The Rise of Heirloom Seeds

Mike Dunton

Victory Seeds
Steve Sando
“I am an amateur historian and genealogist which is probably why I am so interested in preserving our gardening past. As I walk this land, I trod on the tall fescue hay fields that my grandfather planted before I was born in 1961, I eat fruit from trees that my great-grandparents planted, and enjoy flowers that my grandmother planted.” -Mike Dunton
“I am an amateur historian and genealogist which is probably why I am so interested in preserving our gardening past. As I walk this land, I trod on the tall fescue hay fields that my grandfather planted before I was born in 1961, I eat fruit from trees that my great-grandparents planted, and enjoy flowers that my grandmother planted.” -Mike Dunton

Some of Mike Dunton’s earliest childhood memories are of being out in the garden with his mother or grandparents. He was working in San Francisco at a high-tech job when Mike learned that his grandmother had placed their multi-generation family farm on the market. “Upon hearing the news, I called my grandmother, told her to take it off the market, and within a few months had sold our house in California, quit my job, found a new job, and moved to the farm in Oregon.”

1999 Victory Seeds catalog

In a letter to Seed Savers Exchange co-founder Kent Whealy from 2000, Mike described how he and his wife Denise founded their seed company, Victory Seeds. “Two years ago, we called a little seed company that we had purchased from for the past few years, only to find they had decided to close shop. It seemed perfect. We started a dialog and tried to work out how we could take it over. We did not come to terms with them, but by this time, I was hooked on the idea. They were a standard catalog company selling modern hybrids and open-pollinated seeds. We decided that with my computer background, we would focus our efforts heavily on the Internet and only offer heirloom and OP seeds.”

Livingston Tomatoes

After learning how seedsman Alexander W. Livingston popularized tomatoes in the 19th century, Mike dedicated himself to tracking down and/or restoring Livingston’s varieties. As of 2017, Mike has successfully preserved 19 historic Livingston tomatoes that had otherwise disappeared from the seed trade.

Rio Zape bean
Mike’s passion for preserving A.W. Livingston’s tomatoes means that future generations will be able to love varieties like the ‘Livingston Stone’.
Mike’s passion for preserving A.W. Livingston’s tomatoes means that future generations will be able to love varieties like the ‘Livingston Stone’.