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

Project Overview

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

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, seed saving
  • Education and Training: demonstration, networking, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management, new enterprise development

    Proposal abstract:

    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 from proposal:

    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.
    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.