The People's Seed

Seed Saving, Plant Breeding and Regional Adaptation

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 model for a fair and open seed industry to ensure a sustainable, climate adapted food system.

Tony died in 2018 just as The People’s Seed was launched. In 2020, The People’s Seed joined forces with The Utopian Seed Project, and we are proud to hold the wisdom and vision of Tony in our organization.

Read Tony’s full obituary here | Read a full history of The People’s Seed here

Tony Kleese
Tony Kleese Award

The Tony Kleese Award

Recognizing passion and dedication in Southeastern Plant Breeding

In honor and memory of Tony Kleese, we issue an annual award to a plant breeder doing awesome work in the Southeast. The award offers a cash prize and a media component to continue the work of elevating and spotlighting the important work of plant breeders.


Seed saving is a core skill when working with plants from year to year, and the simple act of seed saving in itself can promote regional adaptation over time. It is also an ancient skill practiced across the world as humans have evolved and developed along side the plants they nurture. It is also a threatened skill, whether through lost knowledge and access to land or traditional varieties, or more nefariously, from patents and plant protections and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (Read more about UPOV). We aim to engage in seed work with intention and respect for the millennia of work that have gone before us, while realizing that seeds are living, evolving, amazing things as we work towards a sustainable future.

Seed Saving Corn Sheller with Jason Alexander

Seed Saving - Skills and Stories

Seed sovereignty relies on access to seeds and the knowledge on how to save and grow those seeds. We share our own seed saving stories and skills through video and social media, and actively engage with seed savers through mentoring new seed growers and educational outreach. We also collaborate on a number of projects like The Heirloom Collard Project to broaden our reach.

Community Seed Selection - Whidby White Okra

Community Seed Selection Projects

Our Community Seed Selection projects offer a win-win! First we get to advance our breeding or selection goals for any given crop by having a large and engaged participation from our community, and second we get to support that same community of people in learning seed selection and seed saving. These projects are fun and interactive and open to any skill level.

Okra oil cross with Jordan Collins

Regional Adaptation and Plant Breeding

Regionally adapted and bred varieties are extremely important as we continue to experience climate chaos. We trial and celebrate varieties that work well in our region; we spotlight the plant breeders working to develop new varieties for the South; and we do our own regional plant breeding and selection work at the Experimental Farm.

Okra Ultracross - Diverse Seed Population for Regional Adaptation


When you believe in genetic diversity and the power of adapting a plant to an environment over changing the environment to suit the plant, then massively diverse seed populations are the natural starting point to develop delicious, beautiful and resilient varieties. We use our ultracross mixes to support other regions in creating their own regionally adapted plant populations.

Thanks to our Sustaining Sponsors

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