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Behind the Seed-Saving Scenes at Seed Savers Exchange in Winter
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Behind the Seed-Saving Scenes at Seed Savers Exchange in Winter

Many people in the area, and around the world, know about Seed Savers Exchange. While our Preservation department does extensive research growing trials of our large collection of heritage seeds, our Seedhouse department is also behind every packet of seed that is available through the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center, online, through our annual catalog, or at dozens of retail shops that carry our products.

The Seedhouse is always a hub of activity, but, believe it or not, our busiest time is starting right now! Sure, there are no gardens to attend to yet, and the year’s seed harvest has been processed, but those of us working in the Seedhouse remain as busy as can be.

An inside look:

The Seedhouse has seen many changes over the past couple of months, and not just with the transition from outdoor work to the climate-controlled interior. We have welcomed a new Seedhouse Manager, a new Farm Manager, and a new Seed Technician, as well as new and old seasonal help. We recently unveiled our newly updated website, making our online presence a better overall experience. With the fresh web presence also came a beautiful new logo. This year's calendar was recently launched as well. The Seed Savers crew is ready for another year of passing our gardening heritage on to others.

Amidst all of that change, the Seedhouse has continued to chug along, headed toward our yearly goal of providing our customers with their ordered seeds and supplies as quickly as possible. With the distribution of new catalog, we see our normal influx of orders. People everywhere are preparing for the gardening season ahead of them. Fulfilling these orders is done by no small feat-- it takes a committed team of us working together.

How it begins:

The first part of our team is our customer service specialists. These folks answer the phones, reply to web inquiries, and sort through the mail orders we receive. They all have an amazing knowledge of not only our inventory, but gardening practices and plant growth as well. They are here to help our customers with any questions they may have. Once our customer service folks receive the order, it’s all an easy stroll from there, right? Not exactly. There’s still a lot more going on in the Seedhouse.

What comes next:

  1. Before customers can receive their order, the seeds have to be packed. This is done by a team of workers who utilize a seed-packing machine and also pack seed by hand. The packing is not done on a per order basis, so the process actually begins in the beginning of August. Overall, we will pack roughly 1.3 million packets of seed that will be shipped during the following year. An Inventory Manager keeps track of varieties that sell more than others, to try and keep us ahead of the demand. When it comes to seed packing, it’s certainly a group effort to keep the wheels spinning.
  2. Once they’re packed, seeds are stored, awaiting their turn to be sent to our customers. This time of year, we can see anywhere up to 725 orders per day. To ensure we get them shipped out as quickly as possible, our Shipping Room Manager enlists the help of nearly everyone on staff at Seed Savers. Almost all employees have some experience in picking orders and getting them shipped out during their tenure. It can be quite an exhausting task, despite the simple process that is followed. Once packed, the orders are sent out through various carriers and arrive at their new homes.

In the mean time:

While all of this is all going on, there’s still another way our seeds reach customers. Retail locations that choose to sell our seed are part of our Seed Rack Program. Seed Savers packets can be purchased at 620 locations in virtually every state, provinces in Canada, and even via a couple of locations in Puerto Rico! The locations vary in type-- from garden shops to food co-ops and grocery stores, hardware stores, historical museums, and others. Retailers are provided special Seed Savers seed displays to hold our product. This distribution has helped to spread the message of Seed Savers Exchange even further than we previously reached. Seed Savers retailers become ambassadors for our work, and we certainly appreciate the opportunity to reach a new audience through them.

Growing our future:

While we are incredibly busy taking care of the “right now” side of things at the Seed House, we also are looking ahead. Planning for the SSE seed gardens to be planted has already begun. Additionally, we're preparing for potato sales, as well the sale of transplants in the spring. Seeds might be tiny, but these are no small undertakings-- as we plan to work across nearly 900 acres of Seed Savers land, complete roughly 6,000 potato orders (or 40,000 pounds!), and 6,000 transplant orders (that's 50,000 plants!) each year.

Learn more about our work behind the scenes in future posts!



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