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douglas14_gw

Seed Savers Exchange question

20 years ago

I've been an unlisted SSE member for around 8 yrs.

I'm not an active seed saver. In the past, some years I would request 3 or 4 var.(per yr.) from SSE members, mainly to trial, not to save seed from.

I'm wondering if this is using SSE as a seed catalog; which it wasn't intended for. The reason I'm asking this is because I'm thinking of requesting a melon and a tomato var. that I can't find commercially. My intent is to trial these, and not save seed at this time. Is this against the principles of SSE? What are your thoughts?

Douglas

Comments (77)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If you're referring to the Black Mtn. Pink, Carolyn, I really wish you would give it a try, so that we have a broader opinion base than we do right now.

    Yes I am Brook and we've talked about it before and yes, I do know its history.

    (As you know, Marianne is, shall we say, more effusive about this variety than I am. So another opinion would be welcome.)

    Well, not just more effusive about that variety but about almost all she lists either at SSE or at her website. (smile). She does seem to get carried away, as it were, and we've talked about it. I ask her how folks are going to distinguish between all the varieties of a color class or shape if they're all described with so many adjectives as being the best. LOL She's just a very enthusiastic type person, as you know, and I think her blurbs are a reflection of her zeal.

    Carolyn

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    That's all very true, Carolyn. But she swears the BMP is her new best friend; whereas I found it to be just another pink---neither better nor worse than many others. So I'm anxious to hear what other people think.

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  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well, I support the goals of SSE wholly, and I think Kent oughtta get a medal from the UN, seriously.

    I felt... ambivalent about the whole yearbook ordering issue after a previous thread on this.

    I can see Martin's perspective about closing the circuit, and think some of his points merit consideration. From a business and historical consideration of similar situations, I think he's reading the writing on the wall which'll become a neon sign at some point I bet.

    On the other hand, I always assumed the SSE membership fee was for upkeep of the website, the farm work, the constant clerical-etc. work, the gigantic yearbook, etc. not just for 'the honor' of trading seed with other folks.

    Given previous conversations on this topic, I finally decided, since I don't want to burden SSE members with my unfair requests given I don't intent to save seed this year, I took a couple hundred $ in seed money (replacing all my stock which I lost) and spent it elsewhere, mostly at Baker.

    My stepmother, who only had about $40 to spend, didn't want to spend $35 on an SSE membership first, so she spent all her money elsewhere as well.

    I am sure nobody is going to die without our measly combined $235. But, thanks to the combination of membership fee and politics at SSE, potential profit to SSE growers went to a commercial source instead.

    We're just two people. As long as we're the only two people affected by those issues or behaving in such a way as a result, I guess it's no big deal. If we're not, then we come back to Martin's comments I guess.

    Palyne

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I guess I have to say I am a bit dismayed by the judgmentalism displayed in these discussions toward folks who might have somewhat different goals and priorities than our own, but are nevertheless showing support of the SSE organization.

    Martin is right about the Internet making seeds more easily and more widely available. I can remember 25 years ago reading about certain varieties and being intrigued by them and searching and searching and still not finding them. Today, it may sometimes still be the case that a desired variety won't be found, but more likely I can log on to the internet and find a source in very little time. And it's very likely that if one asks politely, that source may send the desired item just for the asking--because many gardeners are generous folks who enjoy sharing.

    My take on the whole thing is that SSE has been a wonderful foundation for the seed movement. I shudder to think where we might be today had it not come into existence. But organizations tend not to survive once their purpose has been served, particularly if they are inflexible and unresponsive to the needs of the folks who are the force that keep them alive.

    I once read an article where some fellow was discussing the heirloom poultry he maintains. It might have been Glenn Drowns, but I really don't think it was. Anyway, this fellow was discussing heirloom turkeys, and he stressed how important it was to convince folks that they wanted to EAT these birds. The point being that the movement of conserving the various genetic lines was futile unless there was a practical reason for doing so. As for most things, in this case, it means creating a viable meat market for that turkey so that its not just one idealistic individual keeping the breed alive. If thatÂs the only reason the breed is being maintained, then the turkey will perish when his keeper is no longer able to care for him.

    The need within SSE is similar to the turkey example. This movement will lose steam and perhaps collapse altogether unless there is a practical reason for its continued existence. As a long-time observer, I've got to say that I think innovative strategies are going to be necessary for SSE to continue as a healthy organization.

    Forget the $35 bucks membership fee. I think most folks consider those bucks a donation to a cause they consider worthwhile. But letÂs talk about the cost of the seeds. And for the sake of reality, letÂs everyone admit that the economic issues facing us become more real every day. Our economy in this country is not the greatest that it's ever been. Many folks are unemployed. As I have done throughout my entire married life of nearly 28 years, I garden as a means of keeping my family adequately fed--not just as a means of supplementing grocery store fare.

    So, with this economy as it is, just what does this mean in practical terms to an organization like SSE?

    I've read all the comments you folks have posted here and other places on GW, and I've talked to other nice members I've had the privilege to meet personally here and there. Folks who list a lot complain they have to spend a lot of time filling orders. Folks who list only a few feel left out because they don't get to "play" very often. Some who list a lot, complain because folks will go through their listings and order many things from one person rather than spreading their orders out. Some folks who list a lot will simply point out that theyÂre breathlessly busy trying to fill orders and enjoy the experience to the hilt anyway.

    The truth of the matter is, under the current way of doing things, NEITHER PERSON IS GETTING A GREAT ECONOMIC DEAL.

    Let look at it from the perspective of the requestor. Somehow he/she has to go through the book and make selections. He/she has then got to correlate all those selections, try to combine them in some kind of sensible order and send them out. On top of the fee ($2.00 to $4.00 for the non-listed member and a buck less than that for the listed) the buyer has to tack on at least another .37 for postage. And it is the requestor who bears the financial risk should the seed run out before he get his, because instructions are that his money should be returned less the postage that it takes to return the money and the note informing him that there are no seeds. How often does this happen?

    Forgive me, but for many things, the buyer, requestor--whatever you want to call the listed member who is attempting to obtain the seeds--can go to a commercial source or entertain a trade on the internet for a similar, and perhaps smaller, sum. Ordering is done quickly and easily with just a few clicks and payment is through PayPal or some other system that saves the buyer the cost of sending payment through the mail. And on top of that, he/she is not going to be hit with judgmental attitudes and guilt if for some reason he/she is unable to save and re-offer seeds from the purchase.

    On the other hand, the person who is offering the seed faces a challenge in how to dispense the seed within fees allowed by SSE.

    In the past several weeks, I have sent off seeds all over the United States in trade. I sent one package of 41 varieties of mostly peas and beans and winter greens in quantities that far exceed those required by SSE guidelines. I packed them in small zip-lock bags I got at MichaelÂs, a whole gob of them for a buck and a half. They shipped in a heavy padded mailer from Wal-Mart that cost me probably about .85 with tax. Postage was less than 5 bucks.

    I also sent 31 varieties of peppers in those little envelopes made by folding a square of paper. Cost, minimal. I developed a template using MS Publisher. When I get low on them I print out a stack, two to a page along with a little note I designed to use up the extra paper thatÂs gonna be cut away, and trim them while watching TV. I always have at least a couple hundred of these on hand, trimmed and ready to go. These homemade packets plus seeds were packed into a .64 padded mailer from Wally World and the postage was less than a buck and a half. I have since found that these mailers are available at Dollar Tree, 2 in a package for a buck.

    On the other hand, a fellow from Texas asked me for a single pack of Homestead tomato seeds. To send these, I packed them up in the same little hand-made envelopes. I cut an oblong piece of card stock and folded it in half as though it were a greeting card. A piece of recycled bubble wrap was cut the same size and inserted into the card. The seed packet was affixed to the card using a repositionable glue stick and the edges of the card secured with some of those little round hole enforcers. This was then placed into a regular-sized business envelope and mailed. I paid $3.97 for a box of 150 envelopes. It cost me .37 postage to mail the single pack of seeds. The cost of packaging was minimal, but I have no question they will ship as well--and maybe better--than if I had spent 50 cents on one of those fancy professional envelopes.

