Home gardeners are the largest market for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a Virginia company that sells certified organic and non-hybrid seeds that thrive in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast -- varieties like Alston Everlasting tomatoes, which tolerates the heat, or Even’ Star arugula, which tolerates the cold.
“We want farmers and gardeners to have the freedom to save their own seed,” says Ira Wallace, organic grower, author, and worker/owner of the cooperatively managed seed company. She’ll be speaking at OAK’s annual conference March 6th.
Saving seed is great because:
You can grow unusual varieties that might be unavailable at stores. We’re looking at you Cossack Pineapple ground cherries!
You promote diversity in the plant world. Large companies will discontinue boutique or unprofitable seeds that don’t sell at commercial standards.
Different plants thrive in different regions. You can save the seed that does best for you.
Best of all, you can indulge your plant obsessions. Ira currently likes producing greens and lettuce all year round, surprising people who don’t think they will grow in winter and summer. Jericho romaine, she says, thrives in heat but grows in the cold, too. “It’s not as full-sized in winter,” she says, so just think of it as a baby green.
Maintaining diversity these days means including the crops of immigrants, like Africans and Asians, says Ira. “If you go out to eat you know they’re a part of the food scene. In gardening we are slowly adapting.” Her goal is to evaluate some immigrant family seeds, share them with the world, and share the recipes that go with them. She’s surmising some of these foods will prove adaptable to the changing climate.
Ira Wallace was recognized as the 2019 “organic educator of the year” by Organic Growers School. She is the keynote speaker at OAK’s annual conference from 4:30 to 5:45 pm March 6 in Louisville. Afterward, she’ll be selling and signing copies of her book, The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. More information on the conference can be found here.