Gardening & Homesteading

The 10 Best Seed Companies for Heirloom and Non-GMO Seeds

Each of these ten socially responsible seed companies have taken the Safe Seed Pledge and are not affiliated with Monsanto or GMOs in any way.

If you’re looking for seeds for your vegetable garden that are not associated in any way with Monsanto, or any of their seed-selling subsidiaries, like Seminis, look no farther…Each of the following seed companies have taken the Safe Seed Pledge and tested their stock to be free of GMOs.

While there are dozens of great seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, I particularly like the following ten companies because I have used their seeds, and they each have something extra special about their mission, their catalog, or their business practices that fosters greater sustainability for people and planet.

Each of these companies specialize in rare seed preservation, or they are employee-owned, or they focus on seeds that are adapted to a particular climate.

The larger companies on this list carry open-pollinated, heirloom and hybrid seed varieties, as well as onion and garlic sets, planting potatoes, berry plants, fruit trees, tools, and more.

Although you can’t save hybrid seeds, hybrids are not GMOs, and can offer advantages like disease resistance, or special traits, colors or flavors (like seedless watermelons or “burpless” cucumbers) that you can’t find in open-pollinated and heirloom varieties.

Related

The Safe Seed Pledge

Signing the Safe Seed Pledge is voluntary and unregulated, but it’s a very safe bet that any company that has signed the pledge is committed to the cause. It reads:

“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately people and communities.”

The 10 Best Seed Companies for Heirloom and Non-GMO Seeds

There are surely hundreds of great, family-owned seed businesses I have never heard of out there—and new companies seem to pop up every day. I can only recommend the companies whose seeds I have personally purchased and planted in my region of the U.S.

If you have any questions about a seed company that is not listed here or on the Safe Seed Pledge list, just give them a call!

I recommend that you consider your values, your gardening needs and your local climate/region when choosing your seed sources.

Seed Savers Exchange (Decorah, IA)

The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is a non-profit organization working to save heirloom garden seed from extinction. Their focus is on preserving varieties of seed that gardeners and farmers brought to North America when their families immigrated, and traditional varieties grown by American Indians, Mennonites and the Amish.

SSE’s 8,000 members grow heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits and grains, and offer them for exchange to other members in their amazing annual yearbook that has over 450 pages. You can find almost extinct varieties of seed to try in your garden, and all the money you spend with the Seed Saver’s Exchange goes to helping protect seed biodiversity.

This is, hands-down, my favorite place to look for seeds and exciting new plant varieties for my garden.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Mansfield, MO)

Baker Creek is a family-owned business offering a gorgeous catalog and website with over 1,800 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs—one of the largest selections of heirloom varieties in the U.S.

Baker Creek also carries one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties. They also specialize in rare and hard-to-find heirloom seeds from over 75 different countries. The company’s mission is to promote and preserve our agricultural and culinary heritage.

Clear Creek Seeds (Hulbert, OK)

Clear Creek is a small, family-owned business specializing exclusively in open-pollinated, heirloom seed varieties, including flowers, herbs and vegetables. They also offer several variety packs for even more value, like the Pollinator Pack and the Salsa Pack.

They have a smaller selection, but as a small company, they are able to provide warm, highly personal customer service, great prices and fast delivery.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Mineral, VA)

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange offers more than 700 varieties of vegetable, flower, herb, grain and cover crop seeds. They emphasize varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, and offer many unusual Southern heirlooms, such as yacon, amaranths including peanuts, southern peas, naturally colored cotton, collards, okra, roselle, turnip greens, corns for roasting and meal, and butterbeans.

Fedco Seeds (Waterville, ME)

Fedco is a cooperative business where consumer members own 60 percent, and employee members own 40 percent. Because the cooperative doesn’t have an individual owner, profit isn’t its primary goal, so their seeds and other products are quite affordable.

Fedco evaluates hundreds of varieties of hybrid, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds and plants at multiple sites, identifying the ones that are particularly productive, flavorful and suited to the northeastern U.S. climate.

