Plant Breeding, Seed Stewardship, and You

This is week 24 of our yearlong #freepermaculture course

“Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of conformity on all its many fronts.”

― Michael Pollan

seed saving and stewardship

Save your seeds!

There is so much to learn about this topic. We could spend our whole lives focused on this--it’s that much fun, and that much worth doing.

Today's class will give you some teasers about seed saving in a few areas, with information from some of the most qualified people in our community. We'll touch on plant breeding for organic agriculture, how to save your own garden seeds, and why seeds are at the center of whether or not we will be able to create a sustainable human culture over the long-term. But we’ll barely scratch the surface.

If you love plants, and you love having tons of fun outside learning new things, then you might as well carve out a significant portion of the rest of your life for this fascinating, rewarding, and absolutely crucial practice! 

A great place to start is with the Seed Stewardship chapter of Food Not Lawns, How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, which covers all the basics of seed saving and why it matters.

Read it here

Here's the incomparable Winona LaDuke, discussing the importance of renewing our relationship with the seeds:

When you become an organic seed saver, you find yourself in the company of some of the most delightfully eccentric and passionately committed farmers in the world. Here’s one of the greatest, pioneer and maestro Frank Morton, who very likely bred one of the lettuce strains you’re growing right now, talks about the importance of organic seed breeding:

Easy steps for beginner seed savers

Seed saving is a skill that takes time and practice, and it´s well worth a concerted, extended effort.

Download this guide and study it.

This video will give you a nice start as well:

Heirloom/Open-Pollinated vs Hybrid vs GMO Seeds

There is much debate around this topic, with hybrid seed oft vilified in the organic community. However, each has its benefits and it's important to learn about the big picture. This is a complex topic with centuries of history, so don't rush to any opinions!

That being said, growing heirloom seed--and even better--breeding varieties that work perfectly in your particular bioregion--can be one of the most rewarding and meaningful activities of your lifetime. Definitely try it!

difference between hybrid and heirloom seeds
heirloom seeds infographic


  • Go on a seed saver treasure hunt! Find some seeds and identify them.
  • Create a space in your design for seed processing and storage. Choose at least one plant in your garden to save seed from. What will be your selection criteria? How will you process and dry the seed? How will you store it?
  • Organize a community seed swap and publish a photo essay about it. Here are some seed swap scenes to inspire you:

Rabbit Hole!

Want to get to the core of the issues around why seed saving is so important, and begin to understand what biodiversity really does? Check out the work of Alan Kapuler, aka Mushroom.

​Here’s a great place to start:

BC Farms and Food has a website with mountains of excellent resources. Here’s an article about six ways to clean seeds.

seed saving tools screen

In this interview, Rowen White of Sierra Seeds discusses how everything is connected.

Rowen White

Organic Seed Alliance offers resources, hands-on education, and grants for seed farmers.

heirloom corn seed

In this article, a Seed Saving project in Australia tells their origin story and it’s all about permaculture!

sunflower seeds in hands

In the USA, connect with Seed Savers Exchange HERE, and in Canada, check out this program HERE.

many types of seeds together

This article discusses how Seed Saver networks are protecting the planet’s biodiversity

seed frond spiral

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