    If you stop to analyze what I would have received monetarily had I been sending these seeds through the SSE Yearbook, it's obvious that I would have gotten to keep a far greater percentage of the fee with the larger orders. But I still got to keep better than half the tomato fee for a listed member, even when sending only one packet.

    I have a suspicion that much of the exchanging that goes on within the membership is only for relatively small quantities of seeds. Thus this is the reality: Very few folks are benefiting a great deal monetarily through this relationship. And so, if this endeavor is to continue to be a viable one, folks are just going to have to realize (and accept) that their involvement on BOTH sides of the exchange fence is one of dedication to a relevant cause. The folks involved in every transaction are going to have to accept that their own personal part in the exchange is not for personal gain, but a tiny sacrifice they are making for the common good of the community as a whole.

    The economic reality, though, is that if plans go through to raise the price of everything by a whole buck a pop, this system will decline and perhaps even totally collapse. Truth is, some folks will go to the extra trouble required to order from this book in support of the ideal IF the cost is only minimally more. But when you raise the cost of every single thing by a whole buck and it's that same buck cheaper to go order from some web site, then folks are going to go to the web site. Or they're gonna look for a friendly trade on the web somewhere.

    I have read through numerous GW posts on the SSE issue, and the degree of judgmentalism toward folks with priorities different from the person posting at the moment is daunting--"folks are using it as a catalog, tsk, tsk...", "folks aren't reoffering what they request, tsk, tsk", "too many folks are offering only one variety so that they can get seed cheaper, tsk, tsk", "folks are offering so many varieties they can't keep them pure", and so on--well, there are a lot of messages in all that stuff that serve as red flags to newcomers who might otherwise be inclined to make vital contributions.

    Frankly, for folks to have the freedom to devote to the kind of dedication that is apparently expected for involvement in SSE, they pretty much have to be unemployed in order to have the time. Unemployed folks generally don't have the kind of money required for altruistic endeavors. Trust me, these folks are gonna be back at the Wally World seed racks, buying whatever the corporate seed suppliers want them to grow, because that's precisely what they will be able to afford. They may perhaps save what they can, but for the year to year purchases, they WILL be back at those commercial seed racks. I know this, because I've lived there. When you're in that place, you do what you gotta do.

    Frankly, I really don't see why everybody's so bothered about stipulating how everybody uses the yearbook. Truth is, folks are all different. They come from different places on their ways to even more different places. Each person has a unique set of demands on his life and a unique perspective and unique priorities and goals. So what if not everyone does things exactly the way we, personally, would like to dictate they be done.

    So what if that lady purchases seeds to trial for her market garden. So what if Joe purchases seeds for some obscure variety to share with someone who remembers them from his childhood. So what????!!!! The fact is that every transaction where these seeds are exchanged gets them into circulation. Maybe the lady with the market garden will introduce them to some chef who wants a steady supply. So now thereÂs a REAL reason for it to be maintained. It has a PLACE, a market. No longer is that particular variety dependent on its human champion in the obscure pages of the SSE yearbook. No longer does it risk extinction when its human can no longer cultivate it. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Isn't that the goal? What's so horrible about it actually being realized?

    The truth is that intention does not alway translate into reality. And just because somebody gets seeds from you and does not re-list does NOT mean that no good has come from the exchange. At the very least, someone somewhere has likely eaten a more healthy meal than he could have gotten out of the grocery store. Maybe that taste of homegrown mater will light an inextinguishable fire in the heart of a child who otherwise would never have experienced it and who will choose to pursue it in adulthood. Maybe instead of choosing to re-offer to SSE members who already have a source, the requestor has chosen to gift a community garden or great aunt Mary with the seeds. Sometimes the greatest results of our efforts are not observable by our own eyes, and usually not in the places where we choose to check.

    I see that in response to certain attitudes expressed through this thread at least two folks have decided not to obtain their seeds through SSE for the reasons discussed here. I have been a due-paying member of SSE for more than 5 years now. In all that time I have requested only two packs of seeds--in large part, because of the cost of the seeds and the investment of life required to prepare the order. But these obvious expectations also play a huge role in that choice. I am human. I live in an imperfect world. I fail. That is the reality of my life.

    What IF I order seeds and have a bad year. What if I get sick again? What if there is another monsoon summer like last year? What if my house burns down and takes my seed with it? What if the deer get in AGAIN and eat up my seed crop one more time? What IF this variety decides it just doesn't like my climate, my soil, and doesn't do a thing? Nothing in life is a sure thing.

    I can hear it now if I try and fail. So I sacrifice my 35 bucks to support the cause because I believe in it. But though there are many things in that book that I would like to have the opportunity to invest in, perhaps I should just do without them and turn to conventional sources and buy plain old common garden seed instead.

    Thus the letter of the Original Intent is maintained, but the Real Goal of the project in defeated in the process--or as it is sometimes put, we have shot ourselves in the foot.

    By the way, there is some validity to the purity issue, and I did not mean to diminish that. I am thinking that historically folks simply had one or two varieties of this and that. They did what they did to avoid starvation. Every family maintainted their own seed crops, but just a handful--maybe a couple of beans, a couple squash, and couple tomatoes, etc. They didn't have to worry so much about cross pollination and over the years many of these familial varieties gathered their own distinction.

    Things are different now. We have become collectors. If we're just growing and saving for ourselves, then it's probably okay to let things happen and glory in the results. Delightful things happen that way. But if we're offering named varieties to each other, then we ought to try extraordinarily hard to make as sure as is possible that what we share is true. The guy from Spain--can't remember his name--suggests we use Ashworth as the standard, so that we are all on the same page. I don't think that's an unreasonable request.

    Elise

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Elise,
    Thanks for sharing your broadened perspective of SSE.
    You made some very good points!

    Douglas

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your broadened perspective of SSE.
    You made some very good points!

    Elise,

    I echo what Douglas said.

    I know you said you've been a member for 5 years.

    I've been a member for 16 years and Craig for 18 years and over time much has changed in terms of the availability of heirloom veggie varieties, both within SSE and without, even more more dramatically in terms of accessability.

    SSE aside, it's been wonderful to see the greater availability of heirloom varieties to the home gardener.

    I think you were spot on with several of your comments and thanks for weighing in with your comments.

    However SSE may evolve as time passes, I still hope it's a place where folks can list and introduce the new heirloom varieties they've been able to locate, for that's how the inventory started and was built up over time, and that SSE will still be a place for folks to look for those new varieties, whether they are home gardeners or commercial folks pulling out varieties to offer on a retail basis.

    And also a place for folks who are interested, to find varieties that aren't offered commercially on a retail basis.

    Carolyn

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Carolyn,

    I have been a member for 5 years, but I've been a close observer--not just of SSE--but of the entire heirloom movement and the changes that have accompanied it for a far longer time--better than 2 decades.

    I am saying the following to make a point that REALLY needs to be heard. THE REASON MY MEMBERSHIP IS SO YOUNG IS DUE TO FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS. As the mother of a family with four young children struggling to live on a husband's single salary, there was just no justifying spending the bucks on an SSE membership.

    Although I am sure there are folks of professional standing who participate in the heirloom movement and support SSE, I'll be willing to wager that most of the folks who support SSE and participate in maintaining heirloom varieties are folks like the sweet little gentleman farmer who used to market his Moon and Stars Melons and various herbs on the roadside between Mize and Soso, Mississippi. He'd put his stuff out in the wheelbarrow in the morning and leave a cup for folks to put their money in while he went about his business of planting his crops and cultivating his fields. My mother once had a talk with him, and commented on the cup and the risk that its contents might be stolen. His reply was that folks who are interested in things like heirloom melons and herbs are generally honest folks and that in all the years he'd been leaving that cup by the roadside, no one had ever taken a thing.

