Local Food Needs Local Seed: Increasing Production and Use of Locally Adapted Seed with a Farm to Community Network

Project Overview

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2023: $41,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Working Food
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Melissa DeSa
Working Food


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: seed saving

    Proposal abstract:

    Although seed is one of the most valuable inputs for any farm, few farmers save seed. Seed is viewed largely as a resource that is cheap, easily accessible, and easier to purchase than save. Farmers already face challenges of day to day operations of maintaining the family farm. Adopting another practice like seed saving - one that does not feel essential to the survival of the farm and that requires additional training and possible conflict with market crops - is not likely to happen. 

    Given these challenges, there is little incentive to save seed, let alone build a local or regional seed community. This is a precarious situation; we’ve seen the fragility of reliance on consolidated outside sources for fundamental inputs like seed and fertilizers. 2020 saw a demand on seed companies that led to running out of stock and inability to fulfill all orders, leaving growers of all scales short of what they needed to plant. What if we had decentralized seed networks instead? That relied instead on a multitude of diverse growers saving and sharing seeds adapted to local conditions through the care and observant eye of each farmer. And a community that understood and supported the idea that local food really needs local seed.  

    Working Food is ready to do this. For over a decade we have built a network of food systems collaborators locally and nationally, have experience in community organizing and outreach for all ages, years of practice saving seeds, working with seed companies, farmers, and other non-profits. We see what needs to be done and have visions of how to get there. Leveraging partnerships from farmers to community groups and various faculty at The University of Florida, we will build upon existing efforts to grow a “farm to community seed network”, that address recently published findings  underscoring the importance of investing in farmer training and support in seed production, providing educational resources in multiple formats, and facilitating a decentralized and resilient seed network built on multiple growers selecting for regionally adapted and resilient crops (Hubbard et al. 2022 and Snyder et al. 2022). 

    We will support 3 core farmers in identifying best practices for incorporating seed production into a market farm operation, and produce outreach materials in multiple formats and platforms to inspire farmers to adopt seed saving practices. We will facilitate community outreach that celebrates local food, local farms, and local seeds by providing up to 16 youth field trips to farms and up to 6 farmer guest visits to other farms, and will develop local seed marketing materials that convey the importance of local food grown from local seed. This project continues momentum already established to build a local food community that values local seed as a critical resource to be cared for and shared by a diverse network of growers and community supporters. 

    Note, from here on, seed saving will be referred to as seed stewardship, which embodies a more thoughtful approach to caring for seeds beyond just saving them. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Overall Goal: To build capacity and inspiration of emerging seed growers to become long term seed stewards, while creating awareness and support from the general public about the importance of local food grown from local seed. 


    1. Through mutual co-learning and ongoing engagement among market farmers and the experienced seed stewards, evaluate and document best practices for on-farm seed production that are likely to be adopted by farmers.
    2. Create easily accessible and informative learning materials that will inspire and educate more farmers to consider seed stewardship as an essential practice. 
    3. Publish and promote easily accessible, engaging, and diverse outreach materials and activities that use seed and food as a mechanism to deepen connections between farmers, urban ag communities, underserved communities, and the general public.
    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.