Heirloom Seeds

Championing the preservation

For over thirty years, The Diggers club have been championing the preservation and promotion of heirloom seed. As commercial seed companies across the world concentrated on new and ‘improved' hybrid varieties, many old favourites that had been passed down from generation to generation were lost forever. 

Heirloom seeds usually pre-date the 1950’s and are ‘open-pollinated’, which means that pollination occurs naturally via wind, insects and birds. This preserves the characteristics of the variety as they are bred ‘true-to-type’.  Heirloom seed embody their cultural and biological provenance, preserving diversity and safe-guarding heritage that can be traced back through generations. 

In comparison, hybrid seeds (which were introduced to farmers and gardeners) in the 1930’s are produced by the deliberate and controlled crossing of two distinct varieties. Hybrid seeds do not produce ‘true-to type’ in the next generation, so the grower cannot save seed for the following season and must return each year to the seed company to buy more seed. This shifts seed ownership from the community of growers to seed companies. 

It's up to us

Donations by members and other seed companies have filled our seed vault with an abundance of varieties to test and trial each year. 

With governments and modern seed companies showing little interest in the grass roots seed preservation movement, it is up to organisations like us to fill the void.


An heirloom seed movement

Back in 1992, we partnered with The Seed Savers Exchange in the USA and with donations and support from members, began trialling and testing heirloom seeds. The first tomato taste test was held at Heronswood, following a trial of 112 varieties. An heirloom seed movement was born, which first began in the U.S then spread across the world, aimed at halting the loss of these cultural treasures so we could all enjoy the colours, flavours and stories of our global food heritage. 

Our love of heirlooms started with tomatoes, and our release of ‘Tommy Toe’ to the world in 1993. Since then we have rescued and identified many Australia heirloom varieties like Pea ‘Franks’, Carrot ‘Western Red’ and Tomato ‘Uncle Tony’s La Stupenda’. 

If the trials, stand up to our tests, we put these heirlooms back into production and share them with our members

Heirloom Seed Annual
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Our members help to support our role in maintaining our living collection of Australian heirlooms- to catalogue, record, preserve and grow these wonders of yesterday to make them available for generations to come. 

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