    Anyway, this fellow knew a life of hard toil, but he saw a need and he helped make the difference in the only way he knew how. He is deceased now, and I never even knew his name. But I cannot drive by that hollow between two hills where he grew his melons without remembering who he was and what he stood for--making a difference within his limited means.

    I think it important to consider that many members of SSE are probably not folks with endless (or even comfortable) funds at their disposal. I think many of them are hard-working folks scrapping for the wherewithall to make their contributions. And I think that fact best be well-considered when future financial decisions are made, particularly with respect to the management of the Yearbook and the annual exchange policies.

    This foundation of this organization is those folks. If it becomes so expensive to participate that the underlying foundation of the organization cannot afford to, then the organization will fail. I think this is at least part of what Martin was trying to say, and I think somebody in the decision-making arena had best pay attention.

    Elise

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Rats! I spent all week gathering information, reloading the big guns, and getting writer's cramps compiling notes from incoming replies to queries sent to listed SSE members. Then Elise covers just about everything in a much more tactful manner than I might have done. But I shall relate some of my "findings".

    There are good points made both here and in the thread over in Growing Tomatoes. One was the purity thing. When I was looking through the names of listed members, there were a lot of familiar names and addresses. Garden Web names are often anonymous or vague. Many lurk but are never seen on any reply. But there's no hiding when they have to send a name and mailing address to obtain something offered in the exchange. Bingo! What I was seeing were listed SSE members who had requested my Wisconsin 55 tomatoes. Thinking that perhaps they would still be friendly and "owe" me, I asked some of them why they requested my seed rather than spending a buck to get it from one of the other listed members. One person replied that he'd followed my replies on the subject and knew first that I was growing them in absolute isolation and second was that the fruit was exactly correct according to what I remembered over the years. He called the big listers "production line growers". Yes, I know that you all are tired about hearing about my darned favorite tomato but that project did prove a lot of things which we've already covered.

    Elise also brought out the fact that a lot of "nearly lost" varieties of 25 years ago are now available commercially again. If the big companies like Totally Tomatoes don't have one of those good but previously obscure varieties, TGS and other smaller companies have them, even if it's just a little cottage industry whose only outlet is via Internet sites and sales. Even if some of those small companies had them 25 years ago, there was no way to get the information spread other than locally. Now it's click, click, click and the whole world knows.

    Since I'm big on alliums as well, I'll cite one example. Heritage Sweet multiplier onions were virtually unheard of outside of SSE until very recently. "Discovered" stock came from an old homestead in Florida. "Lost" for so long that original name still has not been located. Because of the Internet, and more people being aware of them, they are being discovered merrily growing throughout the Gulf Coast states from Florida to Texas. (My stock was found on an old homestead near Mobile.) Lo and behold, Territorial Seed Co. is now selling them this year. Several smaller Internet companies also listing them. The most recent SSE grower is not listing them this year. If I were that SSE lister, I certainly would not be moaning that Territorial stole my thunder. Instead, I'd be wearing my arm in a sling from patting myself on the back! The purpose of saving, growing, and sharing them was fulfilled. We let that poor cat out!!

    Martin

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just to chance the pace, my 2004 Yearbook just arrived, finally (seems like I'm always last).

    So, I'll be busy browsing. If y'all don't hear from me for awhile, that's why!

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    GardenLad, mine just arrived today (Monday). So you weren't the last! Joe in Winnipeg

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If SSE is to continue I think two steps are needed.

    Leave the price for members the same as it is now.

    Open up the listing to the internet and charge the increased price for internet non-member orders.

    This will greatly increase the number of orders listed-members receive. Some people will still want to pay for membership so they can get a hard copy of the yearbook and
    get seeds at a lower price. Opening the list to the internet will get more people interested and membership and listed members may increase.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I sent a request for a melon var. to a SSE listed member. I just received it today with the money returned, and the seeds enclosed. This has never happened to me before, although I haven't requested many items throughout the years.
    I guess the money can go towards another fishing lure(smile).

    Douglas

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    (I sent a request for a melon var. to a SSE listed member. I just received it today with the money returned, and the seeds enclosed.)

    That's really nice to hear Douglas since we're much more likely to hear about the occasional SSE member who never responds or some other glitch. So thanks for sharing that.

    I'd say half the folks who request tomato seeds from me enclose extra money that I always return, and maybe 1/5 send a stamp or a SASE.

    In return I always enclose about 10-15 seeds of what I call the "freebie" of the year and I deliberately choose what that variety will be the year before, for seed production. It usually surprises folks, pleasantly, when they get something they didn't ask for. LOL

    Last year it was Heatherington Pink and this year it is Red Barn and I already have my eye on a few possibilities for growing out this summer for next year's freebie. (smile)

    Carolyn, who also always encloses more than the minimum 25 seeds specified, but how many more depends on the variety and the number of seeds I have on hand for that variety.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Carolyn,

    Just out of curiousity, do people like you, who fill many orders, actually count the seeds?

    Even at the height of my trading I never filled a fraction as many as you. But if I hadn't gone to a volume-measuring method I'd have gone crazy.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    All -
    Very interesting thread. As I am becoming more involved and interested in heirlooms (I've saved flower seeds for years),I joined SSE a few months back, including the Flower & Herb Exchange.
    When I received the Flower & Herb catalog (if you will), I was just blown away. Last week, I received the 2 inch think full catalog, and I am just in total awe of what those people do.
    All the time, preparation, printing costs, etc., is well worth the $35 + memberhip fee I paid. I don't know if I will order anything, but it is a wonderful "bible" to read.
    I am just in awe.
    My biggest dream is to visit SSE this Spring to see their gardens, and those White Cattle.
    For me, the membership fee is another charitiable contribution to a much needed cause. I feel that our society has become way too disposable.
    I also support the efforts of Jere at Baker's Creek and hope to make the trip there in April as well.
    Hoping to make the supreme contribution of my saved seeds later this year.
    M.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    (Just out of curiousity, do people like you, who fill many orders, actually count the seeds?)

    I can only speak for myself Brook, and yes I do count rhe seeds for each pack.

    Seed size is so variable, sometimes twofold or more for cherries and paste types versus a big seeded variety such as Cherokee Purple or most of the beefsteaks, that a volume measurement doesn't appeal to me personally as a way to distribute seeds although I do know of one person who used to do that.

    Carolyn

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Anyone heard of a variety of tomato called Listers perfection or Listers protection?

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Anyone heard of a variety of tomato called Listers perfection or Listers protection?

    I answered your question ealier today in the TOmato Forum where you also posted it.

    Here you've buried it in another thread and most folks wouldn't have seen it. Far better to keep it a separate thread when asking about heirloom varieties.

    Carolyn

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    ******************
    I am saying the following to make a point that REALLY needs to be heard. THE REASON MY MEMBERSHIP IS SO YOUNG IS DUE TO FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS. As the mother of a family with four young children struggling to live on a husband's single salary, there was just no justifying spending the bucks on an SSE membership.
    ******************

    This needs to be repeated I think. I'm looking at becoming SSE member since the first time I ever heard of Heirlooms, 7 years ago. I heard of heirlooms through TV and SSE was the organization mentioned throughout the particular section of that TV program.

    But, I never became a member. For me to spend 35$ on a member's fee just was and still is out of the question. Particularly when I can get heirlooms elsewhere very easily, cheaply and even for free or through tradings with other gardeners.

    I save seeds, always! I then trade them or I give them away for free to family members, friends, neighbors or perfect strangers who by chance talked/wrote(internet) to me about some gardening subject. I spread the seeds as widely as I can.

    I never needed SSE for that. SSE opened my eyes about heirlooms, SSE educated me about them, but never SSE had a cent from me. What a shame! On the other hand, the way SSE opened my eyes made of me a very good seed keeper and seed "spreader". Isn't that ironic to this organization to struggle with declining memberships?

    The fees and all prices went up at SSE??? Well I won't be a member anytime soon then...

    I use Internet only for heirloom seeds trading/buying/chasing/researching. Very easy, very practical, very quick and very reasonably priced when I decide to spend.