Renee’s Garden Seeds (Felton, CA)

Renee’s Garden Seeds is a small company run by gardeners for gardeners. Renee Shepherd personally hand-picks and sells only the varieties that are very special for home gardeners, based on great flavor, easy culture and exceptional garden performance. All their seeds are time-tested heirlooms, the best international hybrids or fine open-pollinated varieties tested and guaranteed for every major U.S. climate zone.

The individually written seed packets offer beautiful watercolor portraits, with personally written descriptions, complete growing instructions, a quick-view planting chart, growing tips, harvesting information and cooking ideas.

Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (Grass Valley, CA)

Peaceful Valley is a seed company dedicated to organic food production that carries a large assortment of veggie seeds, cover crops, native grasses, pasture and lawn seed, wildflowers, fruit trees and berries, potatoes, onions and garlic. They also offer a great selection of gardening tools, pest control, season-extending products, composting supplies, growing, propagating and irrigation equipment, and books.

Peaceful Valley offers special pricing programs for farmers, school gardens and landscaping businesses.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Winslow, ME)

Johnny’s is a large, well-known employee-owned seed company that has more than 1,200 varieties of hybrid, open pollinated and heirloom vegetables, medicinal, culinary herbs and flowers. If you are homesteading, farming or market gardening, they offer large quantities of seed, as well as a variety of cover crops to keep your soil in good shape.

Johnny’s also has high quality gardening tools, equipment and accessories, cover crop seed, soil amendments and organic pest control products. Their extensive site and catalog is full of detailed growing instructions and helpful tips, even if you don’t buy seeds from them.

Territorial Seed Company (Cottage Grove, OR)

Territorial Seed is a large, family-owned company whose mission is to improve people’s self-sufficiency and independence by enabling gardeners to produce an abundance of good tasting, fresh-from-the-garden food. They trial and evaluate all their seeds at their farms, and the live plants that they offer are raised in their farm greenhouses. They offer hybrid, open-pollinated and heirloom seed varieties.

Territorial’s germination standards are higher than prescribed by the Federal Seed Act and their farm is certified USDA Organic, Biodynamic® by Demeter USA, and Salmon-Safe by Salmon-Safe Inc. They have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Seeds of Change (Rancho Dominguez, CA)

Seeds of Change was acquired by the Mars company, which has supported GMOs in their food products. Unfortunately, since the demand for healthy, organic products is so high, many organic brands (like Annie’s, Erewhon, Horizon, Plum Organics, and more) have been bought out by large industrial food corporations (like General Mills, Coca-Cola, etc.) who want a piece of the market.

It’s up to you to decide if you want to continue to purchase these brands, despite their new ownership.

However, ownership notwithstanding, you should know that Seeds of Change offers 100% certified organic open-pollinated, hybrid and heirloom seeds, and they grow all their own seeds on their research farm or within their network of organic farmers. They have also signed the Safe-Seed Pledge.

The reason I mention them here is that, because they have the marketing power of a large corporation behind them, you can get their seeds at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Whole Foods, and lots of other retail chains. Seeds of Change is the only organic, open-pollinated seed company available at mainstream stores nationwide, which makes organic, open-pollinated seed accessible to anyone—including the majority of people who haven’t considered the value of organic, open-pollinated seeds before.

So if you don’t shop online (like my mom), or you’re new to gardening and don’t know where to start, you can easily pick up Seeds of Change organic, open-pollinated seeds for your garden while you are out running errands.

You can find more seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge here and here.

What seed companies do you like? Let me know in the comments!
Each of these ten socially responsible seed companies have taken the Safe Seed Pledge and are not affiliated with Monsanto, Seminis, or GMOs in any way.

About the author

Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home – How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.

72 Comments

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  • Thank you for a very helpful article
    I just would like to mention that I was disappointed by Johnny’s who is charging an exorbitant shipping fee when ordering under $ 200 which I normally do however when I needed to add a few items i forgot to order with my big order The shipping was outrageous in comparison to the order
    I stopped buying from them due to this
    Their prices are high and i am ok with it but padding the shipping is gouging the customer
    USPS offers a small flat rate box for about $ 5.00
    to refuse to use it as they did when I requested it is a clear indication that they want to make money on the shipping,
    Other seed companies are more accommodating and reasonable in their shipping policy IE Southern exposure

  • Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek, and Territorial are my three favorite seed companies, in that order. I grow heirlooms only, and these companies have never disappointed me!!

