Using the Exchange

What is the Exchange?
Who can use the Exchange?
What is available on the Exchange?
How to request seeds from other participants in the Exchange
How to offer seeds
How to reoffer seeds
Fulfilling a request
Community Policies

What is the Exchange?

The Exchange is a seed swap, where gardeners from around the country offer seeds they've grown ("homegrown seeds"). The Exchange is facilitated by Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and sharing heirloom seeds. The organization started with the sharing of seeds within a small group of people in 1975 and has continued to expand over the last 40+ years. The Exchange you findhere is a continuation of that tradition and facilitates the sharing and preservation of seeds amongst gardeners.

The organization maintains a Seed Bank containing over 25,000 varieties at their headquarters in Decorah, Iowa. Some of the varieties from the Bank are distributed in the Exchange and 600+ varieties are made commercially available to the public in the organization's seed catalog. The revenue from the seed sales, aswell as donations and memberships, serve to maintain the organization''s collection and promote and encourage the tradition of saving and sharing seeds.

Why does it matter?

Participants in the Exchange have saved thousands of rare heirlooms from extinction by connecting with new seed stewards to carry on seed saving traditions to the next generation. Many of the heirlooms that have entered the marketplace in recent years were shared here first, and many more heirlooms are still only found in the gardens of this community.

This grassroots seed-saving community is saving and sharing America’s gardening heritage for future generations. The more people that participate, the stronger it will be. Please join!

Who can use the Exchange?

Anyone can browse the Exchange, but you must have an account on the Exchange to request or list seeds. Sign up here.

What is available on the Exchange and what can I list?

Exchange community members offer thousands of homegrown, heirloom and open-pollinated seeds to other Exchange members. “Homegrown” simply means the seeds were not grown by a commercial operation. We define "heirloom" as a seed that has been passed down from generation to generation within communities and families.

All of the seeds offered by Exchange listers are open-pollinated and non-hybrid - if you grow these seeds into mature plants, the plants will produce seeds that you can harvest and plant again next year. They are also non-patented, meaning that they can be grown, saved, and shared freely. Many, but not all, of Exchange listers offer organically-grown seed.

You'll also find potato tubers, garlic bulbs, apple tree cuttings, and other non-seed material for propagating new plants within the Exchange.

How to request seeds from other participants in the Exchange

Anyone can browse seeds that are offered in the Exchange, but you need an account to request or list seeds. If you haven't registered, join here.

Step 1: Sign in with the email address and password you selected when you registered on this site.

If you have forgotten your password, click here. A link to reset your password will be sent to your email address. If you haven't registered, join here.

Step 2: Find seeds and add them to your Wishlist.

Your Wishlist is not an order but a record of the seeds that you are interested in requesting. From the home page, select Browse Seeds to browse seeds offered by other participants in the Exchange. You can browse by plant type or plant group in the navigation.

You can also use the search box located near the top of the page.

Click on a variety name to see all of the participants who are currently offering seeds of that variety. When you find the listing you want to request, click on ''Add to Wishlist'' This will save the listing in your Wishlist until you are ready to submit your request.

Step 3: Create requests and send payment

View your Wishlist (link is at the very top of the page). Check the boxes next to the varieties you'd like to request and then click ''Create Requests'' and you'll be taken to your request page. Requests are organized by lister. You can request more than one variety from a single lister, but each lister you request from will create a separate request form. At this point, it's a good idea to review the profile page of each individual you plan to request seeds from. Some listers have specific instructions about what types of requests (mail, email, or phone) and payment (cash, check, or PayPal) they accept.

Click the printer icon in the ''Action'' column at the right of the table to generate a PDF. When you click the printer icon, the request status will change to ''Printed''.

Print and send the completed request form to the lister according to their preferences. Be sure to include proper payment with your request. Remember that some listers will only accept seed requests that are mailed to them, while others may wish to be contacted by phone or email regarding a request. Be sure to give the lister your contact information and mailing address along with your request and payment so they know where to send your seeds.

If a lister has an email address or phone number in their profile, you may wish to contact the lister by phone or email regarding your request.

If a member accepts online transactions, a PayPal icon will appear in the ''Action'' column as well. Click this icon to start an online PayPal transaction.

Once your request and payment are received by the lister, you should expect to receive your seeds within 2 weeks. Please allow extra time for international shipments. Refer to the ‘Shipping and Handling’ section of the Community Guidelines, located below, for more shipping and handling information.

How to offer seeds

Offering seeds to other gardeners is a fantastic way to participate in our work to protect rare and heirloom seeds. Before you get started, please review these listing guidelines. Note that you may add new listings or change old ones any time of the year. To appear in the print-format of the Exchange (called the Yearbook) for the following year, you must list your seeds online by December 8.

Step 1: Sign in to your account

Sign in with the email address and password you selected when you registered on this site. If you have forgotten your password, click here. A link to reset your password will be sent to your email address. If you haven't registered, join here.

Step 2: Create or update your profile

From your Account page, click Create/Edit Profile. Click "Edit Information" on the left to tell other Exchange users about yourself, your garden, the seeds you are offering, and your preferences for receiving requests. You should state your preferred contact method, as well as your preferred form of payment.

At the bottom of the profile section, add a physical address, phone number, and/or email address. To receive requests for your seeds, requestors will need a way to contact you, which is why this information is required. Your contact information will only appear to registered users of the Exchange and in the Yearbook (the print format of the Exchange).