    I feel sad for SSE, but I can't afford it. But quite frankly, I feel I do a lot without paying any fees for the heirlooms. Since 2 years, I go to the extend of growing seedlings just to give them away, ready to transplant, to people I know who usually buy at the market whatever hybrid vegies to transplant in the garden once frost is over... Just in case I can turn them on heirlooms and seed saving...

    So I really hope SSE will find a way to adapt...

    Bekkoula

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I hope they do apapt,with many older experienced seed savers not being able to continue the fight to save heirlooms I think it may just become another place to get seeds from.Up to now it seems like its a very special place for some folks to get seeds from.
    May younger savers keep up the tradition and continue the fight to keep the older seeds going and not start thinking profit!
    ( Hmmm maybe I'll join when its been decided not to touch the social security system but to make it better and more secure for the future.Probably like you Bekkoula,when I have more spare change and gas and the costs of keeping up the puter and cable go down.LOL)just jokeing-but a fact...
    Actually I've been thinking of selling off those few extra plants-guess I can use a few bucks from that to join before I donate any profits to charity.
    Bill

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well yes! It all boils down to choices when it comes to spending the family money. And depending on your available cash, you may or may not have tons of options to choose from.

    Bekkoula

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I've been an SSE member for either four or five years now, I don't recall precisely which. This year is the first year I actually ordered seed. Meant to do so last year but circumstances worked against me so I did not.

    I've never regretted the membership fees. For what it is the organization is trying to do it's well worth my money.

    I can certainly understand being broke as most of my life I've been more broke than flush so that must always be a factor in decision making - always.

    But let us consider why it is so easy to find what information there is to be found about heirlooms and OP plants on the Internet. It's because there are a fair number of people interested in them. Why is that? Well, in large part it's because of organizations such as the Seed Savers Exchange and other smaller organizations that have gone to such great lengths to get the word out and to educate people as to why preserving these old varieties is worth while. They've spent years doing it and are now enjoying a modicum of success. We can tell they are because of the number of seed companies that have recognized a market now exists and are attempting to fill it. Mostly small companies as of yet, but the big ones are getting into the market as well since for at least the last two years (that I've paid attention to it) I can go into Wal Mart of all places and find seeds specifically packaged and marketed as heirlooms. This year Bonnie's Plants, the company that has a near lock on the bedding plant trade in my part of the world, is offering heirloom variety bedding plants. At least five varieties of heirloom tomatoes, maybe more. Specifically marketed and sold as heirlooms. This is certainly not the way things used to work.

    In this regard SSE and all other seed saving organizations have succeeded in their mission because heirlooms have once again regained a niche in the seed and bedding plant trade. Whether they'll hold that niche remains to be seen, but for now they are there.

    But for all the new interest by commercial companies in heirlooms and even with the available information on the Internet about heirlooms there's really not a lot of information to be found except for the most popular varieties.

    My particular interest is in the area of heirlooms and newer OP plants that were historically known to have down well here in Coastal Plains of the Deep South or that look like they may do so. Even today there still isn't a lot of information available, especially in the Southern dent corns. Were it not for the SSE Yearbook there would be still less information available and even fewer varieties to choose from. Some varieties that I've been looking for seem to be simply lost forever so far as my ability to find them is concerned.

    SSE is evolving and that's good because all organizations must evolve over time or go the way of the dinosaurs. Do I like paying $4.00 a pack for the large seeds I just ordered? No, of course not, but then the folks offering those seeds aren't in the commercial seed trade so aren't able to take advantage of the economy of scale that being in such a business offers. When one considers the amount of time and effort that each of us puts into planting seed, caring for the resultant plants as they grow to maturity, maybe having to take special steps - often laborious - to keep them from crossing with other varieties, processing their seeds after harvest, then packaging and mailing them to the folks who want them that $4.00 a packet looks rather ridiculous. No one in their right mind would do it except as a labor of love because they sure aren't making any money off of it if they ever actually reckoned it all out as a for-real business.

    SSE isn't about getting seeds cheap. There's no lack of companies who'd be happy to sell you cheap seeds and if they are what you want then more power to you! What SSE is about is selling you germplasm - DNA - that may not be available anywhere else. You get a sample of that germplasm, hopefully enough to work with, that you can then try to see if it's something you want and if it is then to grow it out for as much seed as you want to keep. Hopefully, if you stay with the spirit of what SSE is all about, you'll then reoffer that seed to others so the variety will not only continue to survive, but continue to evolve as all living things evolve to adapt to the conditions and circumstances peculiar to your own garden.

    To that end, the membership fee and seed costs are cheap enough. If I simply want cheap seeds of popular varieties I go elsewhere. What I want though often enough isn't found there or if it is there may only be one or two sources and their given strain of what I want may not be very satisfactory.

    The Seed Savers Exchange is well worth the money to me.

    .....Alan.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you Alan, beautifully written, from a very long time Lifetime SSE member.

    Carolyn

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I am really enjoying this discussion, but did it really skip a whole year and then pcik up again? I am so pleased to see open discussion about SSE's goals and problems and what they have acheived vs what the future might offer. I am a bad SSE member, requests tend to come in just as I am really getting my garden going, and so I have occasionally mislaid and failed to fill some seed requests, it's one of those things that eats on my conscience. So I am careful to offer only a few vars each year of the seeds I consider most important to spread around. But OUTSIDE of SSE, my seeds get around locally. My beans, about half from SSE and half local vars, go to local gardeners. Sometimes I give away tomato seeds I have gotten thru SSE, but I give away probably 50 tomato plants annually, and tell people to save seed of any they like. I doubt that any have... except for the local nursery. I got the bright idea of giving them plants of Lahman Pink and Pink Ping Pong, which are just fantastic vars and always crop till frost here. Lahman Pink plants just get bigger and bigger, real monsters. Lately people have been asking if I sell tomato plants, and suggesting that I should. Seeing as I may have about a hundred to spare this year, I might go over to the farmer's market one day and do so. Bet more of THOSE people would save seed than my coworkers.
    But back to SSE. I read an article, "Eat the Tame Life" about British keepers of heirloom livestock striving to create a demand for their better tasting products. I know that some SSE members grow seeds just to offer seeds, and I figured out a long time ago that it's not a good idea. WVTOD used to grow 100 bean vars, and bought beans to eat. I was both impressed and appalled. After I talked to him on the phone, he sent me about 20 varieties, he was having to sell the land where his big garden was and woulnd't be able to maintain them. I have kept a few that I liked, but some were shellers, and the carpenter bees will cross them to my snaps. Todd would be quite depressed if he were still keeping up his stocks, if the request level is as low as some of you say. If that were the case, I'd think the only way to keep up his spirits would be to offer his seeds at farmer's markets and other venues outside SSE, and so we come to what you are all discussing here, that there is probably more going on OUTSIDE SSE than INSIDE it. And I think we can thank SSE for getting the ball rolling and I think the Whealys would be proud to know that if SSE vanished tomorrow, that it would only be a small glitch in the snowball they started. Because God knows if you read SSE and the Fedco catalog, bad things are happening in the international seed market. It's like two currents going in opposite directions.
    The cost of being a SSE member has always been about as much as I could afford, but at least the seeds were pretty cheap for listed members. Then we got really broke and I couldn't afford to keep my membership for 2 years. Now I am back in and the prices are outrageous. I would love to trial a bunch of SSE's tomatoes, but no way am I going to risk $4 for even one unknown variety. I got interested in garlic varieties after I ran out of garlic 18 months ago and had to buy garlic (which had no taste!) from the grocery. A softneck var given to me by a local SSE member came in nearly a month before my hardnecks, for which I blessed it and promised to keep it going. So now I want to try all the major classes of garlic, and to do that for a minimum investment would cost me about $32, a bit extravagant given our lack of money. So in a phone call to find out if an obscure variety was really a "turban" type, I found another SSE member who says the prices are too high, and that he sells garlic for a dollar a head to those who want to try a lot of vars. While I as still recovering, he asked if I grew flowers. I said, well, only old roses. He said his wife was into flowers, and would I like to so some swapping? So I am to send him a list, well, two lists, one of what I want and one of my roses. I think way too many people fail to get on the phone on the phone or the computer and actually talk to to other members of SSE. I have ALWAYS found that direct communication spreads more varieties faster than anything else. I'm the NAFEX member who wrote the article (which NAFEX began sending out to new members) saying that the roster was it's most valuable tool. As in SSE, NAFEXers who've been at it a few years have lots of extra stock, just waiting for a newbie to come along. And like all humans, we love giving advice! Does SSE need an article along these same lines? I can tell you right now that if members were looking not at who offers the most vars, but at who is closest to them, and then were to email or call and talk, SSE's volume of seed exchange could double. Donna

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Donna,

    Tomato prices for unlisted members are $3 and $2 for listed members, not the $4 you wrote above. ( smile) Not that I agree with the price increase, but all listed SSE members were asked to vote on three options and what I voted for didn't win. LOL

    I asked before but I'll ask again, aren't you the Donna in TN that used to get lots and lots of tomato varieties from me thru SSE? Back when the price was a $1, which actually it was until the 2005 Yearbook?