  • San Diego Seed Company is another great one! They pride themselves in their hand-picked and packaged non-GMO heirloom seeds, and it’s women-owned and operated!

  • I’m surprised that you do not have Turtle Tree Seed on your list. All the seeds they sell are accessed from biodynamics sources making them in my eyes the best source of non-GMO.

  • Baker’s creek is my favorite seed company, best customer service,
    seed savers my second, southern exposure ordered once great experience and Territorial seed company is great as well good experience
    I didn’t like Johnny’s I ordered one seed pack it’s was over 13.00 dollars just too expensive the seeds didn’t even germinate huge waiste of money. I asked them to take my farm off their list.
    If Monsanto owns them they can’t be an heirloom company they sell hybrids

  • I was told that Johnny Seed sold to Monsanto Seed Company, with small portion “Employee Owned.”
    Please inform us as “yes” or “No”

    Thanks

    Allen Morgan
    Member of Seed Savers Exchange

  • Good morning! Don’t forget to include GeoSeed and Twilley Seeds, based out of Hodges, SC. Our state of the art facility allows our Non-GMO seeds to thrive within all sectors of the horticulture world. Whether it is cut flowers, annuals, perennials, herbs, ornamental grasses, vegetable seeds, watermelon or strawberry seeds, these two sister companies have it for you. Our customer service is unmatched and our in house shipping system sends your seeds out in a timely manner!

  • Another vote of support for Botanical interests seeds in Colorado. I’ve been selling them at my garden center for over 9 years and they have excellent germination. How do I know? Because I use last year’s seed to start many of my vegetables that we sell at our store, then when I’m growing lots of vegetables I need to have even germination. I’ve had inconsistent results with some of Baker Creek and Territorial seedl. I actually have spoken to the folks at Botanical interests and they have somebody on staff whose only job is 2 test the seed coming in that they sell for germination. They also have seeds that do better in shorter growing season areas.

  • I love Baker Creek. One feature I love about their site is the customer reviews, I can usually find someone close to where I live and see how it did for them. I also go the the Heirloom Festival in Santa Rose every few years to actually see the fruits and veggies. Another favorite is Renee’s, I love all the information on the seed packages. Seeds are so tempting and affordable.

  • Great article!

    South GA Seed Co is another good one; a safe seed pledge member. It’s family owned and very owner involved in fact the owners do everything. Also growing varieties that are hard to find like the Blue Shackamaxon Pole Bean it’s a rare one and they stared a new project called the Seed to Sower Restoration project growing other rare ones.

    Store links are below if you would like to check them out. It’s also one of the only NON GMO vegetable seed company in Georgia.

    http://www.southgaseedco.com

    http://stores.southgaseedco.com/seed-to-sower-restoration-project/

    Thanks!

  • Nichols Garden Nursery is an original signer of the Safe Seed Pledge. All our seeds are non-GMO. untreated and many are rare and unusual. Our family owned seed company began in 1950 here in Albany, Oregon.

  • Comstock, Ferre & Co in Wethersfield Ct, which is part of Baker Creek. Another great seed store..with amazing variety!

    • Comstock Ferre was the oldest seed company in America until it closed and was bought about 4 years ago by Baker Creek. They ceased production of the Comstock label 2 years ago. The seeds sold there now are in exclusively Baker Creek.

    • I love Pinetree. I’ve used them for years and been very happy with the product. They are also a small family/employee owned company. They frequently have things you can’t get elsewhere (for many years they were the only place I knew to get rat-tail radish or red Brussels sprouts) My favorite thing is the smaller packets for a smaller price. They have an extensive selection of dye plants and medicinal herbs. They’re also the go-to catalogue for soap, candle and homemade health and beauty ingredients and containers.

