Quarantine has turned us all into gardeners, and as more and more people till their tiny patches of green, seed sales have also spiked in recent months. But do you know where your seeds come from?
Seeds are the foundation of any garden, and here at From Seeds to Plate, we believe that exceptional food starts from great seeds. There’s no better feeling than knowing that the seeds we’ve sown in our backyards are from responsible breeding practices that protect, rather than harm, the environment.
When it comes to choosing quality seeds, we always prefer heirloom and non-GMO seeds for a number of good reasons. So what are these seeds and why are they the better choice?
Heirloom seeds are the OG of all seed varieties. These strains of seeds are as precious as your grandma’s china because they are selected and saved over decades and are handed down through generations. These are dependable seeds that are prized for their flavor, beauty, hardiness, and rich history.
Non-GMO seeds, on the other hand, is a resistance to the prevalence of GMO (genetically modified organism), one of the industry’s most controversial practices where a seed’s DNA is altered in a laboratory using biotechnology to produce a plant with desirable characteristics. As genius as it may seem, GMO seeds are fatal on soil health and long-term plant fertility. In contrast, non-GMO seeds are produced through the natural process of open or cross-pollination.
If you’re new to gardening, starting and finding the right seeds may feel overwhelming. The good news? You don’t have to spend hours researching seed providers in your area because we’ve already compiled the best places to buy heirloom and non-GMO seeds. Also, the stores in this handy list do not offer seeds from Monsanto, which has monopolized the seed market and limited plant varieties for years.
Best Seed Providers in Canada
Casey’s Heirloom Tomatoes (Airdrie, Alberta)
An active participant of Calgary Seedy Saturday, Casey’s Heirloom Tomatoes is a hands-on seed provider that harvests its own varieties from an organic backyard garden in Airdrie, Alberta. All of its seeds are open-pollinated, cleaned using natural fermentation, and packed in homemade tulle fabric bags to avoid cross-pollination.
Cubit’s Seeds Co. (Kingston, Ontario)
In a mission to encourage households to grow their own organic food, Kingston-based Cubit’s Seeds Co. prides itself on selling high-quality, organically grown, open-pollinated heirloom seeds that are Monsanto, Seminis, and GMO-free. The business promotes environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of its processes—from day-to-day operations to packing each carefully inspected seeds in recycled envelopes complete with planting guides.
Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds (Palmerston, Ontario)
Hawthorn Farm is not your traditional seed house. Located in Central Ontario (zone 5), the farm’s mission is to promote equal agricultural rights, access to healthy food, and preservation of history and ecology. They make this possible by cultivating hundreds of high-quality organic seed varieties through tried and tested farming techniques that enhance natural ecosystems, reduce water and energy consumption, and build soil health. Apart from that, the farm also conducts year-round workshops and educational tours to support the local seed community.
Heritage Harvest Seed (Carmen, Manitoba)
If you’re looking for rare and endangered heirloom vegetable varieties, the Heritage Harvest Seed in Carmen, Manitoba has you covered. The company has over 700 heirloom vegetable varieties and features an ever-growing collection of heirloom/heritage tomatoes which, at present, includes over 200 varieties. The company takes saving seeds very seriously. They research, track down seed sources, and organically grow seeds in their farm. They also educate customers about each variety’s history through their free catalog.
Richters Herbs (Goodwood, Ontario)
Ritchers is your one-stop destination for all things herbs. If you love herbs, stepping into Ritchers is like entering paradise because of the extensive array of herb-related products you can find. From seeds, plants, dried herbs, oils, to books—you name it, Ritchers probably has it. Aside from its herb selections, the shop also offers pots, stationery, and gardening supplies to help you start growing herbs at home.
Salt Spring Seeds (Salt Spring Island, BC)
Founded in 1976, Salt Spring Seeds is a mail-order seed company that encourages people to grow their own food and save their own seeds while promoting safe, sustainable, and local agriculture. The company offers heritage/heirloom, open-pollinated, and non-GMO seeds that are grown from their own harvest. The company’s owner, Dan Jason, is the founder of the Seed and Plant Sanctuary for Canada and is an active critic of genetically modifying seeds, patenting living organisms, and industrializing agriculture.
The Cottage Gardener Heirloom Seedhouse (Newtonville, Ontario)
The Cottage Gardener Heirloom Seedhouse is a family-owned and operated business that aims to search and preserve rare and traditional species, varieties, and cultivars through open-pollination. What makes this seed house special is its unique location. Set in a 20-acre secluded property in the west of Port Hope, Ontario, the company enjoys an ideal microclimate that enables them to grow and save over 700 rare and endangered seed varieties. Apart from selling seeds, the company also conducts training sessions to educate and encourage people to save seeds.
The Incredible Seed Company (Pleasantville, NS)
Located in an off-grid homestead in the south shore of Nova Scotia is The Incredible Seed Company, a business that’s dedicated to sustainable agriculture and genetic diversity preservation by cultivating heirloom and heritage vegetables, herbs, flowers, and trees via open-pollination.
Behind the company is a great husband-and-wife team (a long-term gardener and a holistic nutritionist) who is passionate about growing and eating healthy homegrown food.
Urban Harvest (Toronto, Ontario)
Thinking of starting a garden in the city? Urban Harvest in Ontario offers 100% certified organic and heirloom seeds and seedlings as well as garden supplies for your tiny urban sanctuary. Some of their best sellers include dinosaur kale, luscious lettuce mix, English thyme, wild cherry tomatoes, and Scarlet Nantes carrots. The company promotes ecological diversity and supports local businesses by sourcing most of their seedlings from gardens around the Greater Toronto Area.
