Exchange Guidelines

The San Pedro Seed Exchange aims to reflect the diverse interests of gardeners and farmers in Arizona's San Pedro River watershed. You're invited to swap your seeds via our Community Seed Swaps and/or the The Seed Commons.

We stand for the free exchange of open-pollinated garden seed. The foods we eat today are the legacy of 12,000 years of cultivation by cultures all around the globe. This diversity declines each time a gardener chooses to grow hybrids rather than time-tested heirlooms (or newer open-pollinated varieties).

Who can join?

While our intended community scope is Arizona's San Pedro River watershed (the river valley and its uplands), we do not restrict our membership. If you are interested in swapping desert-adapted food crops and pollinator plants, do join us!

Where to swap

The San Pedro Seed Exchange offers members the opportunity to swap germplasm (the collective resource of seeds, bulbs, rhizomes/tubers, scions/cuttings, and whole plants) in two different ways. The most rewarding experience is to join the local gang of seed outlaws at a Community Seed Swap. If you wish to swap your seeds with a broader audience, or are unable to attend a swap, swap your seeds and stories in the Online Seed Commons!

What to swap

Please swap open-pollinated and heirloom germplasm saved from your own garden or farm. You can propagate plants and grow food from many parts of plants, not just seeds. We encourage you to swap:

What is an heirloom?

Heirlooms are simply a subset of open-pollinated varieties. There are many definitions of "heirloom" fruits and vegetables, and there is no recognized standard definition. Heirlooms often have a fascinating story involving their origin and history. Many are strongly associated with particular geographic regions, cultures, and cuisines.

A more recent cross of heirlooms may create a new open-pollinated variety that is a future heirloom, and no less valuable than its parents. If the circumstances f its creation are remarkable, the new variety may be considered an "heirloom" in spite of the fact that generations have not passed since its genesis.
  • seeds (innumerable species!),
  • bulbs (garlic, onions, chives, daffodils, lilies, and more),
  • rhizomes/tubers (many edible root crops), 
  • scions/cuttings (fruit trees, roses, and many herbs),
  • whole plants (you name it!)
While our primary intent is to preserve the biodiversity of our domesticated food crops, many other plants are important in sustaining our wild pollinators, which in turn are beneficial to your garden. You are strongly encouraged to share companion plants and treasures from your pollinator garden or hedgerow. (We ask that you swap wild seed only from those plants growing in your yard or garden.) And there's much to be said for the value of trees in the desert!
  • vegetables
  • herbs, greens, and grains
  • fruit trees
  • flowers
  • trees and shrubs
  • cacti and other succulents
Most of the plant diversity on Earth is contained within its vast array of open-pollinated plant varieties. These arose naturally due to selective environmental pressures, and in response to human needs as millennia of cultures and civilizations bred plants for their needs and tastes. This diversity is rapidly dwindling in response to pressures from greedy corporations, coupled with cooperation from governments the world over.

What not to swap

In pursuit of the genetic diversity needed to secure our food future, and to safeguard our environment and our personal freedom, we do not accept listings for:
  • F1 hybrids* - Seed saved from F1 hybrids (e.g. Celebrity tomato) is unstable and unlikely to yield plants that are true to the parent type. Additionally, most F1 hybrids are owned by just a few "Big Ag" corporations that control most of our seed supply. Each time you plant one of their hybrids, you support their regime.
  • GMO/GE - Currently there are very few genetically modified varieties available to home gardeners, but this may change.
  • Patented varieties - It is illegal to distribute varieties covered by the Plant Variety Protection Act. View domestic plant patents, both current and expired, here.
  • Invasive plants - Steer clear of Arizona's Prohibited and Regulated and Restricted noxious weeds (pursuant to A.R.S. § 3-201). Avoid other potentially invasive species that may harm our watershed (if in doubt, contact your local extension agent).
  • Protected native plants - Arizona's statutes govern various categories of Protected Native Plants (check before you list).
  • Controlled species - Do not list any other species that are prohibited by federal, state, or local law.
We may remove listings that violate the above criteria. Despite the apparent length of the list of what not to share, most varieties in existence are indeed open-pollinated and legal to share. The seed sections at big box stores contain a disproportionate inventory of hybrid and patented plants, because this is how the parties involved (except the consumer) monopolize the market and get your dollars. We will soon post a list of safe seed sources (beyond our exchange) in case you do not find what you are looking for locally.

We strongly suggest that you never share your last seeds for a variety!

Seed Sources

We don't prohibit sharing of your excess commercially sourced seed, but seed saved from your own crops is far more advantageous to both you and the community. This seed is more predictable since you already known how it performs in our climate, how the fruits taste, and the best ways to use your harvest. We will provide seed saving resources very soon.

Seed Purity

We strongly encourage you to harvest only those seeds which are not potentially crossed with nearby cultivars. You can isolate your plants for seed purity by timing your plantings so that varieties bloom at different times or during different seasons. You can also isolate plants by using recommended distances between crops, or by encasing your plants in netting. These are known as isolation by time, distance, and barriers. We will soon provide more information about this on our Resources section.

What to accept in exchange

You may accept seeds, bulbs, tubers, cuttings, and plants in exchange for your germplasm. We ask that you neither request nor accept cash for your germplasm, as this is exchange exists to promote trading of our diversity for more and greater diversity!

Ensuring a fair swap

Visit the Preparing for a Swap page for information on completing a Plant Variety Record. Here you will find information on seed quantities and their swap value.
Seed quantities for each packet are defined by the Exchange (after careful consideration of many factors). To be accepted for the general swap at a Community Seed Swap, packets must contain these quantities. By defining set quantities, we are able to help ensure that each swap is equitable to the other members and to the Exchange as a whole. Quantities vary by species. Read about Swap Quantities and Values here!
For the general swap at each Community Seed Swap, assign a $1, $2, or $3 value to each packet based on the Swap Quantities and Values page. You may pro-rate your packets for smaller quantities (in whole dollar increments). If a $3 packet contains a minimum of 30 seeds, you may instead pack 20 seeds for $2, or 10 seeds for $1. Likewise if it should contain 90 seeds, you may pack 60 seeds for $2, or 30 for $1.  We ask that you of a seed packet or other swap size/quantity is the key to member happiness. Your swap may be measured in terms of actual germplasm count, volume, pot size, a plant's height, and/or other descriptors.

Our members

After joining the Exchange (and creating a free Google account), Members can create a profile for the San Pedro Seed Exchange Member Directory and can view other members' profiles. Members are not permitted to use member information for personal or commercial mailing lists or for telemarketing purposes. 
*Some plants are natural hybrids and are best propagated from cuttings. For example, peppermint is a natural hybrid of two species, and peppermint grown from seed is widely variable. In such cases a cutting or plants is the preferred way to share your germplasm. Also if you are a local plant breeder and have created F1 hybrid seeds by manually cross-pollinating blossoms between two or more plants, and can reveal the parent line, you are welcome to offer your seeds. We do not discourage plant breeding, we simply do not support proprietary genetics.