Step 3: List Your Seeds

From your Account page, click Add/Edit Seed Listings. Click ''Add Listing'', then fill out the details of the seed you are offering in your description, include things like growth habits, appearance, flavor, and history. Click ''Choose File” to add a photo to your listing. Once all information is entered, click “Submit.” Clicking “Submit” completes the process and your listing will appear online immediately.

Listing well-documented varieties is incredibly important to maintaining the integrity of the Exchange. Including the histories of the varieties is important for many reasons: it reduces duplication, prevents varieties from being incorrectly renamed, and allows for easier identification and preservation of unique varieties. If you believe you have a unique variety, it is very important to preserve that seed and its story. Take the time to learn the history of the variety, and include that history in your listing.

Listers can share non-patented vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, spices and grains through the Exchange. Please adhere to the ‘Listing guidelines,’ which appear below.

How to re-offer seeds

When you list a variety, the listing is active for one year. You can easily offer the same seeds year after year with the Update Listings function. Go to the Add/Edit Seed Listings page and click the ‘Update Listings’ switch at the top of the page. Click the checkboxes next to the varieties you'd like to re-offer. (If you have a large list of varieties, you can also use the ''Search'' box to find the particular varieties you are looking for.) After selecting what varieties you'd like to re-offer, click ‘Execute.’ This will update the expiration date for those listings to one year from the execution date.

You may also extend the expiration date of a single listing by clicking on the clock icon in the Action column.

If you wish to mark a listing as unavailable (expired), click on the ‘no’ icon in the Action column. This will update the expiration date to today’s date, and therefore make the listing unavailable.

Fulfilling a request

Fill seed requests as you receive them from other members. We encourage listers to fulfill seed requests within 2 weeks of receiving payment. If you accept PayPal payment, PayPal recommends fulfilling orders within 7 days (while allowing extra time for international shipments).

Community Policies

We are glad you are participating in Seed Savers Exchange’s mission to preserve crop diversity by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. To ensure this community remains vibrant, useful, and effective, we require all Exchange users to abide by the following

Listing guidelines

Any infraction of these guidelines can result in your listings and account being deactivated by Seed Savers Exchange administration.

The Exchange is a place for gardeners to share seeds. Although listers set prices to cover their costs of shipping and handling, the Seed Exchange is not a place for commercial distribution.

Listers that wish to only offer seeds to participants who will commit to growing those seeds and offering them again in the future should say so in their listing descriptions. While we hope that requesters will honor that wish, it is up to the individuals involved to make that determination.

Sample Sizes

Participants in the Exchange are providing a small seed sample, not a commercial-sized packet. We encourage you to share enough seeds to preserve the genetic diversity of each variety. Reference this guide for crop type-by-crop type seed saving recommendations from The Seed Garden: The A rt and Practice of Saving Seeds. The minimum amount of propagative material you can expect to receive per sample is:

Shipping and Handling

The prices of seeds in the Exchange are meant to reimburse the lister for the cost of packing and shipping seeds. The seeds and plant materials exchanged on this platform are exchanged for free, in accordance with seed sharing laws. Listers are allowed to set their own prices for shipping seeds, so be sure to pay attention to the profile of each lister you request seeds from. If a lister has not set their own prices, please use the recommended prices:

Use this chart to find out which seed classification (small seed, large seed, etc.) each plant type belongs to.

Please note in your profile if you are willing to ship outside the United States. If so, you may want to increase your international prices by $1. Similarly, if you are located outside the United States, you may want to increase the prices of your listings by $1 per item to cover the additional shipping and handling costs.

Seed Laws, Regulations, and Treaties

Some states prohibit the importation of scionwood and other live plant material. Many states have no restrictions at all. It is the responsibility of person requesting scionwood and other plant material to know what is prohibited in their state.

Users requesting or distributing seeds that cross international borders are responsible for ensuring they are in compliance with the seed laws, regulations, and treaties of both countries. It is illegal to send plants or cuttings between countries, even between the U.S. and Canada, without proper permits and certificates. Seed Savers Exchange cannot provide users with legal advice regarding such laws or how to comply with them.

The USDA requires that all seed sent into the United States be accompanied by a Phytosanitary Certificate. At $50 or more per certificate, that price can be prohibitive for small-scale gardeners. It is up to the individuals involved in the transaction to decide who is responsible for paying that fee. However, the USDA has a free Small Lots of Seed permit which allows the importation of up to 50 seeds of 50 different varieties per shipment, which is valid for three years. To apply for this permit, fill out PPQ form 587, which is available on the USDA website. You must follow the instructions laid out by the USDA regarding proper use of this permit.

Use of Contact Information

By using the Exchange, you agree to the Use of Contact Information conditions laid out in the Terms of Use.

Deadline for Requests

Some listers do not fill requests year-round, so check the profile of the person listing the seeds to see if they have a request cut-off date before sending them your request and payment.

Policy Against Dividing and Re-Listing Seeds

You should not immediately divide and re-list samples of seeds obtained from the Exchange or the Yearbook. After being re-grown once, the resulting seeds, plants and produce are yours to use however you please. Violations of this rule should be reported to the Seed Savers Exchange office. Email exchange@seedsavers.org or call 563.382.5990 if you need to report any problems you observe of users immediately dividing and re-listing samples of seeds obtained from the Exchange.

Problems Receiving Seeds

If you make a request and have problems receiving the seeds, please contact the Seed Savers Exchange office. We will help you obtain the seeds or, if a solution cannot be found, refund any money that has been lost. Email exchange@seedsavers.org or call 563.382.5990 if you need to report any problems you have experienced with receiving seeds.