Each year, thousands upon thousands of seeds are saved and stored in seed banks, which preserve biodiversity and protect against crop failure and food shortage. Maybe most famous is the apocalyptic-esque Doomsday Vault in Svalbard, Norway, but for those who don’t plan on trekking to the arctic (heck, it isn’t even open to the public), here are five seed banks worth putting on your travel itinerary.
5 Seed Banks Worth Visiting
Get a glimpse at the mind-boggling diversity of plant life on Earth. Each year, thousands upon thousands of seeds are saved and stored in seed banks, which preserve biodiversity and protect against crop failure and food shortage. Maybe most famous is the apocalyptic-esque Doomsday Vault in Svalbard, Norway, but for those who don’t plan on trekking to the arctic (heck, it isn’t even open to the public), here are five seed banks worth putting on your travel itinerary.
Established in 2000 by Prince Charles, the Millenium Seed Bank is housed on the sprawling grounds of the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens and Wakehurst Place, a historic mansion and National Trust site near London. The organization partners with other seed banks in 80 countries to preserve a huge array of native species. As of March 2015, they had 34,088 wild plant species and 1,980,405,036 seeds in storage. At the Kew Garden headquarters, visit the glass-walled seed research and processing facilities and get a glimpse of conservation in action.
The Seed Savers Exchange consists of a large network of members who have saved and swapped hundreds of thousands of seeds since the organization started in 1975. While you can virtually participate in the exchange from anywhere, their 890-acre Heritage Farm is worth a trip. They have educational exhibits, a retail store, and sprawling gardens and historic orchards, not to mention a breathtaking pastoral setting. If you need more reason, try eight miles of hiking trails and trout fishing on site—all in the name of seed saving.
Adventurous vacationers can head to the Peruvian Amazon, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. There, the social justice-minded organization Camino Verde operates a unique Living Seed Bank, where they plant and protect native trees, assist local farmers, and conduct research to aid commercial reforestation efforts. Since 2011, Camino Verde has planted more than 250 species. Since the nonprofit is more than a little off the beaten track, get in touch with them directly to plan your expedition.
Baker Creek is a household name in organic gardening; Their seed catalog offers the largest selection of rare and heirloom varieties in the United States. Their brick-and-mortar location in Sonoma County is pretty nifty, housed in a restored 1920s bank building. More a retail store than a bonafide seed bank, it’s still worth stopping by—you’ll find more than 1,500 of heirloom seeds for sale, plus tools, books, and local crafts and goods.
Billions of people rely on rice as a staple food, so it’s good to know someone is working around the clock to preserve it and the climate that supports it. The International Rice Research Institute is located on sprawling grounds in the Phillippines, including laboratories, 500 acres of experimental rice fields, a library, a bookstore, and a museum dedicated entirely to the past, present, and future of rice. Plan ahead—visits are by appointment, and need to be made two weeks in advance.