The inspiration for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange can be traced back to the 1970s. Jeff McCormack and his wife, Patty Wallens, were in New England, where Jeff was a graduate student and later a biology professor. The 1983 catalog was small, but the positive response encouraged them to keep at it. (One customer wrote, saying “These seeds aren’t going to be around in a couple decades,” and donated $500 to help out.) The 1984 catalog increased to 140 varieties. Still, it took three years for SESE to turn a profit, what with investing in the business and learning to make it all work. With his academic thoroughness, Jeff would go around with a stopwatch trying to figure out how much time it took to grow and clean seeds, pack the seeds, and process orders.
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