The Utopian Seed Project

Celebrating diversity in food and farming through crop and variety trials in the Southeast.

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The Utopian Seed Project is a hands in the earth non-profit committed to trialing crops and varieties in the Southeast to support diversity in food and farming. Our utopian vision is to create an engaged network of growers, gardeners, farmers, foodies, cooks and chefs to help educate and celebrate this diversity. We are based in Asheville, NC and are working towards an overarching vision to create food sovereignty in the face of climate change through diverse and regenerative agriculture. 

Crop Trial Focus Areas

Exploring Varietal Diveristy in Southern Crops

We are conducting crop variety trials for traditional southern crops to explore the diversity on offer. It’s exciting to realize that the genetic diversity within many crops can give us culinary and climate resilient opportunities.

Tropical Perennials Grown As Temperate Annuals

We are experimenting with growing crops that are native to the tropics, but with some additional care can thrive and provide diverse food in our region. This is an exciting area of crop research with some incredible culinary and potential.

Promoting Underutilized Edibles as Food Crops

We are growing and assessing some of the many wild, native and underutlized food crops yet to be explored or fully appreciated. With some simple selection or breeding work, many of these crops could offer great culinary promise.

The Peoples Seed Logo

 In 2020, The People’s Seed joined forces with The Utopian Seed Project. The People’s Seed is the legacy organization of a legendary seed and farming advocate, Tony Kleese. Tony recognized the need to develop a new system for a fair and open seed industry to ensure a sustainable, climate adapted food system for the future. Learn more about our ongoing work HERE.

You never know where an innocent conversation about okra will take you... I'm very pleased to welcome Jordan Collins (@lovesomegreen) to Western NC and @frannysfarm for a five month research assistant internship. This morning we looked at the field that will soon be many many varieties of okra and related species.

We're extremely grateful to @southernexposureseed for sponsorsing this opportunity for Jordan (and for us!).

In addition we have supporting sponsorship from @row7seeds and a grant from @nellnewman foundation, for which we are also extremely thankful.

Lots more to come from Jordan this season!

#farming #trials #okra #abelmoschus #philanthropy #internship #research

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Oh my gosh! The babiest Achira seedling (Canna edulis). Pretty excited to grow this crop from seed (thanks to @feels_like_far for sharing).

#achira #cannaedulis #andeanroots #tuspachira #roots #seedlings #farming #gardening

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Making a WNC Collard Landrace. Here's the plan for the 21 varieties of heirloom collards we grew last year as part of our work with The Heirloom Collard Project (@heirloomcollards). The surviving collards are now bolting, flowering and will set seed, the plan is to create a diverse gene pool of collards (WNC Collard Landrace) selected for cold hardiness and ultimately flavor!

Extra Notes on Seed Saving

Collards require another plant for pollination and therefore seed production. While they have a perfect flower, they are self-infertile and therefore obligate outcrossers.

With 21 varieties in close proximity, it is highly likely that there will be a large degree of inter variety cross pollination, which is the first step towards establishing a regional landrace.

#collards #heirloomcollards #seediversity #landrace #heirlooms #seedsaving #seeds #greens #farming

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Most of the collards are at various stages of bolting. Collards have perfect flowers but are self incompatible, meaning they are obligate outcrossers - their genetics WILL get mixed up. This could be within a variety if you just have one planted, or in our case, with 21 varieties, there is a high chance of a large scale mashup! These collards have survived the winter with no protection (with some pretty cold nights - 8F low). So we're going to save the seeds of the survivors as the first step towards a WNC Landrace.


#collards #heirloomcollardsproject #landrace #breeding #farming

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Our little section of @frannysfarm, where Franny gives our project a beautiful place to call home and plenty of support as we grow and experiment and trial a wide diversity of crops! So much gratitude 💚

#communitysupported #farming #experimentalfarm

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The yacon or Bolivian sunroot is enjoying this warm weather. We have started a lot of the variety we've been growing in WNC (named, Cusco). We'll be selling starts at the @ashevilleherbfest first weekend of May in a shared booth with @sowtrueseed

#yacon #boliviansunroot #tuspyacon #andeanroots #rootcrops

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All the #taro is bedded up for pre-sprouting so we can get a little jump on the season ahead of planting out on May!

As you can see, taro has a worldwide distribution and heritage across most of the tropics. In fact it's one of the oldest cultivated crops. There's a lot of history and culture to respect here, not to mention culinary traditions!

#taro #colocasiaesculenta

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The @sowtrueseed sponsored Whidby White Okra Community Seed Selection project is underway. 250 seed selection kits mailing out very soon!

#whidbywhite #whidbywhite2021 #okra #seedselection #seedsaving

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With taro you can cut the tops off to sprout for new plants and then eat the bottom section! Look at the beautiful cross section 💜

#taro #colocasiaesculenta #tropicalperennials

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The Experimental Farm Notebook

We’ll be publishing  updates throughout the growing season so you can stay up to date with what we’re up to and how the experiments are going. This will be an informal narrative of our highs and lows, successes and failures, with photos and fun facts!

Follow Along With Our Notes From The Field

Thanks to our Sustaining Sponsors

Two Seeds in a Pod - Sustaining Sponsor
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Sustaining Sponsor