Despite the fact that many seed companies have been greedily gobbled up by goliath corporations, there is quite a crop of small, grassroots seed purveyors to choose from. They are run by passionate growers in backlash against our increasing reliance on patented and GMO seeds, and by individuals or families alarmed by the rapid disappearance of reliable old varieties. Most offer only open-pollinated, non-hybrid, untreated seed.
I’ve either purchased heritage seeds from the companies below or am impressed by their passion and the offerings in their catalogues. Most of them are Canadian, because I am Canadian and like to keep it local. Many of their websites include links to other seedsaving organizations and companies, so enjoy your trip down the rabbit hole!
Have you got favourite heritage seed sources of your own? Share them with me and I’ll include them on this list. And keep an eye on this page, as I continue to add more of my own favourite sources.
Canadian Seed Companies
Heritage Harvest Seed
Heirloom/heritage seed mail order company offering over 700 varieties of rare and endangered vegetables, flowers and herbs. They have also written a book on seed saving, available on their website.
Cottage Gardener Heirloom Seed
A family-owned heirloom seed and plant nursery since 1996, offering over 700 varieties of Certified Organic heirloom vegetable, herb, perennial and annual seeds.
Indian River, Ontario
Seeds for heirloom and unusual flowers, medicinal herbs, and special flower collections offered by landscaping expert and third generation Dutch seedsman, Dirk Berghout.
Salt Spring Seeds
Salt Spring Island, BC
There is no one more passionate about sustainable agriculture than Dan Jason. He offers organically grown open-pollinated seeds with a specialty in beans and other pulses. His blog will give you an idea of the political, ecological and agricultural issues that surround our food supply.
West Coast Seeds
I’ve been ordering seeds from this company for years. While not technically an heirloom seed company, their catalogue offers many excellent organic and OP varieties especially chosen for coastal BC. Heirloom varieties are noted in the descriptions. The catalogue is also a complete guide to growing vegetables on the West Coast and inland regions of British Columbia.
There are few varieties of herbs (plant plugs and seeds) that you can’t find here. Their free catalogue is an encyclopedic collection of herbs, their uses and how to grow them. If you page to end of the publication you’ll find a list of heirloom vegetable seeds too.
US Seed Companies
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Mansfield, Missouri, USA
This is an amazing spot to dive into the world of heirloom seeds! This company has dedicated themselves to preserving old and indigenous varieties of plants from around the world. Founded in 1998 as a hobby, it has since grown into North America’s largest heirloom seed company. Baker Creek offers one of the largest selections of 19th century heirloom seeds from Europe and Asia, and their catalogs now feature about 1,000 stunning heirloom varieties. They offer a free catalogue, but you won’t be sorry if you spend $12 and order their yearly Whole Seed Catalogue, a 500 page publication full of photos, recipes, stories and listings of their most rare and unusual heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs. There are varieties here most of us have never heard of!
Seeds of Diversity
Waterloo , Ontario
A not-for-profit Canadian organization who are dedicated to “protecting the people’s seeds”. A free membership includes a quarterly magazine and a seed directory offering 3000 varieties of seeds obtained member-to-member. They also have a good list of Canadian seed companies. Click here to find many resources, including an amazing list of old seed catalogue PDFs – one of the best ways to learn about heritage varieties and start to recognize them.
Seed Savers Exchange
The American version of Seeds of Diversity, which began with two seed varieties in 1975. Their annual members’ seed yearbook has over 16,422 unique varieties of plants listed. Non-profit.