It was while gardening as an adult that Suzanne Peabody Ashworth realized there must be better tomatoes out there than the rock-hard ones she had known as a child. “[They were] the kind you could hit on the ground 10 times and they would not break open!” she remembers with disgust. After reading about Seed Savers Exchange in the early 1980s and discovering tomato varieties such as ‘Pink Brandywine,’ ‘Snowball,’ and ‘Gold Medal,’ Suzanne knew she had found the community she was looking for.
Suzanne became a member of Seed Savers Exchange in 1983. Soon after, she volunteered as an offsite curator, a role in which she grew and maintained SSE’s collection of eggplants, ground cherries, and tomatillos from her farm in Sacramento, California. In 1991 she authored the first comprehensive seed saving manual, Seed to Seed. This educational reference contains the information and techniques needed to preserve seeds from 160 different crops, each of which Suzanne trialed in her own garden. Seed to Seed is widely considered to be a pivotal resource for home gardeners, and was the inspiration for its successor, The Seed Garden: the Art and Practice of Seed Saving.
Years later, Suzanne returned to her family farm, Peabody Ranch, to start a business of her own. Today, Del Rio Botanicals caters to local foodies through its seed company, gourmet dining experience, and offering of CSA-style boxes--including a gourmet food box and a restaurant-supported agriculture box. After 35 years, Suzanne is still an advisor and active member of SSE and has contributed nearly 200 varieties to its seed bank collection.