Saving our Seed: A program to train farmers

2005 Annual Report for LS03-156

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $204,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Tony Kleese
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Brian Cricket Rakita
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Saving our Seed: A program to train farmers


Saving Our Seed Project Successful

Our efforts to educate organic growers in the art of seed production and support them in their seed production efforts are successful. We have published many top quality seed production guides, we have coordinated a network of professional and amateur seed producers, and we have had a positive impact on the availability of regionally adapted high quality organic seeds. This success is born out by the online survey on our website at, who’s results show that folks in the region are no longer in want of organic seeds in the way they were when the project began.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Our main objective is to increase the availability of regionally produced and adapted, certified organic, open pollinated seed. Achieving this objective involves the following steps:

1. Survey farmers on what seed crops they think are in greatest need.
2. Based on survey results, identify specific crops and potential farmer participants.
3. Research current available information on organic/open pollinated seed production and identify obstacles or missing information.
4. Develop draft seed production management plans for the organic and open pollinated seed varieties within the identified crops.
5. Develop and conduct Seed Production workshops.
6. Work with farmers to plant crops and record data for improving seed production management plans.
7. Develop an infrastructure team to evaluate issues related to seed harvest, cleaning, storage, and distribution.
8. Develop strategies for addressing issues related to seed harvest, cleaning, testing, storage, and distribution.

We have since added the following objective to our mission (with the approval of Jeffrey Jordan):

9. Assist growers in sourcing certified organic seeds.


2005 was a great year for the Saving Our Seed project.

Seed Availability Survey Report:

We had 198 responses to our Seed Availability survey. Of these, 123 (80%) were from VA, NC, SC, or GA. Of these, 39 (20%) were from organic growers.

Seed Production Guide Report:

In 2005, we completed the Organic Brassica Seed Production Guide (24p.), the Organic Cucurbit Seed Production Guide (36p.), and the Organic Pepper Seed Production Guide (18p.). Our guide distribution over the year broke down as follows:

243 Tomato Guide Downloads from within the region
235 Tomato Guide Downloads from outside the region
139 Seed Processing and Storage Guide downloads from outside the region
88 Seed Processing and Storage downloads from within the region
47 Pepper guide downloads from within the region
97 Pepper guide downloads from outside the region
139 Isolation guide downloads from outside the region
117 Isolation guide downloads from within the region
46 Cucurbit guide downloads from within the region
52 Cucurbit guide downloads from outside the region
99 Brassica guides from outside the region
49 Brassica guide downloads from outside the region
68 Bean Guide Downloads from inside the region
90 Bean guides from outside the region
280 Bean, Pepper, Storage, Isolation, and Tomato guides handed out on paper
650 of the above handed out on cd
140 Brassica guides handed out on paper
550 Brassica guides handed out on cd
150 Cucurbit guides handed out on paper
250 cucurbit guides handed out on cd.

These guides have been very well received and have aided many professional and amateur growers in producing high quality seed. Seed dealers from all over the country have made copies of the guides for distribution to their growers.

Workshop Report:

In February, the workshops focused on whole farm planning. There were 34 people at the Georgia workshop, 51 people attended the North Carolina workshop, and 18 people attended the Virginia workshop. Attendance at the Virginia workshop was stifled by a four inch snowfall the night before; there were 38 people signed up for the event.

In July, the workshops focused on hands on seed saving and disease recognition. In July and August 2005, we hosted hands on seed saving field days in Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia. There were 32 people at the Georgia workshop, 16 people at the North Carolina workshop, and 22 people at the Maryland workshop. Based on the feedback from the prior July workshops, we incorporated Power Point presentations into the workshops. The evaluations were very positive.

Growout Report:

In 2005, we had 26 Certified Organic Growers work with raising certified organic seed. Of this, we had successful crops from 14. We worked with 9 non-organic growers. Of these, we had successful crops from 7.

The Certified Organic Seed Sourcing Service in 2005 has assisted 157 folks find documentation about the certified organic seeds they were seeking.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The Saving Our Seed project has exceeded every objective and is having a positive impact on the supply of certified organic and heirloom and open pollinated seeds in the Southeast. Hundreds of amateur and professional growers have taken copies of the seed production guides, many of whom went on to raise seed for profit and enjoyment. The workshops were well attended by folks that were serious about seed saving and production and the evaluations were positive. The certified Organic Seed Sourcing Service is aiding many organic growers and certification agents in finding the seeds they seek, as well as documenting the search. The infrastructure committee has overseen and advised many local organic seed dealers and handlers in acquiring the equipment they need in order to produce, clean, and process high quality seed in the quantities that growers in our region need. We have aided in the creation of a network of organic seed producers throughout the region and connected them with organic seed dealers. As proof of our success, the Farmer Seed Availability Surveys filled out from our region more often than not came back stating that folks are having no trouble sourcing organic seeds by the end of 2005. In November and December 2005, of the 12 such surveys that came back, only 1 indicated difficulty finding organic seeds.