Appalachian Seed Growers Collective

Seeds that know the south
Appalachian Seed Growers Collective - Seeds that know the south

We want regional farmers and gardeners to grow crops from seeds that have been grown and saved in the south!


Our Collective

Who are we and what are we trying to do?

In 2022, while working on some field trials for The Utopian Seed Project, Leeza Chen and Chris Smith were casually discussing common topics such as the impending apocalypse; the consolidated global seed industry; the destructive nature of groundhogs and goats; the economic challenges of growing seed in the south and, directly related, the extreme lack of seed growers in the south. 

“What we need is a local seed growers collective,” said Leeza.

“We can do that,” said Chris. 

ENTER Shelby Johnson (friend, farmer, farm organizer, and sorghum whisperer) with a serendipitous grant opportunity, which we applied for and received (Thank You CERES Foundation). The grant funded shared seed processing equipment within the collective and organizational funds to get the idea off the ground.

ENTER a group of awesome regional farmers interested in growing seeds, or already saving and growing seeds.

By the end of 2022 and into 2023 we were gathering with regional farmers with an interest in seeds. Over many meetings we set intentions and discussed values and shared pizza and are now on a beautiful journey towards working out what a regional seed collective can and should look like. 


AVL Today cover the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective


“Like many nonprofit initiatives, the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective grew out of a need — a need for local, regionally adapted seeds, a need for a committed growers community, a need for a network of support. The Utopian Seed Project, the organization behind the collective, trials crops and varieties in the Southeast to promote resiliency and biodiversity in the local food + farming system, but founder Chris Smith says they needed to bring others together.”


Garden & Gun covers the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective

Garden & GUN

“Many planters know the feeling: After pushing a bunch of minuscule seeds into the soil, they stand back and think, There’s no way that’s going to grow. Chris Smith seems free from such doubt, already foreseeing how to improve the next harvest, and the harvest after that. Indeed, that’s the core mission of the Utopian Seed Project, the nonprofit he founded in Asheville five years ago to identify and propagate plant varieties that support diversity and climate-change adaptability in the local food system of Western North Carolina.”


Southern SARE covers the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective

Southern SARE

“Although the full economics of seed growing is a little unclear in the Southeast and further research is required, The Utopian Seed Project believes that developing regional seed hubs to directly support farmers is important and the logical next step. The formation of the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective is a step in this direction, and they aim to expand this work to ensure that regionally grown seeds are available to regional farmers, supporting both seed growers and farmers economically and environmentally.”


Things that are important to us

  • Regionally Adapted – our seeds have been grown and saved in place for at least three years by farmers in the region.
  • Regionally Important – as a regional seed collective, we are open to growing and stewarding seeds that have regional historic or cultural significance.
  • Seed Grower Community – we want to create community and opportunities for people to become seed growers in Southern Appalachia, including new farmers.
  • Seed Grower Economics – as a collective, we are advocating for better seed contract prices and terms for our collective and sharing the economic risks of growing seeds.
  • Valuing Land and Labor – our internal economics pays growers for their time and land use in growing seeds, not for the quantity of seeds they produce. This eliminates inherent risks in growing seeds and varietal variations in yield, allowing growers to select for quality over quantity.

In Spring of 2024 we hosted a limited direct packet sale. for folks who missed out on that, you can still support our collective by purchasing our seeds through these awesome seed companies!

Trial to Table Event Sponsor - Sow True Seed

Sow True Seed, Asheville NC

Sow True Seed have been extremely supportive of our emerging collective. They have paid us a ‘contract’ price for the seeds we supplied PLUS they are giving us as extra $0.50 per packet sold. So by purchasing these seeds you are directly supporting our collective. Varieties include: Florida Conch Pea, Maggie Flowers Six-Week Pink Bunch Beam, Living Web Ventura Celery, and South Wind Slicer Cucumber.

In addition, our collective is also selling sweet potato slips through Sow True Seed. You can grab slips of Norton, Nancy Hall, Camote Morado and Bradshaw!


Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance Logo

Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance

Ujamaa Seeds is itself an emerging collective who we have worked closely with over the last few years. They are selling the purple selection of our Ultracross Collards!

50% of all packet sales will come back to the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective.


Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Sustaining Sponsor

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral VA

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange are carrying Puerto Rico Evergreen okra and sharing 50% of sales back to the Appalachian Seed Growers Collective. It’s an amazing variety that Chris Smith has been working on since 2018!