Experimental Farm

Crop Options for a Changing Climate and Biodiversity for Resilient Food and Farming Systems

The Utopian Seed Project is proud to have a great relationship with Franny’s Farm in Leicester NC, which is where we do a majority of our crop trials and experimental grow outs. In 2022 we also expanded to a second site offered to us by the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy in Alexander NC. These plots are managed as a no-till, low-input micro farms of approximately 1/3-1/2 acre each. In addition we have a network of farmers and growers who are interested in the crops we are working with. Our aim is to identify potential crops for our region, show that they have food systems potential (i.e. they can be grown successfully and there is consumer demand), and then get them to farmers and seed companies or nurseries so they can be widely grown.

We are aware that many of the crops that we are working with are not *new* crops, but rather new to our region. We aim to introduce and celebrate these crops in a way that is respectful to the people and cultures where they have been traditionally grown (often for centuries), while recognizing their potential in our region. There is a growing desire from farmers and communities of color to reconnect with their traditional crops and foods, but a lack of research to support this re-connection. Our hope is that our work can create unique market opportunities for traditionally undeserved communities.

Crop and variety diversity is a key component to resilient food systems, but a wide range of available crops is also more interesting, more representative of diverse people, more engaging for consumers, increases access to broad nutrition, and is better for soil through diverse crop rotations. It is also critical to acknowledge that the climate is warming and this will necessitate a shift in agriculture – diversity within crops and between crops will be essential if we stand any chance of adapting to a changing climate (while also doing everything possible to mitigate climate change through regenerative agriculture and other carbon reduction strategies).

Crop Focus Areas

Chris and Jordan in Okra Trial at the Farm

Southern Crops

Exploring varietal diversity in traditional southern crops.

Ginger Growing in the foreground

Temperate Tropicals

Adapting tropical plants to our region for diversity and climate.

Taro stalk - perenial

Perennial Crops

Perennial food crops for sustainable and long term food systems.

Chris and Jordan in Okra Trial at the Farm

Native Edibles

Working with traditional but often underutilized edible natives.

Water Chestnuts Growing

Aquatic Edibles

A surprising quantity of aquatic plants are edible ad perennial and easy to grow!

Below you can see crop profiles for some of the crops we are working with. Click on the images for a detailed breakdown of the crop and the work we are doing.