Shopping local has always been important for the local economy and community, and I would argue that there's nothing more important to shop locally for than seeds. Due to the industrialization of agriculture over the last century, The United States has lost around 93% of its seed varieties and unique seed strands. The best way that small growers and home gardeners can help combat this is to shop local plants, and local seeds for sale, from local companies. Not to mention local seeds are genetically agreeable to your exact location!
A few things to know before seed shopping: first, find your agricultural zone. Local seed companies will often only sell what grows well near you, but it's good to have a basic knowledge of what grows well in your area and what you want to grow before shopping. Don't be like me and get swept away by the beautiful pictures of veggies and buy more than your garden could ever fit (although it is fun to share seeds with friends! Who doesn't love a free seed swap?). Look for "open-pollinated" seeds, which means they were pollinated by the birds, wind, bees, and all those good, natural things - this means the seeds will be genetically diverse and strong, and they will be adapted to your regional microclimate. "Heirloom seeds" are also great to look for: they are open-pollinated seeds (usually dating to before 1940) that, over their plant generations, all have similar familial traits to their parent plant, which is great for seed-saving since you'll know pretty much what you're going to get for next year.
Do a little research and see if you can find a small, local seed company near you! Here is a shopping guide I've put together for southeastern seed companies that have awesome seeds for sale.
7 Southeastern Gardening Companies With Local Seeds For Sale
Local to Asheville, North Carolina, Sow True Seeds has made it its mission to spread the knowledge of growing and seed-saving open-pollinated plants and non-GMO heirloom seeds. The more people learn how to seed save, the less we are relying on big agriculture, and the stronger and more local and diverse our plants will be. They sell over 500 high-quality seed varieties including vegetable seeds, herb seeds, and flower seeds, as well gardening tools and supplies. They will also let you design your own seed packets (which is a really cool gift idea)!
Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, Seed Mail Seed may be the most delightful seed website I've ever seen. It's full of fun and adorable plant-themed merch, as well as a huge variety of affordable heirloom seeds. The owner, Stefane, has a seed collection of over 800 garden seeds!
Based in Windsor, North Carolina, The Alliance of Native Seed Keepers started this company as a benefit corp/seed store to help fund the work of their indigenous community. They seek out a future where indigenous peoples can live with the security of food, health, culture, environment, unity, and justice. Every purchase helps support this goal, and they have some really fantastic seeds and beautiful selections. They have a large source of rare heirloom seeds and organic seeds, some of which can't be found anywhere else!
This family has been stewards of the farm in Orange County, Virginia since 1910. They focus on environmental sustainability and focus on selling heirloom seeds of foods that they loved while they were living in Ghana. They have vegetables, flowers, and fruit seeds, as well as some tubers and saplings.
In 1991, a 9th generation farmer in Southeastern North Carolina took a three-acre tobacco plant bed in another direction, and Garrett Wildflower Seed Farm was born. Focusing on habitat restoration, they sell wildflower seeds as well as native grass seeds. If you're looking to move on from your traditional lawn, or cover an empty area and help out your local pollinators, this is a great place to start.
Organically grown at the foot of the Black Mountains in Western, North Carolina, Mountain Garden Herbs boasts the largest collection of native Appalachian and Chinese medicinal herbs in the Eastern United States. They have a large selection of medicinal herbs, wild foods, perennial vegetables, craft plants, fresh and dried herbs, and more.
In Central Virginia, this worker-run cooperative has a large selection of organically grown vegetable, herb, and flower seeds as well as cover crops, garden supplies, and mushroom plugs. They have also signed the safe seed pledge, which means they don't knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.
I hope your growing area is full of beautiful, local seeds this year and your seed saver library is full for the year after to continue keeping it as local as can be!
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Frankie is a forager, writer, and maker most commonly found wandering around the Blue Ridge Mountains, in their mustard velvet reading chair, or elbow deep in their garden dirt. They enjoy taking time to connect with the natural world around them, and using this mountain magic to create pieces of art that celebrate the beauty of plants. Good luck trying to convince them that anything in this world is better than plants.