For you local Virginians who want to support Virginia businesses, Southern Exposure is for you.
They are a great source of varieties that grow well in the mid-Atlantic and Southern states, including some local heirloom varieties. Popular examples include Old Virginia tomato, an heirloom of the famous VA Ginter family, Anne Arundel melon, grown in Maryland since 1731, Mountain Princess tomato from the Monongahela National Forest area of West Virginia, and Seminole pumpkin, cultivated in Florida by Native American Indians since the 1500s and now grown by Living Energy Farm in Virginia.
Even if you are in another area of the country, they are a wonderful resource. They have a larger than usual selection of collards, okra, southern (or cow, or blackeye) peas, and tomatillos. If you want to try your hand at growing natural colored cotton or peanuts, Southern Exposure is your seed company.
Interesting new selections for 2017 include Withner White Cornfield bean, an Indiana heirloom for growing up corn stalks, and Geranium Kiss, a red dwarf determinate tomato for containers.
Early White Bush Scallop patty pan squash has been a family favorite of ours since the 1960s and these folks have it along with our other family favorite, yellow crookneck. We also like Sweet Valentine romaine lettuce which we have not found elsewhere in recent years.
I like their selection of watermelons which include red, yellow and orange fleshed varieties.
Southern Exposure has a good selection of seed saving equipment. We always enjoy their selections for hot humid climates like ours, hope you do too.
The easy answer is to purchase your seed from one of the companies on our Recommended Seed Company List. This works great if you have come to trust our process of evaluating companies.
I am not an “activist”, it is has never been my interest or my bent, yet I do “vote with my dollar” and so choose to support companies who have the values I consider important. To that end, each year I research companies, read a pile of seed catalogs and compare varieties and plant lists of those folks I know and trust and those I don’t.
It has become clear that in addition to the current 13 criteria we use to evaluate a company, two more need to be added. Here are our additional criteria and why we added them. See the first 13 criteria.
Does the company sell varieties that are owned by companies who engage in genetic modification of seeds?
One company in particular, who was on our list for years, has staunchly continued to offer a small percentage of varieties owned by Monsanto. Granted, most of these varieties were not bred by Monsanto, but were bred and owned by companies who Monsanto bought a few years ago. For those like us, who do not want to support companies who engage in genetic modification of seed, the act of buying from a company who buys from a company who engages in genetic modification of seed, is indirectly supporting companies who engage genetic seed modification. Prior Unity Garden does not support this activity. Therefore any company who buys seed from companies who create GMO seed will not make our list, even if they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge.
You may be thinking, but if they signed the Safe Seed Pledge, then they are not selling GMOs, right ? Generally speaking, you are correct, they are not selling genetically modified seed, but they can still sign the Pledge and sell seed that is not genetically modified from companies who make GMO seed. Doing this practice now excludes a company from being on our recommended seed company list.
Does the company actually grow the varieties they sell?
There are ‘seed houses’ who are resellers of seed only, buying seed wholesale and reselling it. They may grow some of it, but do not really have field trials, so are not really in touch with the varieties they are offering.
We have found the seed quality and reliability from these companies to swing wildly and these companies do not have people you can talk with about growing specific varieties they offer. While this may be fine for some folks, we find it frustrating when evaluating specific varieties for growing traits our clients have requested. In effect, you become the testers. Because we want to recommend the highest quality seed companies how offer the highest quality seed, we will not be putting companies on our list who do grow all or most of the varieties whey offer. These companies simply cannot support what they sell to the high degree other companies can.
In some cases, a company will offer seed from a variety of local farms and this is a practice we love seeing as it supports small local farms and seed. In this case, the seed house may not trial every variety, but their partner farms are growing seed and this practice has proven to be an excellent marker of quality seed, in part because the farm’s name is on the seed. These companies do make our list. Granted, most of them also test all or most of the varieties they offer.
Who owned the company?
As large Agribusinesses buy out smaller companies, this question is becoming more important. It used to be seed companies be handed down through generations of a family. Now, it is good to know and sometimes difficult to find out. Often the Agribusiness does not want their ownership known.
Call the company, see what is written in the catalog and website. The point here is avoiding supporting agribusinesses who engage in generic modification of seed.
Companies who are owned by large agriculture businesses will usually sell varieties they own, so knowing what those varieties are, helps you discern if you want to support that business or not.
It is a delineation of the Safe Seed Initiative by the Council for Responsible Genetics. Companies who adopt this pledge do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered or modified seeds or plants.
Some people poo-poo the list because some of the companies who signed the Safe Seed Pledge had purchased some seed from Seminis seed house that was subsequently bought out by Monsanto – hence the perceived link between some honestly safe seed companies and Monsanto. These companies responded and stopped buying seeds from Seminis, to be true to their Pledge and their values.
The other reason the Safe Seed Pledge is poo-poo’d is because of the phrase “we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants”. The word ‘Knowingly’ has been criticized as not good enough, but is used because of the possibility of contamination from genetically modified plants, by such situations as wind bringing pollen onto an organic farm, which is out of the control of the farm (and isn’t making them happy either).