• Pam Sherman

Learn Seed Saving this Year

By Pam Sherman

Colorado Gardener: Learn Seed Saving this Year

“Imagine your garden as a fine wine getting better and better with age...the simple process of selecting seeds from the plants that work best for you makes this a reality. You can choose seeds for amazing taste, insect and disease resistance, drought tolerance...the sky's the limit when choosing plants that perform outrageously well in your garden.”


--adapted from Bill McDorman's intro to Seed Saving Hacked: Why Seeds Matter, Why Saving Them is Easy, and How to Save Your Own, offered by Urban Farm U.


Colorado is bursting with seed saving classes and learning opportunities of all kinds! Here’s a survey of a range of formal classes offered in 2018, followed by a list of informal opportunities around our state.



SEED SCHOOL

The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA) and its partners present Seed School, “a groundbreaking educational course that trains people from all walks of life to build local seed systems rooted in the ancient tradition of seed saving.” It comes in an array of choices. For the full spectrum, visit rockymountainseeds.org and click on “Attend.” Visit the site periodically for updates or join the email list. RMSA can also custom design Seed School in a Day for your organization. Contact Lee Ann Hill at lee-ann@rockymountainseeds.org


  • Seed School Online comes in six packed sessions. Check it out and register at https://rockymountainseeds.org/attend/seed-school-online

  • Seed School in person is hands-on and complements the online class. Past participants describe it as life-changing.

  • A week of Mountain Seed School is planned for September at Penn and Cord's Garden: Wild Mountain Gardening and Extreme Homesteading, aka Miss Penn's Mountain Seeds, in Westcliffe. For more info on this and other seed school classes taught by Penn and Cord at and through Denver Botanic Gardens, see www.pennandcordsgarden.com/classesconsultations.html .

  • Laughing Wolf Farm in Mancos is holding a three-day Seed Camp in September. Laughing Wolf also offers a Market Internship and a Seed to Seed Internship; you start with seed planting and end with seed processing. Applications open in February at www.laughingwolffarm.com.

  • Seed School Teacher Training comes to the Posner Center in Denver, April 22-27, presented by RMSA, Global Seed Savers, and Denver Urban Gardens. For more information on this seminal course: https://rockymountainseeds.org/attend/seed-school/ss-tt-denver

  • Seed School Teacher Training for Farmers and Ag Professionals is planned for October in Denver, funding permitting. Contact Lee Ann Hill at lee-ann@rockymountainseeds.org


Heritage Grains

  • Colorado gardeners are having fun trialing Heritage Grains! The stellar Heritage Grain School, held annually in mid January at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, features heritage grain professionals—farmers, gardeners, researchers, chefs, businesspeople. It's sponsored by UCCS, The Rocky Mt Farmers' Union, and RMSA. View the tantalizing offerings of Grain Schools past at https://rockymountainseeds.org/attend/grain-school/grain-school-uccs. Registration opens in early fall.

  • Laughing Wolf Farm in Mancos is holding a three-day Heritage Grain Camp in August. More info will be available in February at www.laughingwolffarm.com.

  • RMSA also offers Grain School in a Day at other times of year and can custom design this for your organization. Contact Lee Ann Hill at lee-ann@rockymountainseeds.org


Informal Seed Learning Opportunities

An increasing number of Colorado gardeners at all altitudes are joining the Heritage Grain Trials Project. Heritage grains are more drought-tolerant, lower in gluten, form much more extensive micorrhizal associations than modern wheat, and taste good enough to fall in love with. They include varieties of barley, corn, quinoa, amaranth, and other wondrous species. Join the trials at: https://rockymountainseeds.org/resources/heritage-grain-trials

Joining the Seed Steward Program can be a doorway to seed learning of your own choice at your own pace: https://rockymountainseeds.org/resources/seed-stewards/seed-stewards-info. In 2018 the seed stewards will have an opportunity to grow out seeds of special collections.

Last summer at Slow Food Nations in Denver, a seed saver spotted a van sporting the words “Mobile Seed Library.” It got away before she could meet the staff, but not before she rejoiced at its existence. Seed Libraries, like book libraries—and often located within them—are a fantastic source for informal seed saving learning.

They often host Seed Exchanges, where learning and sharing go together. As Janisse Ray says in her book The Seed Underground, “Seeds have a built-in requirement for generosity. Otherwise they suffer inbreeding.” Click here to search for a seed library near you: https://rockymountainseeds.org/index.php/resources/seed-libraries/search-seed-libraries

If your local seed library is not there, sign 'em up! For more info go to the Seed Library Social Network: http://seedlibraries.org/


Seed Learning through CO Seed Companies

Some of our local Colorado-based seed companies are treasures of seed saving learning. Not only do they sell Colorado-adapted seed, they will teach you to save the seed you buy from them! Check out Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens at www.seedstrust.com and Miss Penn's Mountain Seeds (almost 200 varieties of mostly tomatoes raised at altitude). Reading Penn's tomato descriptions can be the first step in a jaw-dropping education on tomato possibilities: www.pennandcordsgarden.com/miss-penns-mountain-seeds.html. BBB Seed has a seed saving article and guide in their resources section at www.bbbseed.com


Seed Saving Children

Lexi Fickenscher, Farm Manager at Montessori School of Denver, says 3-5 is the perfect age to start learning seed saving. Students stop her in the hall and ask when they can do it again. Ask your child's garden teacher when they can start doing it too!

The Amir Project run by Executive Director Pablo Willink teaches gardening and seed saving at camps all over Colorado. Contact Amir to get your camp on board. http://www.amirproject.org/


I’ve just scratched the surface here. If you teach a seed saving class or program, please contact Colorado Gardener re listing in their Calendar at cogardener@gmail.com. If you want to learn, hang around seed savers wherever you find them. These stewards of the future are great folks to know.


Pam Sherman gardens with her husband at 8300', is an RMSA-trained seed teacher, and is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste Southwest and Rocky Mt Region Committee. Her blog on adapted heritage corn stories from seed to table is at Mother Earth News. Contact her at pamsher123@gmail.com


Gardening corn and grain in the mountains of Colorado—really?