one of the greatest ecological disasters of the 20th century, heightened Jivetin's sense of the preciousness of natural resources and their management. Since coming to the United States in 1994, he has expanded his practice from wearable jewelry to experimental flatware, scientific and medical apparatus, sculptural objects, and site-specific installations. He has received fellowships from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Peter S. Reed Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts. Jivetin's work is in the permanent collections of many public and private entities, including the Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Dallas Museum of Art.

Steven Silverbear McComber

Stephen Silverbear McComber is a traditional Haudenosaunee elder and seed keeper from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake and a Bear Clan member. He serves as a faith keeper and manager of spiritual, traditional ceremonies at the Mohawk Trail Longhouse in Kahnawake near Montreal, Québec, Canada. Also considered one of the foremost Native artists in Québec, Stephen received the Canada Council for the Arts Award in 1985 and 2002. He has been invited to speak about corn at conferences in Mexico in 2012, 2016, and 2020 and has worked as a traditional Native elder with Correctional Services Canada since 2007. Stephen is a proud grandfather of 12.

Presenters and Hosts

Brennan Allsworth

Brennan Allsworth, field operations coordinator at Seed Savers Exchange, is an avid seed steward who enjoys the countless aspects of farming, including making sauerkraut, pressing apples, growing grains for the mill, and cutting a fresh bouquet. They bring a wide array of experience to the crew, having worked/volunteered on countless homesteads and gardens around the world; started a small farming cooperative growing seeds, vegetables, fruits, and livestock; and worked for a large-scale grain-processing company. Originally from northern Illinois, they spent many years in Boise, Idaho, before heading back east to Iowa. When not farming, they can be found strumming the banjo or hiking and making delicious food with their loved ones.

Hannah Breckbill

Hannah Breckbill is a first-generation farmer, growing organic vegetables, pastured pork, grass-fed lamb, and perennial crops with Humble Hands Harvest, a worker-owned cooperative about eight miles from Seed Savers Heritage Farm. Building her farm from scratch taught her a thing or two about the value of relying on neighbors and friends to bring a vision to life. Now, she has a role with Practical Farmers of Iowa as a land access navigator, serving as a sounding board and coach to beginning farmers in search of places to grow.

Kristin Eggen

Kristin Eggen is the development and membership assistant at Seed Savers Exchange. She is a gift-entry ninja, queen of the postage machine, and professional doodler. Her spirit vegetable is red-head lettuce, which she grows alongside ‘Wapsipinicon Peach’ tomatoes and ‘Arikara Yellow’ beans. After work, you’ll find her managing the local farmers market or fussing over her coonhound, Dexter.

Cindy Goodner

Cindy Goodner, Seed Savers Exchange’s development officer,leads efforts to help our community of supporters find joy in their support for our nonprofit mission. Fiercely passionate about our mission, she is an enthusiastic beginning gardener who prior to joining the organization in 2014 had eight years of experience as a volunteer fundraiser championing two regional bicycle trail systems in central Iowa.

Sierra Kruger

Sierra Kruger, Seed Savers Exchange’s storytelling and signage intern, grew up in the Decorah, Iowa, area helping her grandmother and mother garden from a young age. Sierra loves being outdoors. Some of her hobbies include hiking, kayaking, fishing, hammocking, and gardening with her mother. Sierra attends Iowa State University for graphic design with a minor in marketing and has an interest in botanical art.

Abe Mendez

Abe Mendez is enjoying his 15th year at Seed Savers Exchange, focusing on stewarding our membership community. He is a data detective across the organization's software platforms. His plant interest lies with the herbs, particularly those that inspire new cocktails. When not helping his wife on the family strawberry farm, Abe enjoys listening to his record collection with the family cats.

John Reynolds

John Reynolds, Seed Savers Exchange’s co-interim executive director, and his family have purchased Seed Savers Exchange seeds since 2010 for their raised-bed urban garden. He formerly oversaw the sales and business operations of the Seed House at Heritage Farm, having acquired a wealth of digital marketing and ecommerce experience from his time working in New York City.

