Adaptive Seeds, established in 2009 by Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger near Sweet Home, Oregon, has a mission to make open-pollinated varieties “newly organic” and available commercially for gardeners and farmers. This organic-only seed company stewards rare, diverse, and resilient seed varieties for ecologically-minded farmers, gardeners, and seed savers. Most of their seed is adapted to the Pacific Northwest and other short season northern climates. Sarah and Andrew grow about 80 percent of Adaptive’s seed on their certified organic farm, but also work with more than 20 regional farmers to fill the growing demand. They take pride in disclosing seed sources: “If we didn’t grow it, we say who did in the variety description.”
Bringing dozens of newly organic varieties to the market place each year — many unavailable as organic seed from any other retailer — requires the Adaptive team to conduct numerous variety trials and on-farm breeding projects alongside commercial seed production. “It’s hard to know what will show up in the catalog as we are trialing so many varieties,” Andrew said.
This year, Adaptive is trialing 25 tomato varieties, but they are limiting themselves to only six new varieties in the catalog. Also coming to the catalog this winter will be heat-tolerant crisp head lettuces, more hot pepper choices, and the results of their tomatillo breeding project.
While Adaptive Seed has grown with the demand for organic seed, “We’re still farm-scale, grassroots, independent breeder type,” Andrew said. “I feel like I have a lot of collaborators within the organic seed movement” — universities, big companies, other breeders who are committed to sharing experiences and open-source breeding material. Andrew values the camaraderie of the organic seed movement and Organic Seed Alliance as an instigator pushing the movement forward, “adding wind to our sails,” connecting all the different players and “encouraging us to reach out and build bridges.”