About Seed School

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, 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. More than 1,000 people have graduated from Seed School since it launched in 2010. 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 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) 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
  • Pollination
  • Breeding
  • Harvesting
  • Germination
  • Wild Seed - Production, Collection, Cleaning
  • Seed Exchanges, Libraries, Businesses

 

Cultural Considerations at RMSA Seed Schools

Seeds represent the accumulated knowledge of countless generations of farmers and gardeners from traditional cultures around the world. Our Seed Schools encourage a deeper contemplation of the heritage and lineage of the seeds we steward by honoring traditional seed keepers and the indigenous origins of our seed diversity. RMSA recognizes the destructive impacts that centuries of colonization has had on indigenous peoples and communities of color, as well as the continued oppressions these groups face through discriminatory social, cultural, and economic systems. As seeds are such a critical factor in these issues, we strive to present our training and curriculum with this understanding in mind.

Our intention is to make each Seed School a safe and inclusive space for all participants, regardless of identity across race, ethnicity, gender, class, or sexual orientation. Discrimination, harrassment, or threats of any type will not be tolerated. Guidelines will be set at the start of each Seed School in a collaborative process that ensures all voices are heard.

We ask that all participants adhere to a policy of mutual respect, civility, and compassionate communication. Please be advised that our facilitators will sensitively address any concerns or issues that may arise, but we are not able to deviate from the set curriculum or schedule. Space will be provided for feedback during the course. Thank you for making our Seed Schools a rich, diverse educational experience where all are welcome!


Our Instructors

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

Bill McDorman is a co-founder and Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. He is a seed saver, writer, and educator based in Cornville, Arizona. In his nearly 30 years of seed experience, he has co-founded a number of nonprofit projects and seed companies including 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 and his wife Belle Starr were formerly directors of Native Seeds/SEARCH, a seed conservation organization serving the Greater Southwest.

 

Rowen White

Rowen White is a Seed Keeper/farmer from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and a passionate activist for indigenous seed and food sovereignty. She is the Educational Director and lead mentor of Sierra Seeds andis the National Program Coordinator for the Indigenous Seed Keeper Network, an initiative of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance. Rowen has a deep commitment to approaching food systems revitalization with a cultural context. Rowen's passion is in teaching and mentoring, and has developed many curricula which focus on holistic, indigenous permaculture based approach to seed stewardship which honors the many layers of seed culture; from practical hands-on skills, cultural context and memory with guiding principles that are rooted in an indigenous ecology of relations. She teaches and facilitates creative seed stewardship immersions around the country within tribal and small farming communities, as well as offering an online distance learning seasonal mentorship called Seed Seva. She weaves stories of seeds, food, culture and sacred Earth stewardship on her blog, Seed Songs. Follow her seed journeys at www.sierraseeds.org.

Don Tipping

Don Tipping is a dynamic and inspiring instructor with 20 years of experience in organic and biodynamic farming, seed saving, permaculture, eco-forestry and enthusiastic on-farm education. Don is the owner of Siskiyou Seeds and Seven Seeds Farm, where he teaches the Seed Academy. He helped to found the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative which manages a 300 share CSA, commercial seed growing, an equipment co-op and internship curriculum among 12 cooperating farms. Don is also co-founder of the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative, a seed grower, marketing and distribution cooperative comprised of 10 western organic farms.

 

Casey O’Leary

Casey O'Leary is a self-proclaimed "seed freak" who runs Earthly Delights Farm in Boise and co-founded the Snake River Seed Cooperative. Her Snake River Seed project includes a seed producer's co-op and seed library, organizes seed-related art projects and events, and teaches classes and workshops on seed saving. Casey is a board member of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.

 

 

Belle Starr

Belle Starr is a co-founder and Deputy Director of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. She has a background in media, public relations, community organizing and nonprofit management. Belle 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. Along with Bill McDorman, Belle is the co-founder of Seed School.

 

 

Lee-Ann Hill

Lee-Ann holds a MA in Cultural Ecology from Prescott College where she studied traditional land management with an eye on food systems. After conducting research in New Mexico and working on organic farms in Costa Rica, Lee-Ann currently resides in southwest Colorado where she runs a CSA (community supported agriculture) program at Laughing Wolf farm integrating seed adaptation, water conservation, and landscape regeneration. Lee-Ann is also a graduate of RMSA's Seed School Teacher Training and Grain School programs. As Special Projects Coordinator for RMSA, she produced the Mountain West Seed Summit and oversees the Seed Stewards program, Heritage Grain Trials and performs research for RMSA.

 

Benjamin Fahrer

Benjamin Fahrer is a 20-year veteran organic farmer, seed saver, permaculture instructor, and educator. He has a keen ability to read the landscape and recognize natural patterns to help build ecological landscapes and farms and has gained international recognition in facilitating educational trainings around the world. He is now translating these land and life lessons into the urban environment in California with Top Leaf Farms, a licensed contracting company that designs, builds, and operates urban farms with a focus on innovative rooftop farming and ecological services. Benjamin attended the first Seed School and has since been a key collaborator with RMSA as a facilitator for Seed School Teacher Training courses and the Mountain West Seed Summit.

 

Who We Are

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening seed and food security in our region.

Our mission is to assure a diverse and abundant supply of seeds for the Rocky Mountain West through networking, education and helping establish community-based models of seed stewardship.

 

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  belle (@) rockymountainseeds.org
  +928.255.1125
  PO Box 4736 • Ketchum, ID 83340