March 18, 2010

Decorah, Iowa

from SeedSavers Website





German Pink Tomato

Photograph by Victor Schrager, from The Heirloom Tomato

by Amy Goldman.



Seed Savers Exchange, Inc., a leading non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds, has announced that a third deposit of heirloom seeds has been deposited safely into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

Acting President and Executive Director Aaron Whaley confirmed that Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) has carefully selected and sent a total of 1,389 open pollinated varieties to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault since it opened in February 2008. SSE's recent deposit will help push the total number of accessions held at Svalbard to over 500,000.

Even though Seed Savers' share represents only a small portion of the total deposits at Svalbard, the organization's contribution is unique because the heirloom varieties are mostly seeds conserved by home gardeners.


Here is a small sampling of the varieties in the most recent deposit:

  • Bean-Blue Boy

  • Cucumber-Spring of Water

  • Cowpea-Tight Red

  • Ground Cherry-New Hanover

  • Melon-Plum Granny

  • Pepper-Jimmy's Little White Hots

  • Pumpkin-Algonquian

  • Tomato-German Pink

  • Watermelon-Arikara

"It is very reassuring to know that all of these varieties are in the vault for safekeeping," Whaley says. "It is especially moving for me to see that the German Pink Tomato has made its way back across the Atlantic."

The German Pink Tomato was brought to America in 1883 by his maternal Great-Great Grandparents Michael Ott and Margaret Ertle from Dreuschendorf, Germany, and has been grown every summer by the family.


In fact, German Pink was one of the two original varieties that inspired the founding of Seed Savers Exchange in 1975 by his parents.

Whaley also points out that,

"Seed banks are one of the great ways to safeguard seeds; the other is to have the seeds growing in gardens far and wide."

Members of the Seed Savers Exchange can gain access to the same seeds deposited in Svalbard through the annual 500-page Yearbook that is distributed to SSE's 12,500 members.


The Yearbook - listing 13,263 unique varieties - serves as a networking tool linking members in sharing varieties with one another. Over the past 35 years, members have shared hundreds of thousands of varieties.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault functions like the ultimate safety deposit box for biodiversity and global food supply preservation, storing duplicate collections of seeds on behalf of gene banks from around the world.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault offers protection against permanent loss due to natural disasters, wars, equipment failures, accidents, and loss of funding that can plague even the best gene banks. As a service to the world community, the Government of Norway paid for completing the Svalbard Global Seed Vault's construction.


The Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Government of Norway are financing its operating costs.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is managed by the Nordic Gene Bank (NordGen) under a tripartite agreement between the Government of Norway, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and NordGen. Storage of seed in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is free of charge.

Located 78 degrees north, far above mainland Norway, three vault rooms have been carved inside a mountain, down a 125-yard tunnel chiseled out of solid stone. Naturally cold, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is further cooled to below -2 degrees Fahrenheit.


At this temperature, seeds can be stored safely for decades - even if the earth warms or power goes out. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million different seed samples (each sample containing about 500 seeds) potentially from 1,400 gene banks in more than 100 countries.


The Seed Vault will soon house and secure the world's largest collection of seeds, including many varieties no longer grown by farmers or gardeners.



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