Seed Rematriation Using a Participatory Conservation Model

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $40,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Seed Savers Exchange
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Philip Kauth
Seed Savers Exchange

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, sunflower
  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, squash
  • Additional Plants: tobacco


  • Crop Production: cover crops, high tunnels or hoop houses, intercropping, organic fertilizers, seed saving, mound planting system
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, leadership development, local and regional food systems, partnerships, quality of life, social networks


    Seed Savers Exchange (IA) researched histories and uses of varieties in our seed collection to determine which may have originated with Indigenous communities and over time been separated from these communities. We partnered with Native non-profit Dream of Wild Health (MN), farmer Becky Webster of the Oneida Nation (WI), and the Meskwaki Nation (IA), to regenerate varieties from seed over the 2020 growing season. At the end of the season, all partners harvested and saved seed for the seed bank at Seed Savers Exchange as well as rematriated seed to the communities where they originated. Through this participatory conservation process, all partners demonstrated, shared, and educated others about diverse methods for planting, growing and pollinating crops, as well as harvesting and saving seed. The project partners produced a brochure and a video. This project contributes to Indigenous communities being able to build agricultural sustainability and food sovereignty through active participation in crop and seed selection and regeneration.

    Project objectives:

    • Research and grow 9 Indigenous crop varieties at Heritage Farm and 18 varieties at partner sites, 
    • Share and demonstrate organic growing, corn hand pollination, and other planting/growing/harvesting/seed saving techniques among partners,
    • Increase the biodiversity of our food systems,
    • Support Indigenous agricultural sustainability and economic opportunity through rematriation of Indigenous varieties,
    • Ensure adequate seed inventory in the Seed Savers Exchange seed bank,
    • Ensure that these crops can be grown again in the communities and traditions with which they were originally grown.
    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.