    Didn't you have a variety that you liked b/c it had a starlike pattern at the blossom end, said Carolyn reaching for her almost buried brain cells. LOL And herbs were also an interest of yours, as in medicinal uses?

    Carolyn

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I think SSE is a very important resource; to discontinue it because it may be a 'club' or sometimes redundant would be silly. Redundancy equals security. My problem is with listed members who may be too busy to send their offerings after someone (like me) has sent the request and the money. Dude, if you are reading this - if you are too dam busy to send what you offer then quit offering it. Is Brooksville, Fl so much a busier place to live than other parts of the country?

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My problem is with listed members who may be too busy to send their offerings after someone (like me) has sent the request and the money. Dude, if you are reading this - if you are too dam busy to send what you offer then quit offering it. Is Brooksville, Fl so much a busier place to live than other parts of the country?

    pn,

    Did you happen to see the recent thread in the Tomato Forum about requests made to SSE members that were late or never made it?

    There are all sorts of reasons why some SSE members don't respond ranging from death, sickness, to loss of the request form to outright laziness.

    Have you contacted the SSE member in question to ask about your request?

    There have been times when the USPS did not get to me a SSE members request and there have been times when what I send out to someone did not get to them via USPS.

    And that's why I save ALL envelopes that get to me so I can document where a problem might have arisen.

    In general I think most SSE members are quite good at sending out in a timely manner what has been requested.

    Carolyn

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm not in a position to say what most SSE members do or don't do. Can only speak from my own experience, which is somewhat dated.

    But, back in the late 90s and early turn of this century, when I was ordering a lot of seed, about 30% of my orders were not fulfilled in a timely manner. In fact, it took some serious chasing to get the stuff. That's a significant percentage, which, do the very nature of the current listed membership base, I suspect has increased.

    Of them all, only one member had what I consider a valid reason: His wife was going through a bad pregnancy, and the hospital they used was more than a hundred miles away, and they were making frequent trips to it. Given those circumstances, I'd put seed orders on hold, too.

    There were all sorts of other excuses offered. The worst from a garlic grower who said, "I have so many varieties that I can't be bothered searching for them for the one somebody asked for." Huh? Play that again? Why are you listing them if you can't be bothered sending them?

    There was the guy who told me he groups orders, and sends them out in batches. My seed would go out "next Wednesday". I heard that one three times, from him. And in fact have never received the seed.

    And there was the lady who swore she never got the order, even after I sent her a copy of the cancelled check.

    And the grower who......

    Balancing this out were the more numerous members who not only sent the seed in a timely manner, but offered all sorts of growing tips; and those who sent surprise packages of bonus seed (which I didn't want, but appreciated the thought); and provided reams of history of the varieties and related topics; and who suggested if I was interested in a particular type of veggie I ought to contact so & so who really knows about them.

    What it boils down to is that SSE members are people, first, subject to all the whims, and foibles, and emotional upheavals as the rest of us. So, while it's always frustrating when a listed member doesn't do what he/she promises, particular after multiple follow-ups, it's best to just write that person off as unreliable and go on to something else.

    It's also important, I think, to separate an organization, per se, from how the members of that organization behave as individuals. God knows, I have my problems with SSE. But it is totally unrealistic to expect the organization to police it's members to make sure they are doing what they say. Just look at the hundreds (maybe thousands) of MR listings that never get reoffered. There's not much SSE can really do about that. Nor is there much it can do about a member who doesn't send ordered seed---whether there's a good excuse or not. Trying to enforce those rules would use up a lot of resources better put to other purposes.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Maybe SSE needs some sort of feedback system, like ebay, to let people figure out who are the poor listers.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Maybe SSE needs some sort of feedback system, like ebay, to let people figure out who are the poor listers.

    Anyone at any time can contact SSE directly if they feel that their requests are not being sent in a timely manner.

    And some have done so.

    Carolyn

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    No, I haint contacted the fellow. It's hardly worth it for $8 especially as I'm not in florida anymore to plant the stuff if sent. I suppose he did give a fair but rather cryptic warning: "please be patient as I have a lot of irons in the fire". Besides being hackneyed it's rather bizarre. Why trouble to list offerings in a catalog if one knows one's fire is over-ironed? I agree with Brook - people are what they are, there is scant chance of changing it.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Can I open this fascinating thread back up?

    I was just considering becoming an SSE member, wanted to find out more about them, and actually found this thread first on a search here at GW.

    I have a very small area for tomatoes -- one sunny bed about 12 feet by 3 feet plus another not-as-sunny bed that I put tomatoes in when I feel I need to give my "tomato bed" a rest from tomatoes. Unless I plant only one kind of tomato, I could never be sure I was offering uncrossed seeds.

    I'm not interested in planting a single kind of tomato, and certainly not of any variety I'd never tried! I am looking to find a few 'maters that do consistently well in my garden so I can have great tomatoes. In pursuit of that -- and also because I just like to try something no one else has tried -- I am interested in trying new varieties. I can find interesting stuff on Sand Hill and other places, and in fact I sent off orders to Sand Hill, Pine Tree, High Mowing Seeds, and Park's this year. That's where I get most of my seeds each year -- the ones I plant every year. But again, most of the seeds they offer are the ones many others have tried. I'd like to try one or two that are more unfamiliar.

    I'd been considering joining SSE as a way to try a new variety or two each year, keeping the seeds for myself or to share informally with friends (whom I could warn, "this could be a cross") and I'd not realized that SSE would frown on this. I guess I figured that my dues would help support the cause and my lack of reciprocation wouldn't =harm= it, even though it wouldn't be what SSE was set up to do. I mean, of course I could list and send off my not-100%-sure-they're-uncrossed seeds -- but how does that help anyone?

    So I guess my question is -- yes, my goal doesn't mesh perfectly with that of SSE, but does that really in any way =undermine= SSE? If I'm paying my dues, If I'm trying and buying and talking about unusual heirlooms and about SSE, then why is that not also a good thing? It's perhaps not the ideal thing, but I can't offer the ideal. If I had a sunny backyard and could grow five-of-one-kind in reasonable isolation, maybe I would. But I can't, and even if I could but weren't interested in doing so, why wouldn't SSE just be happy to have my monetary support and my willingness to talk up their cause, and in turn support my interest in unusual heirlooms?

    And, really, where do future big-list-of-offerings come from if not from dilettantes like me who get the bug worse every year and eventually decide 'heck with what the neighbors think, I'm planting the sunny front yard in tomatoes this year.' If SSE ever wants me to grow into that person, don't they need to plant the seed in the soil available?

    Val

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Val,

    I'm a long time member of the SSE. I've offered many samples of beloved varieties, without seeing many maintained by a lot of people. However that has never particularly bothered me. Like you said, it's good to trial varieties, also, some of those who haven't reoffered do still have them. I've seen varieties crop up in listings as long as 18 years after I sent them out!