Best Seed Providers in the US
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Mansfield, Missouri)
Baker Creek is a family-owned business that supports agricultural and culinary heritage preservation. The company started in 1998 with a simple printed seed catalog but has now grown into one of the largest selections of heirloom varieties in the US.
The company, which specializes in rare heirloom seeds from various countries, features a comprehensive collection of 19th-century seeds from Asia and Europe. So if you’re interested in growing unique and hard-to-find plants with a deep history, Baker Creek is the right seed shop for you.
Deep Harvest Farm and Seeds (Freeland, Washington)
Deep Harvest Farm and Seeds is a 100% certified organic seed, vegetable, and flower farm that focuses on three-season vegetable production as well as growing over a hundred varieties of organic, open-pollinated, and non-GMO seeds. The farm offers seed collections that are bundled according to use or season. Some crowd favorites are the Container Gardening Collection, Salad Lovers Seed Collection, and Pollinator Lovers Seed Collection.
A strong supporter of local seed producers, Deep Harvest Farm and Seeds encourages the use of regionally adapted seed varieties, which are bred to thrive in a particular bioregion, versus universal seeds from large manufacturers.
Fedco Seeds (Waterville, Maine)
The Northeast climate can be demanding and tricky for gardeners, but Maine-based cooperative Fedco is intended to help gardeners in this area by providing an extensive collection of cold-hardy seeds at affordable rates. Fedco operates as a mail-order business and publishes three seed catalogs per year, all featuring hundreds of varieties of hybrid, open-pollinated, and heirloom seeds that are suited to the Northeastern climate.
Foundroot (Haines, Alaska)
Foundroot is an Alaskan seed provider that aims to help ease the difficulty of growing seeds in the extreme northwest. This seasonal online seed store breeds plant varieties that can thrive and survive in the cold Alaskan climate. These seeds, which are developed through open-pollination, can tolerate cool temperatures, long days, short seasons, and are resistant to pests, disease, and extreme temperature fluctuation.
Through this initiative, Foundroot empowers local agriculture and encourages the Alaskan community to practice seed saving for a more resilient food system.
Fruition Seeds (Naples, New York)
Set in the heart of New York Finger Lakes is Fruition Seeds, a 24-acre organic farm that strives to make organic gardening in short seasons easier and more abundant by developing and offering non-GMO, organic, and regionally adapted seeds.
Unlike most seeds in the market, which are usually adapted to grow in California, Fruition’s seeds are specially cultivated for gardening in the northeast so you can grow your own food with less difficulty. The farm also offers a free e-book, “Rise & Shine: Starting Seeds with Ease,” which teaches new gardeners techniques for successful seed starting.
Renee’s Garden Seeds (Felton, California)
A company run by gardeners for gardeners, Renee’s Garden in California offers non-GMO varieties that are personally selected by its owner, Renee Sheperd, a pioneer in introducing international fresh produce to home gardens and gourmet restaurants. The seeds offered here are heirlooms, organic, and open-pollinated varieties that are chosen for their excellence, flavor, and ease of growing.
To help newbie gardeners in their planting journey, each seed packet comes with a beautiful watercolor portrait and handwritten description of the plant, growing guide and tips, planting chart, harvesting information, and recipes.
Seed Savers Exchange (Decorah, Iowa)
Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization that aims to conserve and promote our food system’s biodiversity through cultivating rare, heirloom, and open-pollinated seeds.
The organization has built a nongovernmental seed bank in its Heritage Farm. The seeds here are featured in an annual yearbook and can be shared or exchanged between members. Apart from exchanging seeds, the organization also educates new gardeners to ensure that heirloom and rare seeds will survive and be passed down to future generations.
Seed Treasures (Angora, Minnesota)
Located near the Canadian border is the lovely homestead of Jackie Clay-Atkinson and her husband Will, who have been homesteading and practicing a self-reliant lifestyle for over 50 years while saving heritage open-pollinated seeds that have existed for a long time but are in danger of extinction.
At their 20-acre off-grid farm, they select, save, and raise quality seeds to ensure that their customers grow delicious produce every time. Aside from saving seeds, they also offer seminars about homesteading including cheese making, off-grid living, and more. Jackie has also published books and written articles about homesteading.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Mineral, Virginia)
If you’re starting a garden in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange offers around 800 vegetable, flower, herb, grain, and cover crop varieties that are perfect for your location. Some of its best-sellers are contender snap bush beans, Cocozelle Italian zucchini, Cossack’s pineapple ground cherries, lacinato kale, and more.
All of the seeds from the Virginia-based farm are produced naturally, of which 99% are open-pollinated. The farm also performs germination tests to ensure that each customer receives the best high-quality, non-GMO seeds they can grow.
The Good Seed Company (Whitefish, Montana)
Heirloom seeds for common use—this is the core of The Good Seed Company. Since 1980, this Montana-based seed provider has been supplying regionally adapted heirloom and open-pollinated non-GMO seeds that are suited for homesteads, permaculture, and backyard gardens because of their resilience, flavor, productivity, storability, and ease of growth.
Today, apart from selling over 180 seed varieties, the company is also helping strengthen its community’s seed storehouse through a local seed saving project called “Seed Library: Seeds Without Borders.”
Growing from seeds is an affordable and fulfilling way of starting your own garden at home with your family or loved ones. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a tiny windowsill, it’s always a proud moment to see these tiny round gems sprout into full-grown plants.
So flip through these shops and their numerous catalogs to start seeding your future garden now!