Appalachian Seed Growers Collective starts to take root

Started by the Utopian Seed Project, the new collective aims to spread regionally adapted, resilient seed to local farmers + gardeners.

Small green plants sprout from dirt in seed pots.

Support the work with seeds of your own.

Photo courtesy of the Utopian Seed Project

Like many nonprofit initiatives, the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective grew out of a need — a need for local, regionally adapted seeds, a need for a committed growers community, a need for a network of support. The Utopian Seed Project, the organization behind the collective, trials crops and varieties in the Southeast to promote resiliency and biodiversity in the local food + farming system, but founder Chris Smith says they needed to bring others together.

“There’s very, very little seed grown in the South,” says Smith. “And Utopian Seed Project is doing the work to adapt varieties to our humidity, diseases, all that sort of stuff — but we realized we weren’t able to grow it all out. Nor did we want to be at the center of the universe. It was important for us to have a network of seed growers, so we decided to launch this collective.”

Let’s dig into what the collective has been doing.

A large field with burgundy flowers growing in the grass. A mountain can be seen behind the field, and a barn is painted with the word love.

The collective is a grassroots initiative.

Photo courtesy of Utopian Seed Project

Turn over a new leaf

The Appalachian Seed Growers Collective began quietly over a year ago, and around 11 active collective members worked on about 10 varieties last year as an “experimental grow along.” The seeds that they grow are regionally important and adapted to ensure they do well across the Southeast.

Being a seed grower isn’t too far off from being a vegetable grower. When most people plant a seed, they grow through the fruit or vegetable stage then harvest it. Seed growers, though, allow the plant to reach maturity so that they can harvest a fruit or vegetable that’s full of seeds — those seeds can be cleaned and processed and grown again next year.

Plant a seed

You too can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Seven of the 10 seed varieties are being offered in an online packet sale until Friday, March 15 or until the stock sells out — you can get seeds like Blue Ridge butternut, coral sorghum, and white sesame to grow yourself.

And if you miss the sale, you can grab the collective’s seeds from Sow True Seed (just keep an eye out for the collective’s logo when you’re browsing).