    I pay my dues, in part to support the organization. Also, I thoroughly enjoy reading through the Year books. Membership is worth it to me (when I have the $) even if I don't make any requests. I normally send out A LOT more samples than I request. Some years I make no requests at all.

    My personal opinion is that you should feel free to join. Only request seeds which are listed under "Has," not "M.R" (must reoffer). You could mention, to whom you make requests, that you probably can't reoffer at this time. Offer to report back with your observations. I know this is something which would make some of us very happy. Perhaps give them the option not to fill the request, if your conscience bothers you. The ideal is to raise the variety and reoffer at least once.

    Here's an idea. There are a lot of seeds in a sample of tomato seeds. Perhaps you could start more than you would use and get a friend to grow a few, where they can give them the necessary isolation. They could swap some fruit with you, and you could reoffer. Just an idea.

    But I, for one, welcome those who are willing to pay the $ to join and if I really want to assure that what I offer is GOING to be reoffered I use "M.R." With the new higher rates I feel that requests I get from non-listed members are almost always worth my attention.

    You would certainly be welcome to trial anything I'm offering.

    George
    kg8da(at)juno.com

    Tahlequah, OK

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi, George! Thanks for your response. Oh, I could sure report back! I am a very good note taker. :)

    It sounds like as long as I honor the wishes of the offerers and am honest about my own limitations, SSE might work fine for me -- and me for it.

    I'll look for you in the yearbook!

    Val

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Val, have you thought of using blossom bags to ensure true seed? Very inexpensive, not that much work and no need for large isolation distances. Just a though as I am also a new SSE member and decided that this is what I will do.

    John

    PS, George, you are a tribute to SSE and I for one would like to at least say thanks.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    PS, George, you are a tribute to SSE and I for one would like to at least say thanks.

    I agree.

    Hi, George!

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for the kind words guys. I've met many good folk through the SSE and many through other garden type contacts. Some of the most unique, I met back when the National Gardening Association magazine was called "Gardens for All." By offering seed for a swap, I was deluged in A LOT of seeds. Some weren't so great, but in the jumble were some real treasures (both seeds and those connected with them.) As a Seed Saver I both want to preserve old varieties and promote seed saving for new folk. In recent years it's been impressed on me how we need to make a priority of discipling some new gardeners. Seed saving is a natural when you really get into gardening.

    Gotta run!

    George
    Tahlequah, OK

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    After a long thread, I'm going to throw my 2 cents in.

    If I were SSE, I would set up an eBay like system where they get a cut of every seed packet sold. Membership would drop to $9.95 for 6 months.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This is a fairly old thread, but I wanted to add my perspective. As a relatively new SSE member (since 2000), and a new member to this board, I find these discussions interesting, and somewhat disturbing. Heres my two cents worth (well, maybe 3 cents with inflation...)

    While SSE may have some problems, how does it warrant the bitterness and negativity that seem so prevalent in this thread? Why spend so much effort trying to tear apart an institution that has made (and continues to make) such great contributions to diversity?

    What SSE has done is to take the loose threads - the collectors, the seed banks, the preservationists, the open-pollinated breeders, the fledgling heirloom seed movement, and those of many diverse camps - and weave them together into a concerted effort. Yes, the politics can alienate some. And yes, there is some dissent among the membership; but that is to be expected from people of strong will & conviction, even in pursuit of common cause.

    SSE sounded the alarm, and only because of their effectiveness do we even have "heirlooms" to argue about today. Absent their involvement, how many more wonderful varieties would have drifted, forgotten, into extinction? I say "how many more" because so many _were_ forever lost, long before the word "heirloom" became the symbol for that loss. The treasured varieties of nations, of millennia of selection, or the lifes work of accomplished breeders - gone. SSE brought the issue into focus, and many of the new seed companies of today owe their start - and their clientele - to the efforts of SSE, its listing members, and those unseen benefactors who provided financial support over the years. That _includes_ the many unlisted members who sent in their dues, with no expectations beyond making a contribution to the cause.

    Much has been said of what SSE does not do, or does wrong. I could have joined that chorus, and still might if I ever smell the organization "going corporate". It was formed as a grass-roots organization, and in terms of its long-term goals, has been remarkably successful. But there will always be problems inherent with such a loose-knit organization. Should the formula be changed, as many have suggested? Perhaps... but consider:

    To all of those "Walmarters" who say "I can get it cheaper over the Internet"... where do you think that seed comes from? In many cases it is just bought in bulk, divided, and sold for profit. The companies involved have no vested interest in maintaining the varieties they carry; if todays "tomato du jour" falls out of fashion tomorrow, they will drop it, and move on to something else. Who will be its champion then? Some have pointed to these companies as evidence of successful preservation efforts; but these internet fly-by-nights do not represent a lasting solution to the stewardship of diversity. Some only exist because SSE, or another of the affiliated companies run by some of its members (such as Baker Creek) has done the grunt work, building up its infrastructure to the point where it can sell rare seed in bulk.

    So SSE is, to a large extent, creating its own competition.

    While there are many more companies _selling_ seed, I do not believe there has been a quantum leap in those _growing_ seed. We still need a safety net, to preserve these seeds for successive generations. If not SSE, who will do this? Dont count on the USDA; their emphasis is on large-scale commercial and breeding stock, not on an ugly tomato that tastes good., or a really good pole bean that bruises easily. So if SSE is not the answer, I dont see anyone else out there capable of stepping forward to take the reins.

    I acknowledge that there are problems with seed purity; I have corresponded with several members, and with SSE, on this issue. More needs to be done, but I dont have a solution to this problem, other than to provide feedback, and do my best to ensure that my own seed is pure. And while there are some members who send seed late or not at all, statistically speaking, I have had just as many problems with commercial sources.

    If the naysayers had their way, if SSE were to become obsolete, one has to wonder...without the spearhead, how effective is the spear? Those who so resent being "forced" to send in their membership fees, should take a trip at least once to Heritage Farm, and see the enormous amount of work being done, important work that requires land, personnel, & equipment on a grand scale. Each year, more of the varieties from the vaults are multiplied, and offered to the public either through the catalog, or through the Heritage Farm listings in the Yearbook. Perhaps you need to see this operation to fully appreciate it, and to understand how important the income (from membership & catalog sales) is, and how well it is used.

    I drive there each year; it is the greatest vegetable field trial on Earth. I will confess to occasional impatience when I see a variety in the field that shows promise, and it is not offered in the next years Yearbook. But I also note the large number of new varieties that _are_ listed each year. Much is getting done, without thanks or reward, and that _should_ be the focus of our attention. But then, perhaps its just this instant-gratification, dot-com world we live in, and some will never "get it". Its easy & painless to find fault. It takes commitment to be part of the solution.

    The biggest test of SSE is yet to come, and is crucial, I believe, to its long-term survival. As the founding generation passes away, who will replace them? These people were the front line, the ones who first saw the threat, who felt the urgency of their mission. Many of them are literally irreplaceable... the visionaries like Kent and Glen; the last vestiges of now-unfunded OP breeding programs (from back when our public universities served the people, not corporations); and the collectors, who under current import restrictions could probably never reassemble their massive global collections.

    So if I have one complaint, it is that SSE needs to do more outreach, to bring in new blood, and give greater encouragement for new members to increase their efforts. Over the past several years, I developed a keen interest in soybeans, and began trials of many varieties. Then this winter, my source for many of them, long-time SSE member Robert Lobitz, passed away. Robert had offered more soybeans that any other member, more than most companies, and suddenly he was gone. To me, this was my call to arms. After communicating with the executor of his estate, I ordered samples of every soybean for which Robert had been the only source. I hope to grow, evaluate, and make available many of his varieties this year, and in the years to come.

    Like many other SSE members, some of which have commented in this thread, I am doing this not because SSE has encouraged me to do so (although, indirectly, they have) but because I believe it needs to be done. The organizations response to Roberts passing has been surprisingly slow, given that he was number 10 all-time in terms of his seed offerings. I have communicated to them that I felt there was a need for greater urgency on their part. But in fairness, when I requested a listing of all of Roberts past offerings, they sent it to me almost immediately. My own efforts would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, without their assistance. So maybe its my turn to give something back.