  • Seed Treasures located in northern Minnesota. Small seed company run by a husband and wife homesteader couple who have signed the Safe Seed Pledge and grow only non-gmo, open-pollinated seeds. (www.seedtreasures.com)

    High Mowing Seeds from Vermont is excellent. (www.highmowingseeds.com)

    Also a number of small Canadian companies offer non-gmo, open-pollinated seeds. Harmonic Herbs (garden seed part of their business is now being sold under the name of Norseed) is one of my favourites . (www.harmonicherbs.com)

    Heritage Harvest Seeds, Stellar Seeds, and Salt Spring Island Seeds are also excellent and there are other Canadian small seed producers who grow organically, non-gmo, open-pollinated seeds.

    • I live near to the High Mowing Seeds farms and I would like to add that, from all evidence I’ve seen, not only do they have great seeds, they are very socially responsible community members who treat their workers appropriately as well as being good stewards of the land. They have test gardens where they are always trying new ideas to get the best seeds which grow well in our neck of the woods (Northern VT). They have special open field days when the community is invited to the fields to learn what’s new, ask questions, share tips and enjoy a meal, music and socialize around a bonfire.

    • I love Pinetree. I’ve used them for years and been very happy with the product. They are also a small family/employee owned company. They frequently have things you can’t get elsewhere (for many years they were the only place I knew to get rat-tail radish or red Brussels sprouts) My favorite thing is the smaller packets for a smaller price. They have an extensive selection of dye plants and medicinal herbs. They’re also the go-to catalogue for soap, candle and homemade health and beauty ingredients and containers.

  • Great list. I buy from Southern Seed exchange, Renee’s seeds and an Oregon company not on your top 10: Nichols Garden Nursery.

  • Do you know anything about Swallowtail or Geo Seeds? Swallowtail has great performing seeds at least so far, I have not ordered yet from Geo Seeds they came highly recommended by professional growers, they are wholesale only, which is fine for us. I just wondered if you knew. Also, thank you for your hard work, it is a great website and easy to read articles. Links are good also.

  • The Victory Seed Company (Liberal, OR)
    One of the first signers of the Safe Seed Pledge, the Victory Seed Company will never knowingly offer genetically engineered seeds. It is a farm-based, family owned and operated, mission-driven seed variety preservation organization that works to keep heirloom / heritage seed varieties available to gardeners. Any seed not grown on the farm at Liberal is sourced from a small network of other family owned seed growers..Victory Seeds has no connection with large, mainstream seed industry suppliers. All of the seeds offered are open-pollinated (no unstable F1 hybrids), not chemically treated, many are family heirlooms or are otherwise rare, and all are public domain or open-source (seed saving is greatly encouraged!). 100+ years in the community of Liberal . . . 18 years online as the Victory Seed Company.

  • I do like and use several of these but prefer High Mowing , I am thinking they clearly state that they do not use genetically modified but I havent paid much attention since I decided I liked their company a few years back. Worth checking out if youve never tried them great catolog great prices and best of all great seeds!?

  • I love Baker Creek, and they supply about 75% of the seeds we use in our garden! Here in Colorado, my family also uses Sandia Seed Company (based in Albuquerque) for hard-to-find pepper varieties and Victory Seeds up in Oregon. We’ve been very happy with both.

  • Also, don’t forget Backyard Seed Savers (www.backyardseedsavers.com).

    ALL of our seeds are non-certified ORGANIC (produced without chemical fertilizers or pesticides) and are grown, harvested, and processed by hand–with love–in our backyard and community gardens in Pullman, WA and Moscow, ID. NONE of our seeds are patented, PVP, or genetically modified (GMO). We offer open-pollinated, public domain seed, as well as heterogeneous (diverse gene) bulk populations. Our seeds have been sourced from all over the world and we are working to adapt them to our local environments while also increasing genetic diversity overall, so varieties succeed in your environments.

    We’ve signed the Safe Seed Pledge, and are also very committed to food and seed justice issues.

