Saving Seed for Resilient Local Systems: An online, video based course on saving seed from the Utopian Seed Project

Progress report for LS21-351

Project Type: Research and Education
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
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Project Information


We will create an online course to promote seed-saving among Southeastern farmers. The course will utilize high production value videos and social-media tools to increase farmer engagement and build a community of seed savers with a focus on Southeastern climate and economy.  We will publish content across many social media channels as individual members of the Southeast Seed Network, a voluntarily coordinated association of farmers and researchers across the Southeast.


Our course curriculum will cover seed-selection techniques for preserving and developing regionally adapted cultivars. Videos will take an explicit systems perspective, noting that the same ecological forces which entail that diverse gene pools create more resilient populations also entail that distributed networks of seed growers create a more resilient food system. The course will highlight both the sustainability benefits and economic opportunities associated with seed-saving. 


Educational outcomes depend as much on the quality of the learning environment as the quality of the curriculum, so we will put emphasis on creating farmer to farmer relationships. We will create a digital classroom across multiple online platforms for farmers to gather and exchange techniques. Ultimately, making our seed systems more sustainable isn’t about developing a certain technique or variety, it’s about building a community of farmers.  


While the course will be designed by the Utopian Seed Project, we will rely on close collaboration with many Southeastern seed institutions. The Organic Seed Alliance will assist in curriculum development and distribution. Common Wealth Seed Growers will provide expertise on breeding and propagation. We will work with regionally integrated seed growers for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Sow True Seed, and other Southeastern seed projects (42 tab 1). We will partner with several Southeastern farming organizations to distribute our content to an audience of well over 100,000 growers (42 tab 2). 


The most important metric of success for the project will not be the raw number of growers reached digitally, but the number of farmers our curriculum motivates to become active members of the Southeast seed network. Every step of the project features opportunities for farmer feedback and collaboration. Our curriculum will be optimized for digital distribution to reach a large audience, but also optimized for engagement, so that the ultimate outcome of our educational work is farmers talking to one another. Our content will serve as a jumping off point for the deeper kind of peer to peer self motivated learning required to grow and maintain a truly sustainable seed network.  


Project Objectives:
  1. Use social media tools to create a learning community of farmers that facilitates peer-to-peer interaction and the growth of local seed enterprises.
  2. Create effective seed saving video tutorials for major Southeastern crops, covering cultivation methods from planting to harvest and seed storage.
  3. Promote farmer adoption of seed selection methods to produce cultivars adapted to the Southeast.
  4. Contextualize seed-saving as an ecosystem service essential for a sustainable food system in our social networking and curriculum.
  5. Promote equity in Southeastern seed systems. Equity entails greater representation for marginalized Southeastern farmers, free and open distribution of genetic material, and easy access to agricultural knowledge.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Erica Dal Bassa
  • Edmund Frost
  • Debbie Piesen
  • Cliff Slade
  • Chris Smith
  • Ira Wallace
  • Dr. Jared Zystro


Involves research:
Research results and discussion:

In the first year of this grant, Communal Studios have traveled across the southeast interviewing and filming seed savers and farmers. The focus has been on six crops: Collards, Corn, Okra, Southern Peas, Squash, Sweet Potatoes. Final filming and editing are currently in progress. The interview subjects cover a range of interviewees:

Ira Wallace Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Edmund Frost Common Wealth Seed Growers
Angie Lavezzo Sow True Seed
David Shields  
Kieth Mearns  
Jason Alexander  
Clif Slade Slade Farms
Herbert Brown  
Ann Codrington  
Mehmet Öztan Two Seeds in a Pod
Silas Childs friend of Mehmet
Owen Taylor True Love Seeds
Amirah Mitchell True Love Seeds
Stephen Smith Roughwood Seed Collection
Nate Kleinman Experimental Farm Network
Jon Jackson Comfort Farms
Amy Rose Foll Virginia Free Farm
Jovan Sage Sage's Larder
Thi Mai Phuong Phan  
Haylene Green West End Community Urban Garden
Jamila Norman Patchwork City Farms
Millard Lochlear  
Bobby Wilson Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
Ed Hunt UNCP
Melissa DeSa Working Food
Joe Durando Melissa's friend
Terry Zinn Florida Wildflower
Rebekka White and Hank Bass
Britiah Walker Serenity Community
Joshua G--  
Dan Geer  
Four people SPROUT NOLA
Iriel Edwards  
Yams NDN Bayou Food Forest
Dove Stackhouse Sand Mountain Seed Bank
Megan Allen Care of the Earth Farm
Jonny Buchanan  
Matthew Raiford  
Participation Summary


Educational approach:

We are developing a curriculum of southeast focused seed saving videos. We are currently editing 6 crop specific episodes which will be bookmarked by an introduction and a conclusion episode. Each crop specific episode will be accompanied by a technical how-to PDF on saving seed for that crop. The videos will be distributed widely through promotional partner networks, social media and conference showings.

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

The first half of this grant has been interviewing and filming farmers. We are currently editing the education material into a accessible curriculum and will begin outreach efforts towards the end of Summer 2022. We currently have first drafts of each of the six crop specific videos.

Note: we have been sharing 'work in progress' snippets and videos along the filming journey on social media to begin generating interest.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

We have not yet achieved the project outcomes and are still creating our educational resources.


No participants
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.