Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Another farm Emily and I visited during our winter getaway last month was Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Mineral, Virginia.

I had met Ira Wallace from Southern Exposure at the Organic Seed Alliance conference in 2008. In addition to seed, we’d had a lot to chat about since Southern Exposure is run cooperatively  similarly to Tourne-Sol. (Though Southern Exposure has many more people involved.)

Ira Wallace showed us around the farm and seed company.

Some of the highlights included

  • a stand up cooler converted into a germination chamber,
  • overwintered crops,
  • seed storage,
  • seed packing and order filling.


Seeds are first germinated in a stand up cooler that has finished its cooling days. Germinated seeds are then moved out to an unheated tunnel to continue growing.

The cooler is heated with a light bulb. Added insulation over the windows helps keep the heat in.


Southern Exposures overwinters crops both for hardiness trials and to be mother plants for seed production. These crops were planted in the fall and protected with row cover through the harshest parts of the winter.

Fields full of kales, collards, cabbages, spinach, mustard …

and more mustard …

and cilantro …

It was interesting to visit Southern Exposure a few days after visiting Brett Grohsgal at Even’star farm. Both farms are much warmer than our Montreal farm but Southern Exposure’s crops were noticeably bigger than Even’star’s crops.

Ira pointed out that Brett doesn’t use row cover since his site close to the Chesapeake Bay is very windy. The Southern Exposure site is also a touch warmer and less exposed. Also, many of Even’star’s crops have been picked many times over the winter for their clients.

Most of Even’star’s winter hardy seed strains are available through Southern Exposure’s seed catalog.


Southern Exposure uses a refrigerated truck for bulk seed storage.

Large seed like beans, corn and cover crops are stored in buckets and large bags.

Smaller seed is stored in jars and bottles.

Small seeded varieties for sale in future years are stored frozen. These jars are only taken out of the freezer once or twice a year to remove enough seed for the season’s sales.


The seed for the season is brought into the office.

Seed is packed into different formats. (Notice the Lee gunpowder scoops on the shelf?)

Packets are stored in a cool room.

When it’s time to fill an order, the invoice is printed then someone takes a small basket and goes shopping in the store-room.

The person filling the order then wraps an elastic around the seeds and invoice, and places them on this shelf.

From here the seed is packed up and shipped.


Emily and I appreciate the time that Ira took to show us around and all of our questions she answered. We really enjoyed seeing the seed handling systems Southern Exposure had in place. We also loved munching on some fresh garden greens.


Tomorrow, we’ll be bringing our seeds to the Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Saturday farmers market and on Sunday we’ll be at the Gatineau Seedy Sunday.

Have a great weekend!



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