Kate Rowe

Kate Rowe, Seed Savers Exchange greenhouse coordinator, began farming in the Chicago area after earning her graduate degree from Savannah College of Art and Design and serving in AmeriCorps. Later, Kate moved to the East Coast, where she started a restaurant farm, managed a CSA farm, worked on small-scale dairies, made cheese, and eventually ran her own small farm in the Hudson Valley. As the SSE greenhouse coordinator, Kate is responsible for seeding, watering, and caring for all Heritage Farm crops across multiple greenhouses. Once these young plants move from the greenhouse to their fields and gardens, she works with SSE crews in the field, then harvests, processes, and cleans all wet-seeded crops for the SSE Collection. When she is not working, Kate loves to cook, spend time with her family and friends, bike, and garden.

Jeanine Scheffert

Jeanine Scheffert, Seed Savers Exchange education and engagement manager, has been growing food, loving flowers, and finding inspiration in the beauty of her garden ever since she can remember. With a background in education, painting, and printmaking as well as a love of gardening and a passion for facilitating connection, engagement, and empowerment, Jeanine oversees SSE’s education and engagement programs and spends her workdays being inspired by seeds and the community they create.

Evan Wisdom-Dawson

Evan Wisdom-Dawson (she/they) is a PhD candidate and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Chicago. Her research considers the social, cultural, and political paradigms at work in narratives of climate change and environmental crisis across media. With her work on seeds as media in both fictional and real contexts, she hopes to explore an alternative methodology by which to engage critical conversations on climate change. Wisdom-Dawson received both her bachelor’s degree (2013, with honors) and her master’s degree (2016) in English from McGill University in Montréal, Canada.

Seed Community Interviews

Christopher Hoetschl

Christopher Hoetschl of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is a longtime seed saver and Exchange lister with a particular penchant for beans and soybeans. He encourages gardeners to save seeds to ensure rare varieties survive: “Start small—seed saving does not need to be a major project. . . .If every SSE member saved and shared just one seed ‘orphan,’ we could rescue many varieties from possible extinction.”

Neil Lockhart

Neil Lockhart of Oblong, Illinois, is a tomato aficionado and longtime Exchange lister who has introduced hundreds of rare tomatoes to the gardening and seed-saving community through Seed Savers Exchange.

Diane Ott Whealy

Diane Ott Whealy of Decorah, Iowa, co-founded Seed Savers Exchange with Kent Whealy in 1975. She has been a national leader in the heirloom seed movement and a strong advocate for the protection of the earth’s rare genetic food stocks for more than 45 years. In 2022 Diane re-joined the Seed Savers Exchange Board of Directors.

John Swenson

John Swenson of Glenview, Illinois, cultivated a love of gardening at an early age while tending a small garden plot of radishes, beans, and carrots (but nary a garlic bulb!) alongside his father, Merwin, in the family’s backyard garden. Since the mid-1970s, he has been hooked on all things Allium sativum—its health benefits, the way it reproduces, and, of course, its taste. Over 30-plus years, John has listed 133 varieties in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, and donated 150 varieties to SSE’s seed bank collection. He currently serves as SSE’s garlic advisor.

Mason Welter

Mason Welter grew up gardening, as did his dad and his dad’s dad. As a teenager, Mason met Curzio Caravati, a longtime Seed Savers Exchange member, at the Kenosha Harbor Market; that meeting led him to join SSE and start growing new varieties of garlic. In 2015, Mason attended the SSE Conference and Campout, and met Joel Girardin and John Swenson, garlic experts and SSE advisors. Both men inspired Mason to continue on the garlic-saving path they had pioneered. Mason formed a friendship with John right away over their shared passion for growing garlic. Today Mason is stewarding a large portion of John's extensive garlic collection.

Special Thanks to Conference Support

Natalie Aird

Meredith Burks

Brad Crawford

Jim Edrington

Nicole Krenzke

Lindsey Scott

Sara Friedl-Putnam

Sara Straate

Nick Wallin

Special Thanks to Our Platinum and Gold sponsors

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