Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

MILLHEIM, PA. March 15, 2016 – Thanks to a statewide coalition of concerned advocates, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has clarified that seed libraries and other non-commercial seed exchanges are not subject to the cost-prohibitive licensing, labeling and testing requirements required of commercial seed distributors in the Seed Act of 2004 (Seed Act). In providing this clarification, Pennsylvania sets a precedent to protect and encourage seed libraries throughout the commonwealth.
The statewide coalition, led by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), Grow Pittsburgh (GP), the Public Interest Law Center, and members of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC), as well as individual growers and organizations, worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to clarify protocol about the Seed Act. The Act was originally applied to a seed library at the Joseph T. Simpson Library in Mechanicsburg, PA, which severely limited its operations as a result.

Seed libraries are nonprofit, community-based organizations. Through seed libraries, growers maintain and increase biodiversity, as they save seeds from season to season, and share seeds with one another. The number of seed libraries has surged in recent years; there are an estimated 26 seed libraries across the Commonwealth, with more than 350 nationwide. Concern about the compliance with the Seed Act has been a deterrent to seed library operations in Pennsylvania.
In 2015, the coalition sent a letter to Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Russell C. Redding, urging that PDA make clear its position. In the letter, the coalition argued the licensing, labeling, and testing requirements under the Seed Act were being misapplied to seed exchanges like the one proposed by the Simpson Library. Because seed exchanges, “operate on a noncommercial basis and do not sell, offer for sale, expose for sale, or transport seeds,” the letter’s cosigners contend, nonprofit seed exchanges are not subject to these sections of the law.

Upon review of the letter, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture “determined the Simpson Library does not meet the definition of a ‘distributor’ as defined in the Seed Law because, “they are not selling, offering for sale or exposing seed for sale,” concluding that the “edicts of the Seed Law do not apply.” In addition to clarifying their earlier decision, the department has invited a representative from Grow Pittsburgh to participate with a PDA staff member in a non-commercial seed-sharing work group organized by the Association of American Seed Control Officials (AASCO). The working group is drafting a proposal for the Recommended Uniform State Seed Law (RUSSL) that formally exempts “Non-commercial Seed Sharing” from the cost-prohibitive licensing, labeling, and testing required of commercial seed exchanges.

Sue Erdman, Director of the Simpson Library, is “pleased that the Department of Agriculture officials worked with us to clarify the rules governing seed libraries. This means that we can continue working with the community to promote home gardening and preservation of heirloom seed varieties.”

PASA Executive Director Brian Snyder issued the following statement: “We need regulation in the seed industry to protect farmers and other, more casual consumers. But we also need communities working together to make our food systems more accessible to all people. Seeds are a basic element of human life and wellbeing. Without this kind of informal cooperation among neighbors, that wellbeing is very much at risk.”

In addition to PASA, representatives and/or members of the following organizations cosigned the letter to PDA: Chester County Sierra Club Sustainable Agriculture Committee; Churchview Farm; Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF); Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild; Experimental Farm Network; Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club; Garfield Community Farm; GMO Free PA; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Hazelwood Urban Farm; Lawrenceville United; Olde Allegheny Community Garden; Pennsylvania Farmers Union; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council; Pittsburgh Public Market; Rodale Institute; Simpson Seed Library; Soil Generation; and The Greenhouse Project.

For more information, please contact:

Michele Spencer, PASA, michele@pasafarming.org, 814-349-9856 x17

Marisa Manheim, Grow Pittsburgh, marisa@growpittsburgh.org, 412-362-4769 x103

Amy Laura Cahn, Public Interest Law Center, acahn@pubintlaw.org, 267-546-1306


The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) seeks to promote profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment. For more information, visit pasafarming.org.

Grow Pittsburgh (growpittsburgh.org) teaches people how to grow food and promotes the benefits gardens bring to our neighborhoods. We believe access to locally-grown, chemical-free fruits and vegetables is a right, not a privilege.

The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (pittsburghfoodpolicy.org) convenes over 100 members representing over 65 stakeholders to build a food system that benefits our communities, our economy and our environment in ways that are equitable and sustainable.

The Public Interest Law Center (pilcop.org) uses high-impact legal strategies to improve the well-being and life prospects of the Philadelphia region’s most vulnerable populations by assuring that they have access to the resources and services that all of us need to lead our lives.

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

Woodstove Cookery at Home on the Range

An Illustrated Guide To The Wood Fired Cookstove

Illustrated guide to the wood stove and it’s accoutrements.

Farmer Pirates & Dancing Cows

Farmer Pirates & Dancing Cows

From humor-filled stories of a life of farming to incisive examinations of food safety, from magical moments of the re-enchantment of agriculture to the benches we would use for the sharpening of our tools, Farmer Pirates & Dancing Cows offers a full meal of thought and reflection.

Why Farm

Farming For Art’s Sake: Farming As An Artform

Farming as a vocation is more of a way of living than of making a living. Farming at its best is an Art, at its worst it is an industry. Farming can be an Art because it allows at every juncture for the farmer to create form from his or her vision.

Apples of North America

Freedom has been called the ugly duckling of disease-resistant apple varieties. But that shouldn’t detract from its many merits. These include the freedom from apple-scab infection for which it was named, a high rate of productivity, and an ability to serve as a good pollinator for its more attractive sibling, Liberty.

The Horsedrawn Mower Book

Removing the Wheels from a McCormick Deering No. 9 Mower

How to remove the wheels of a No. 9 McCormick Deering Mower, an excerpt from The Horsedrawn Mower Book.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.


Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

How To Prune a Formal Hedge

How To Prune A Formal Hedge

This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.

Work Horse Handbook

The Work Horse Handbook

The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Dont Eat the Seed Corn

Don’t Eat the Seed Corn: Strategies & Prospects for Human Survival

from issue:

Gary Paul Nabhan’s book “WHERE OUR FOOD COMES FROM: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine” (Island Press, 2009) is a weighty tome, freighted with implications. But as befits its subject it is also portable and travels well, a deft exploration of two trips around the world, that of the author following in the footsteps of a long-gone mentor he never met, the Russian pioneer botanist and geneticist Nikolay Vavilov (1887-1943).

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

How to Store Vegetables

Potatoes may be safely stored in bits on a well drained spot. Spread a layer of straw for the floor. Pile the potatoes in a long, rather than a round pile. Cover the pile with straw or hay a foot deep.

One Seed To Another: The New Small Farming

One Seed to Another

One Seed to Another is staggering and bracing in its truths and relevance. This is straight talk from a man whose every breath is poetry and whose heartbeat is directly plugged into farming as right livelihood.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

McCormick Deering/International No 7 vs no 9

McCormick Deering/International: No. 7 versus No. 9

McCormick Deering/International’s first enclosed gear model was the No. 7, an extremely successful and highly popular mower of excellent design.

Barbed Wire History and Varieties

Book Excerpt: The invention of barb wire was the most important event in the solution of the fence problem. The question of providing fencing material had become serious, even in the timbered portions of the country, while the great prairie region was almost wholly without resource, save the slow and expensive process of hedging. At this juncture came barb wire, which was at once seen to make a cheap, effective, and durable fence, rapidly built and easily moved.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT