People everywhere are waking up to the vital importance of seeds for our future. With the unsustainable practices of industrial farming on the rise and our precious crop diversity disappearing, a new paradigm of seed growing, saving, and sharing is necessary. We believe the best hope for an ecologically sustainable agriculture is to build a broad network of regional seed systems brimming with abundance and diversity. To answer this need, we created Seed School. Real, meaningful change in our food system begins here!
What Is Seed School?
Seed School is a groundbreaking, one to six-day educational course that trains people from all walks of life to build local seed systems rooted in the ancient tradition of seed saving. Practiced by farmers and gardeners for thousands of years, seed saving strengthens food security at the community level, empowering people to reclaim control over their food supply. Students walk away from this innovative learning experience with the knowledge and inspiration to start their own independent seed initiatives, such as community seed libraries and exchanges, seed growers cooperatives, heirloom seed businesses, and participatory plant breeding projects.
Seed School is designed to offer a comprehensive yet accessible overview of the science, business, and craft of seeds. Appropriate for teens and adults at all skill levels, this course is for gardeners, farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, NGOs, activists, policymakers and anyone interested in turning the tide on the industrialization of our food system.
Interest in Seed School is growing rapidly. To meet the demand and help further the local seed movement far and wide, we have taken the course on the road with a series of National Seed School sessions. If you would like to bring Seed School to your community, send an email to Belle Starr (belle (at) rockymountainseeds.org) to discuss potential collaborations.
Why Is Seed School Important?
When our ancestral gardeners needed seed, there were no glossy catalogs to leaf through. They acquired their replanting stock through the time-honored practice of seed saving, a tradition dating back some 10,000 years. But today most farmers and gardeners purchase their seed from “Big Box” chains and corporate seed companies. This dramatic shift has taken its toll. Over the past century, we’ve lost an alarming amount of biodiversity among our food crops and become dependent on an industrialized agricultural system that puts profits above all else. Seed School encourages a return to the ancient art of seed saving to reconnect people from all walks of life with seeds—the source of all sustenance.
We envision a vast network of thousands of small, bioregional seed companies and community-owned seed collections replacing the disempowering and ecologically destructive industrial system. By taking ownership over our seeds once again and rejoining the ritual of seed saving, we are replenishing our dwindling seed diversity, building up beneficial crop adaptations, and strengthening food security where we live. This is the way to true sustainability—and to healthier, better-tasting food!
What You Will Learn
This first-of-its-kind course teaches the practical, detailed information necessary to recreate the genetic foundation for a truly sustainable agriculture. Classroom time is balanced with hands-on activities, group work, and consulting time with our expert instructors.
- Structure and History of the Seed Industry
- The Magic of Seeds
- Intro to Mendel's Genetics
- Selection and Evaluation
- Wild Seed - Production, Collection, Cleaning
- Seed Exchanges, Libraries, Businesses
Our staff instructors and guest educators are experts in their fields: geneticists, farmers, breeders, seed producers, policy experts, and business owners. Not all instructors teach every Seed School. See individual course details for more info.
Bill McDorman is a seed saver, writer, and educator based in Cornville, Arizona. He is co-founder of The Down Home Project, Garden City Seeds, Seeds Trust, High Altitude Gardens, The Sawtooth Botanical Gardens, Seed School and The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. He is author of the book Basic Seed Saving. Bill is the former executive director of Native Seeds/SEARCH and currently serves as executive director of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.
Don Tipping is a dynamic and inspiring instructor who brings 20 years experience in organic farming, seeds, permaculture and enthusiastic on-farm education. Don is the owner of Siskiyou Seeds and Seven Seeds Farm where he teaches the Seed Academy. Don will be joining us for the first time at Onsen Farm.
Casey O'Leary is a self-proclaimed Seed Freak who runs Earthly Delights Farm in Boise and recently co-founded the Snake River Seed Cooperative. Snake River Seeds houses a seed producer's coop, a seed library, organizes seedy art projects and events, and teaches classes and workshops about seed saving. Casey was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.
Belle Starr has a background in media, public relations, community organizing and nonprofit management. She was co-producer of the seminal sustainability festival SolFest in Northern California for 7 years, and in the early 90s she produced and hosted the nationally syndicated environmental radio feature, the Environmental Action Report. Belle is the co-founder of Seed School and serves on the Board of Directors for the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.
Vanessa Louise Carter directs the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center’s Resilient Schools Program, supporting public school districts nationwide to design long-term ecological, economic and bio-cultural resilience into their curriculum, campus and community. After 11 years of direct service in Bay Area, Venezuelan and Mexican public high schools teaching interdisciplinary ecoliteracy in the living learnscape, Vanessa also consults with school districts by facilitating resilient community design; develops educational curricula for multi-media artists; presents at national ecological justice conferences; and co-teaches Seed School!
With a BA in Sociology & Urban Education from Swarthmore College and a Masters in Education from the University of San Francisco’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice, Vanessa provides transformative and empowering learning opportunities through popular education pedagogy to her students and clients. She mentors pre-service teachers as they cultivate their voices and step into powerful leadership roles as environmental solutionaries in the pursuit of seed sovereignty!