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. We lovingly call our small plot the Experimental Farm, which is managed as a no-till, low-input micro farm of approximately 1/2 acre. We also work with a number of other farmers in WNC who allow us to use part of their land to grow on. 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).
Exploring varietal diversity in traditional southern crops.
Adapting tropical plants to our region for diversity and climate.
Perennial food crops for sustainable and long term food systems.
Working with traditional but often underutilized edible natives.
A surprising quantity of aquatic plants are edible ad perennial and easy to grow!