    And perhaps, to bring this to a close, that is the point. There are those who only look to SSE for what they can get out of it; and they want it free, and they want it now, and its a "closed organization" if they cant have it. Then there are those who join out of a passion to contribute, to be part of something worthwhile. SSE management needs to bring more of these people into the fold, and make them feel welcome, for the long-term stability of the organization.

    With the looming threat of GMOs, and with the seed restrictions in the European Union as a warning to what could (and I believe will) also happen here, we need to take the long view. It is one thing to rant (as some have) about the tight grip some of the core members seem to have on certain areas... to a point, I even understand some of those sentiments. But if they were to let go, who would take up their burden? And a burden it is, perhaps a larger burden than many of them would like to bear, given a choice; especially when their great efforts are so often criticized, and unappreciated.

    I will have to paraphrase, because I do not remember the exact quote: if I stand tall, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants. Perhaps it is time for more of us to get off the giants backs, and allow them to lean on our shoulders.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    zeedman,

    Thanks for a very well written critique.

    Just a couple of points.

    Perhaps you didn't realize it but SSE is now offering bulk seed for many varieties. Each year I get that bulk seed list and it's growing by leaps and bounds. Many of the "better" seed companies are now purchasing seeds in bulk amounts from SSE.

    Are all of the varieties grown at Decorah? No, they aren't, but the specs for seed production are rigid and off types and crossed varieties are rare.

    You shouldn't look for varieties in the trial gardens to be offered the next year. ( smile)

    i can speak best to the tomato situation and Aaron usually e-mails me what he has on that list and asks for input. As I'm sure you know they are dedicated to growing out what's in the seed bank on a certain rotation, just to maintain fresh stock, but there are always new "fads" and "faves" that ask for a look see to ascertain whether or not they should be offered.

    Quite frankly in the past two years I've scratched my head at some of the new tomato varieties being offered in the public catalog, but what is, is. ( smile)

    And you'll note that SSE as lister, has been listing quite a few varieties that have dropped out of sight. I know I've been surprised to see several that I introduced in the early 90's reappear once again.

    many of the points you made I'm pretty sure I made in posts earlier in this thread, but I didn't go back to check/

    However I'd like to underscore that fact that without SSE the many seed places that have popped up after Seeds Blum and Gleckers stopped selling seeds owe almost everything to SSE in terms of where they got their initial seeds from.

    Glenn, being a member from way back, had always had those varieties and when he started selling he already had them and i must admit he's one of very few places where I send tomato seeds for trial. I do hope you've seen his new website.

    But Tanager Song Farm, Baker Creek, Harvest Moon, and many more, all got going with many varieties from SSE. Marianne Jones is also a long time SSE member so when she started selling she also had varieties on hand. Linda at TGS is a long time unlisted member and she too has gotten many varieties thru SSE although I do send her lots to trial as well.

    of course I may think things should be done differently in different areas, but I'm glad to say that I'm a long time, Life time member of SSE and support the organization strongly, and always will.

    Carolyn

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks, Carolyn, it is a pleasure meeting you, even if it is in cyberspace. A complement from someone of your stature is high praise. :-)

    Yes, I was aware that SSE sells bulk seed, I devoted a paragraph to that issue, which is followed by "SSE creates their own competition". I did, however, include Baker Creek as a bulk seed source, which upon reviewing their catalog, may have been incorrect.

    My annual trek to Heritage Farm has allowed me to see many varieties in the field, that are not being offered anywhere. Last year, for example, I observed a plot (trial? seed increase?) of bunching onions. Several of them were impressive, and very few, when I checked, were being offered.

    No, I do not expect them to be offered in next year's catalog (grin); and I know that not all will even be offered in the following year's Yearbook. Some may not be offered at all... the story of Tantalus comes to mind, something you really want, forever out of reach. :-(

    There is this one bean...

    As I stated, this does not diminish my appreciation for all of the varieties that _are_ listed by HF in the Yearbook each year, and for the incredible amount of work that goes into making that happen.

    And after walking nearly all of Heritage Farm's plantings (this took 2 days), I asked Matt "where's the rest?". He told me about their contract growers, and about the system of curators that maintains parts of the overall collection.

    Responding to a thread of this length & complexity involved considerable soul-searching on my part. It caused me to question my commitment to SSE, and to my own preservation efforts. The beliefs expressed are my own, and were not meant to duplicate anything previously stated. I am new to forums; if repetition (intentional or otherwise) is stepping on toes, I assure you, Carol, no harm was intended. I kind of just poured it all out there.

    Newbe enthusiasm, I'm sure I'll get over it (smile).

    I will (probably) never write a book, I am just one of the footsoldiers for the cause, hoping to make Sarge (lol). A respectful tip of the hat to one of the Captains. Peace.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The beliefs expressed are my own, and were not meant to duplicate anything previously stated. I am new to forums; if repetition (intentional or otherwise) is stepping on toes, I assure you, Carol, no harm was intended. I kind of just poured it all out there.

    It takes a lot of time to read thru and remember all that's been said in this thread and repetition of comments already made is certainly not stepping on anyone's toes.

    Perhaps we'll meet up again if you post in the Growing Tomatoes Forum where heirloom tomatoes are discussed. I no longer have the time to post in the Veggie Forum, even tho I'm retired, LOL, and I do post online at a couple of other places.

    However, if you look in the Conversations area in the tomato forum you'll see a thread about my health, as to a fall in Dec of 2004 and the fact that I have two surgeries coming up this summer, the first just two weeks from today.

    So unfortunately I won't be posting much here at GW or the other places where I post, as I normally would be doing.

    Carolyn

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Very interesting thread.

    From a dot-com generation survivor and brand-spankin-new SSE member:

    Most of the folks of my generation are aware that things that are worthwhile aren't free, but that they usually aren't as expensive as they're priced. Want to see a baseball game from a private box? Check online; pay $5 a seat to some dude who bought season tickets but won't be going to Sunday's game. Want good webhosting? Sure you can get it free, but it's better to pay a small monthly fee for great service. Do the research, find what you want, suport the things you want to see survive.

    So here I am looking at SSE and drooling and I signed up. Because I want seed, and because I think the idea is one worth supporting. Yeay! I'm kosher!

    One problem. I called SSE, because I needed to know if they could ship seeds out to me prior to New Year's. I called five times. There was never anyone there to pick up the phone. Left a message the first time. This was last week. No reply. Seven other seed sellers picked up the phone when I called and were ready to talk to me.

    When I sent in my $35 via the net, got back a confirmation&receipt. No thank you, no nothing. Just GULP and the money was gone. Not even anyone answering my question.

    Service, to my generation, usually determines where our money is spent, even if we're determined to support an idealogy. This is crappy service. Is this what I can expect from them? There are a whole bunch of good points for & against SSE in this thread, but if someone can point out a better organization or way to support germ plasm, I'd love to see it.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Plot, I'm surprised that you had that experience; they have always answered the phone when I called them. In fact, I called them today, since I just sent them the list of seeds I will offer in 2007, which was actually due _there_ today. (Kicking self in sitting muscles)

    Seeds which I have already made available on GW, for the most part. :-)

    I wonder if you called the correct number? At the bottom of their home page, there are 2 numbers; one is for fax only. But since this is their off-season, and they are beginning the difficult task of entering data for the new Yearbook (a massive annual undertaking), I suppose it is possible that the phones could have been left unattended for awhile.

    As to their customer service, I confess to having been frustrated at times myself. While their response on the phone (or in person, during a visit) has been satisfactory, I pretty much gave up on letters & emails, because they often went unanswered. I would like to hope that they were read, since I have addressed some important issues... but I'll never know, I guess.

    And ironically, that is one of the issues I addressed in a letter, and which I commented on in my first post above. If SSE is a grass-roots organization, I think the lawn's getting a little brown. ;-) It needs some fertilizer, and a little TLC, from the landlord.

