Organic vs. Conventional: Why You Need to Buy Organic Seeds

organic onion starts, grown from organic seeds

The most important thing when you’re starting an organic garden is to buy organic seeds.  

You decided to grow organic because you want to grow the healthiest food.  You want to take care of the land and encourage healthy soil, healthy plants, and strong living systems.  So it’s vitally important that you start with organic seeds.

Why?  Because every seed has a backstory.  

Put simply, conventional seeds are grown in conventional systems: synthetic fertilizers and harsh pesticides.  Organic seeds are grown in organic systems: with a focus on soil and plant health, with natural fertilizers and pest control.

But let’s dig into this a bit deeper.

Organic seeds are bred to perform well in organic systems.  That means the seed crop was grown organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers or harsh pesticides.  Instead of being artificially propped up, the crops are grown to survive and thrive in systems that rely on healthy soil, using the same techniques that you’ll use to grow your garden.

If for no other reason, you should buy seeds that are bred to grow well in an organic garden.  When you do, you’ll ensure you’re starting out with varieties that have the strongest natural pest and disease resistance.

There are other reasons to choose organic seeds, too.

seedlings grown from organic seeds in the greenhouse

To harvest seeds, crops must stay in the field much longer than food crops in order for the seeds to mature.  Think of zucchini: the best eating is before the seeds have fully developed, so we harvest the tender fruit, typically no more than 8” long.  When harvesting for seeds, we let the fruit grow to baseball-bat proportions, giving the seeds inside time to fully mature into viable seeds.

The longer a crop stays in the field, the higher its potential is for being bombarded by pests and diseases.

In the case of organic seeds, that means the seed farmer must keep the plants healthy all the way to seed maturity, pulling out plants that get hit by pests and diseases and keeping the ones that make it healthy all the way through the long season.  

This selecting process means you’re getting seed from the healthiest, strongest plants, which in turn will pass on those genetics to the future generation of seeds.  

Conventionally grown seed stays in the fields just as long.  The difference, though, is that they are grown outside of organic standards.

Because seeds aren’t classified as food, farmers are allowed to apply more pesticides to the crop.  Coupled with the fact that seed crops spend much more time in the field, this means that conventional seeds carry a much higher pesticide load than conventional food does.   

This means two important things for the organic grower:

  • The upstream environmental effects of conventional seed are detrimental, both for the environment and for the farm workers exposed to pesticides.

  • Conventional seed was bred to perform with the help of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and may not perform as well without them in an organic garden.

As an organic grower, I want to know that the seeds I start with were grown in a way that encourages life.  

That includes the lives of the farm workers who tended to the seed crop, the lives of the insects and animals around the farm, the life of the soil, and the life of the water, which far too often is polluted by farm runoff.

Organic gardeners and farmers have so much power to heal the soil, to care for the environment, and to care for people all at the same time.  

It all starts with a seed.  An organic seed, that is.

Where to find organic seeds:

organic seed packets from High Mowing Organic SeedsHigh Mowing Organic Seeds, we get 90% of our seeds from High Mowing (I also spent about 5 years working there, and can attest to the heart and passion of all the folks there).

Fruition Seeds, a seed company in Naples, New York, specializing in regionally-adapted organic seed.

Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds, specializing in heirloom and open-pollinated seed, only ships within Canada

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, offers a mix of organic and conventional, so be sure to look for “OG” next to the variety name

Fedco Seeds, a cooperative specializing in cold-hardy seeds; offers a mix of organic and conventional, but goes to great lengths to let you know where the seed is coming from.  Transparency is awesome.  Also offers trees and bulbs.


bee pollinating organic echinacea flowersDo you have a favorite organic seed company not listed here?  

I love finding new seed companies to support, and I’d love even more for you to let me know by listing it in the comments below 🙂  Thanks!

10 thoughts on “Organic vs. Conventional: Why You Need to Buy Organic Seeds”

  1. I also purchase organic seeds from the companies you’ve listed. Some of the other places I buy from are Hudson Valley Seed Company (hudsonvalleyseed.com), Sow True Seeds (sowtrueseed.com), Turtle Tree Seeds (turtletreeseed.org), and a small seed company in Hartland, VT – Solstice Seeds (https://bifurcatedcarrots.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/SolsticeSeeds_2018-1.pdf). I like to purchase seeds that are adapted to my region.

    Saving seeds to preserve our food supply is a passion of mine. We save seeds from both our home garden and the school garden we run, so we don’t really need to purchase much each year. We share the seeds with families in our community and the other school gardens in our area.

    I have seeds in jars, envelopes and containers tucked all over my home office, my wife tells me I am a bit obsessed 🙂

    1. We’ve used Solstice Seeds as well! And I love the vision of seeds tucked all over the place 🙂 I haven’t done tons of seed saving (yet!) but have a few jars of cosmo and calendula seeds from my flower field this year. I love collecting seed! And it’s such a cool thing to do with Waylon, too.

  2. Annie’s Heirloom Seeds in Hudsonville, MI, are great! They are a small family company but offer a lot! They carry both organic and conventional.

  3. Pingback: Organic vs. Conventional: Why You Need to Buy Organic Seeds – CED

  4. I live in the Yucatan Peninsula and need to know where I can purchase organic seeds. Mexico prohibits any seeds being shipped from outside the country or brought in. Any information would be appreciated.

  5. I get most of my seeds from Territorial Seeds and have been very happy with their quality.
    Folks also need to be aware of buying seeds that are adapted for the climate their growing in. Buying good seeds for Vermont is way different than Iowa or Arizona, etc.

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