  • Two amazing companies no one has mentioned yet is Adaptive Seeds and Wild Garden Seed in Oregon. They are doing such good work and grow most if not all their own seed. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Carol Deppe and Alan Kapuler, two important plant breeders who sell a small amount of seed on the web, plus a new company in the Seattle area, Root and Radicle Seed Co., which carries regionally adapted seeds. All have taken the safe seed pledge and most are participating in the Open Source Seed Initiative.

    • Yes I love Hudson Valley seed Library, I found them at the Heirloom festival in Santa Rosa, CA. Last year they are awesome. The owner has a seed saving project great company, good seeds I use them and Baker’s creek my top two seed companies

  • Just being non gmo is not what I want in seeds. I need organic seeds and companies who do not stand up and certify are just plain not telling the truth. It’s too expensive, that’s what they say, too much work. Blah Blah. I’m a small organic farmer and I am willing to stand up and be counted as a business that is helping the world not just greenwashing.

  • Great list. I’ve purchased from 8 of the 10. I will have to check out those last 2 🙂 one company that I think should have made it on the list is high mowing. I love that company and purchase from them yearly.

  • My husband and I are organic farmers and gardeners, and our favorite seed companies made the list: Johnny’s, Baker Creek. I would also suggest Uprisings, Kitazawa, and Seeds from Italy. Love Hudson Seeds, they have been in business for decades. High Mowing…..so many good folks raising good seed these days!

  • Hi, Thanks for doing this. I think you should take a look at our company – Seeds from Italy. http://www.growitalian.com Around 600 varieties of Italian grown seeds, mostly open-pollinated, many very old, and selected out by generations of Italian gardeners for flavor and productivity. All imported directly from Italy, where GMOs are definitely frowned upon.

  • Thanks for the list. Just curious why Burpee is not on the list? They have lots of heirloom and organic seeds and are 100% non-gmo. You can order from the catalog or get the seed at retailers. Talk about a great American seed company. Burpee was doing 100 years ago what all of the new companies are raving themselves about now. Burpee is still the leader IMO (and many others).

  • Baker’s Creek is my absolute favorite, Territorial Seed is my 2nd. I’m also fortunate that I have a local grower who will start taking orders in March and start tomatoes, peppers and anything else you want for you, she is certified organic and teaches at our local Tech College as well. Living in NH, it pays to get a jump on the plants prior to May plantings, and I unfortunately can’t start seeds on my own (I think i’m missing a gene or something!)

  • Fruition Seeds: Your Certified Organic Seed Company

    Founded and farmed in the heart of New York State’s beautiful Finger Lakes region, Fruition Seeds carries over 200 varieties of certified organic open-pollinated, GMO-free seeds customized to thrive in the Northeast. We’re dedicated to promoting natural abundance by offering organic vegetable and herb seeds for sale to home gardeners, market farmers and anyone who shares our love of seed, sun and soil. Our regional focus means we provide our customers with a carefully selected catalog of non-GMO organic and heirloom seeds and transplants that can withstand the range of seasons we experience here in New York.

  • Seeds of Change is owned by Mars Inc. Mars Inc. has strong ties to the GMO industry as does Walmart where Seeds of Change are sold. “Employee Owned” Means simply that companies provide stock ownership options to their employees.

    • Yes, I’ve added a note about that to the post. It’s actually a good thing IMO that organic, open-pollinated seeds from Seeds of Change are available at Walmart, Home Depot, etc. The marketing strength of Mars Inc. enables them to bring organic, open-pollinated seeds to anyone, including the majority of people who haven’t thought about organic seeds before, or who don’t shop online, or who are new to gardening.

      Knowledgeable gardeners will make other choices, of course, but like most organic companies now owned by large industrial food conglomerates, Seeds of Change does have an important role to play in educating the majority of people who are just becoming aware of the value of organic products.

    • Seeds Of Change is no longer a small business; owned by Mars Candy Co.

      Botanical Interests is a family-owned business near Boulder CO that sells as many organic and heirloom varieties as they can, as long as they meet stringent germination tests. ALL seeds are untreated. ( about 600 varieties of seed, seed collections, seed tape, Org. sprouting seed, and seed starting equip. Find them at www(dot)botanicalinterests.com and independent garden retailers in Continental U.S.

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