    They have been in a building phase, increasing the size of their property, updating their facilities, and making better public access to their grounds. They have increased the numbers of varieties that they are able to grow each year. Their ability to raise money successfully has made many of these improvements possible, and I dont want to diminish the magnitude of what they have accomplished; but I wonder if along the way, they have lost something equally important.

    That is, the closeness, the sense of family that you would expect from those who share a sense of purpose. True, one of the trademarks of a grassroots organization is that it is made up of mustangs, free spirits, people who seldom fully agree on anything (lol). But I still believe that SSE management can - and should - do more to bring its members together, and provide some training & encouragement. This wouldn't cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time. It just takes leadership.

    They have been successful at selling seeds; but they should be just as diligent at selling the dream, and recruiting new soldiers to the cause. Its not a question of informing people of the urgency of the mission, they already do that with their publications. Its more a question of empowerment; of seeing to it that every new member feels welcome, knows that they have a place in the organization, and receives recognition for the part that they play. When they paint their grand vision of the future - a vision I and many others share - they need to paint their members into the picture, too.

    Plot, your experience illustrates that problem. I would like to see a "welcome aboard" and "thank you" program aggressively implemented. New members bring a lot of enthusiasm, and that should be nurtured & harnessed, not discouraged. Heck, if it were up to me, all new members would receive a sample of an accession not being offered by anyone, and a certificate appointing them as the custodian! Obviously, I wouldn't use anything really rare for this... but the point is that SSE would have demonstrated their trust. I think many new members would respond positively to such a move, and might go on to become listed members.

    I firmly believe that the future of the organization hangs on the issues of recruitment & encouragement, as the level of involvement by the founding members continues to diminish. Absent the devotion of the many listed members keeping seed publicly accessible, regardless of their many other noteworthy accomplishments, SSE becomes just another faceless seed bank.

    There are other things that would contribute to a more welcoming atmosphere, but those are issues I will address to them personally.

    This kind of conversation is very difficult for me, because I _am _ totally loyal to the organization. Theyve got me for life. Regardless of their failings, or what I or others may think should be done differently, they are still accomplishing great things.

    But just as a true friend will tell you when youre wrong, I will continue to disagree with policies (or lack of them) that I believe are not in the best long-term interests of the organization. I just hope that SSE management is eventually willing to listen to those concerns... or at least acknowledge them. Sometimes when your vision is focused on the far horizon, you trip over the rock at your feet. Im the one going "Look out! Rock!"....."Sorry, I meant look out _for_ that rock". (lol)

    In closing, Plot, try not to let the little things get you down. You will find that the contacts & opportunities that present themselves will more than compensate for the inconveniences. And by all means, express your reservations in a letter to SSE; when the voices rise to a chorus, maybe theyll listen. Just keep it civil... have some oreos first. ;-) And from me to you, welcome aboard!

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Zeed, you're right. Patience is a virtue I just don't have. Doublestuffs for me, to keep me from writing letters. New guests at a party shouldn't whinge about the appetizers. I'll chill, and try to be glad just to get in the door...you're certainly helping with that, Mr. Welcome Wagon!

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    >When I sent in my $35 via the net, got back a confirmation&receipt. No thank you, no nothing. Just GULP and the money was gone.Non-acknowledgement of membership status is a hallmark of SSE. Most other seed saving organizations don't subscibe to such a non-communication policy.

    When you join AHSC (Appalachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy), for instance, you get a package consisting of a welcoming letter, a copy of the most recent newsletter, and one or more packets of heirloom seeds. Telling new members how much we value their contribution is more than worth the pittance we spend on postage doing so.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    >When you join AHSC (Appalachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy), for instance, you get a package consisting of a welcoming letter, a copy of the most recent newsletter, and one or more packets of heirloom seeds.Now that's what I meant by "grass-roots" organizations tending the grass! ;-) SSE could learn a thing or two, I think, from AHSC. Bigger is not necessarily better...

    Think you have room for one more, Gardenlad? Even someone from the Frozen Tundra?

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Always room for one more, Zeedman. Being from the Great White North is not a hinderance.

    About half our members are from outside our region, in 12 states (as far away as California), and two foreign countries.

    Send your snail-mail addy to KentuckySeeds@hotmail.com, and we'll get a brochure right out to you.

  • 16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi:

    If Carolyn Male is around I hope to hear from her regarding my long question.

    Background: I recently traveled to the Balkans, hoping to gain an understanding of what troubles the region. To cut the long story short, here's what's relevant to this forum. I estimate over 50% of the people are tied to agriculture. Every family filled their front yard, backyard with eatible fruits and vegetables. In addition, they usually have one or two hectacre for farming.

    They mostly plant commodity products: tomatos, corn, grapes, cucumbers...etc. They buy genetically modified seeds from local stores. The seeds come from Netherlands. I probably visited 100 farmers in Macedonia alone, and comes across 1 who turned his land organic. And one week before harvest he had no buyers for his organic grapes.

    Anyhow, the problems in that region is many fold. Farmers won't grow if there's no guaranteed market, the market won't start if there's no guaranteed supply. I am asking the farmers there to take the first step, to grow just a little bit on their plot, and taste it.

    To help doing that, I am placing an order with SSE. However, long term, my limited sponsorship is not going to be enough. I see in the Catalog that Carolyn receives heirloom seeds from a friend in that region. Is there anyway to make that available to poor farmers directly? Buying them here and sending them back to the Balkans is not cost effective. The average income in the Balkan villages is about $100 Euro per family.

    There is also lack of know-how. Although many people claim they go to agriculture colleges, they learned industrial farming. I did not find a single farmer talking to me about permaculture, bio-dynamic, or any other organic methods.

    I believe by bettering their economic lives, they will be more inclined to stop fighting each other. Should we be funding UN troops and tanks, so should we send seeds and know-how? To me the latter is cheaper and better.

    Hope to hear from you.

  • 16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This was intended for Carolyn, who still might chime in; but as another SSE member, I hope you don't mind my 2 cents worth. This should really be a "Hot Topics" question, since there is much more than gardening involved here.

    >"Every family filled their front yard, backyard with eatible fruits and vegetables."From your description, this sounds more like subsistence farming than market-oriented agriculture. With such a large number of people competing for a limited market, it is doubtful that it could ever be more than a limited source of income. On the other hand, if the farmers were to organize & seek an international market, they might have a chance.

    >"I see in the Catalog that Carolyn receives heirloom seeds from a friend in that region. Is there anyway to make that available to poor farmers directly?"Unfortunately, this is not likely. The seed that most SSE members receive is small samples only, usually 50 seeds or less. Assuming that the variety is suitable for large-scale cultivation & there is a demand for it, it would still need to be multiplied several times before there would be enough bulk seed for large-scale agricultural purposes.

    >"There is also lack of know-how... I did not find a single farmer talking to me about permaculture, bio-dynamic, or any other organic methods."This may be true, and there are organizations which offer education on sustainable agriculture; but their resources are limited. In contrast, the resources of Bio-tech & multi-national chemical conglomerates are virtually unlimited. They promote their version of mainstream agriculture world-wide, often with the help of corrupt officials, even lobbying for laws & regulations that give them an unfair advantage.

    If we are unable to stop them here in the U.S. (as has so far been the case) we stand little hope of changing the status quo in other countries. It doesn't mean that we stop trying... just that expectations shouldn't be set too high. Even if organic agriculture were to become the norm in the Balkans, it would most likely do little to alleviate their economic situation.

    >"I believe by bettering their economic lives, they will be more inclined to stop fighting each other."I wish it were that simple... but I do not believe that to be the case. The ethnic, religious, & cultural clashes in the Balkans have deep roots. Fifty years of forced peace during Communist rule could not stamp out hatred; two generations later, with the collapse of the Soviet Union & its satellites (such as Yugoslavia), the bloodshed resumed. Personally, I doubt that the current U.N. mission will be any more successful.

    I know that this is not what you wanted to hear; and this is, after all, only my opinion. Your heart is in the right place, and I wish you the best in your efforts.

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