How to Save Southern Peas

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2021: $49,775.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Utopian Seed Project
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Chris Smith
The Utopian Seed Project
How To Save Southern Peas explores seed saving, seed growing and seed heritage in the Southeast USA. Interviews with farmers and growers across the south tell a story of seed heritage deeper than any one variety. Take a deep dive into saving southern peas to learn both the technical side of saving seeds and the reasons why it's so important. Botanists have placed the Southern Pea’s genetic homeland in the Niger River Basin of West Africa. Like many other crops with African origins, Southern peas crossed the Atlantic with the slave trade and first became established in the Caribbean before moving up into the American South. As a drought-tolerant, heat-loving legume, the Southern pea thrives in the heat and humidity of the Southeast. Another pea-plus is that Mexican bean beetles (a notorious bean pest) don’t really have a taste for Southern peas, although sadly this doesn’t apply to deer, who wholeheartedly love them. Cows and pigs are also big fans, although it wasn’t until Southern peas arrived in North America that they received the name cowpeas. It’s unfortunately a term most likely rooted in racism—to denigrate a nutritious West African food crop to a mere fodder crop. The term African Pea reclaims the legacy of an important, nutritious and delicious African crop. In 2021 The Utopian Seed Project and Communal Studios received a grant from Southern SARE to create a Southeast Seed video series. The project traveled across 12 states and interviewed over 50 farmers, community gardeners, seed savers, seed growers and seed advocates. The footage was weaved together to tell the story and seed saving of six southern crops: corn, okra, southern peas, collards, sweet potatoes and squash. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2020-38640-31521 through the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under subaward number LS21-351. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider.
Target audiences:
Farmers/Ranchers; Educators
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.