August 5-10, 2018
Faculty: Bill McDorman, Lee-Ann Hill, Lynda Prim, Will Bonsall,
Amy Halloran, John Navazio, and Petra Page-Mann
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance brings its groundbreaking, six-day Seed School to Vermont this summer! This immersion course is designed to train students how to build local seed systems rooted in the ancient tradition of seed saving. Practiced by farmers and gardeners for thousands of years, seed saving strengthens food security at the community level and empowers individuals to reclaim control over their food supply. Students walk away from this innovative learning experience with the knowledge and inspiration to save their own seed and perhaps start their own independent seed initiatives, such as community seed libraries and exchanges, seed growers cooperatives, heirloom seed businesses, and participatory plant breeding projects.
Class begins on Sunday afternoon at 3:00pm giving students a chance to get to know one another and dive right in with a discussion about “playful” plant breeding along with interactive, thought provoking activities. Each of the following days will cover the topics below paired with hands-on or interactive activities throughout. The class also offers paired events with authors of relevant books, entrepreneurs in the regional seed community, plant breeders and other people of interest. We’ll end the week with a seed swap and closing ceremonies on Friday.
Students can expect to become proficient in the following topics:
- Structure & History of the Seed Industry
- The Magic of Seeds
- Intro to Mendel’s Genetics
- Selection and Evaluation
- Germination, Germination Testing
- Wild Seed – Production, Collection, Cleaning
- Seed Exchanges, Libraries, Businesses
Prerequisites: In order to take full advantage of this course we recommend students have prior knowledge or brush up on the following topics:
- Beginner to intermediate knowledge of plant biology with a specific emphasis on plant reproduction
- Fundamental knowledge of plant genetics
- General knowledge of vegetable and grain production practices
- Taxonomy of major vegetable and grain crops
Tuition & Fees: $1250.00 covers the cost of the class, optional evening events, most course materials, and daily meals from our top-ranked Sterling Kitchen. Accommodations are not included.
Housing Availability & Fees: On-campus housing is available for an additional fee of $60/night with a private bathroom and $50/night with shared bathroom access. Please note that Sterling College offers rustic/vintage/farmhouse style accommodations that are clean and safe but not luxurious. Availability is limited and room requests are filled on a rolling, first-come, first-serve basis. If you prefer to stay off-campus please see our accommodations page for local recommendations.
Interested to get more information about this class? Let us know!
Bill McDorman – Bill McDorman is Executive Director and co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA), a seed conservation non-profit created to to assure a diverse supply of local seeds for the Rocky Mountain region through community-based seed stewardship. Bill holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Montana. In 1981 he co-founded Garden City Seeds in Missoula, Montana. In 1984 he started Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens, a bioregional, mailorder seed company he ran successfully for 28 years. He authored the book, Basic Seed Saving, in 1994. From 2011 until 2014 Bill and his wife Belle served as Executive Directors of Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona. In 2010 they founded Seed School, an internationally recognized education program now with more than 1,000 graduates from around the world. Bill remains a passionate and knowledgeable presenter who inspires his audiences to learn to save their own seeds.
Lee-Ann Hill – Lee-Ann Hill holds a MA in Cultural Ecology from Prescott College in Arizona where she studied traditional land management with an eye on food system sustainability. After conducting research in Northern New Mexico and working on organic farms in New Mexico and Costa Rica, Lee-Ann began her own farm in southwest Colorado where she is integrating seed adaptation, water conservation, and landscape regeneration into her farm practices. Lee-Ann is also a graduate of RMSA’s Seed School Teacher Training and Grain School programs. As Special Projects Coordinator, she produced the Mountain West Seed Summit and oversees the Seed Stewards program, Heritage Grain Trials and other special events and activities.
John Navazio is both the Senior Scientist for the Organic Seed Alliance and a Plant Breeding and Seed Specialist for Washington State University Extension. He trains farmers, university students, and others in organic seed production and on the fundamentals of on-farm plant breeding. His own breeding work has resulted in a number of new vegetable varieties with improved quality, flavor, and texture, as well as a greater ability to scavenge nutrients, compete with weeds, and resist heat and drought. John develops participatory breeding projects with farmers across North America to improve crop germplasm for regional seed independence. He is the author of The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production.
Petra Page-Mann – Growing up saving seed in her father’s garden, Petra believes each seed and each of us is in the world to change the world. Her passion, curiosity, love of food and love of people led her all over the world studying seed, song and sustainable agriculture. In 2012 she founded Fruition Seeds to share the seeds, knowledge and inspiration gardeners need to be more successful in the Northeast. If she’s not farming she is singing, skiing, on her bike with her dogs, hunting mushrooms or sharing a feast with a friend.
Will Bonsall has worn many hats since going “back to the land,” including prospector, draftsman, gravedigger, hobo, musician, logger, and artist, among others; however, he considers subsistence farming to be the only true career he ever had. He is the director of the Scatterseed Project, which he founded to help preserve our endangered crop-plant diversity. His first book, Through the Eyes of a Stranger, is an eco-novel set in a sustainable society of the future and has been recently follow up by the more recent, Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening. Will lives and farms in Industry, Maine, with his wife, Molly Thorkildsen, and two sons.
Amy Halloran is the author of The New Bread Basket. She has been following the revival of the regional grain movement in the Northeast for several years. She writes about food and agriculture for farming newspapers, cooking websites, and regional magazines. Her involvement in local food systems began with the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market in upstate New York, which bloomed under her care to a fifty-vendor year-round marketplace with more than a thousand weekly shoppers. She works with friends and neighbors to change the foodscape in her city, teaching classes in cooking, baking, and food justice, and volunteering at a youth-powered farm. She likes to cook for a lot of people, at community meals, and managing a soup kitchen that incorporates as much fresh food into the menu as possible. She never tires of pancakes.
Lynda Prim has dedicated her work of over 30 years to building farm and food systems that honor biological and cultural diversity, sense of place, and environmentally sound, long-term land stewardship because she believes these values are central to the future resilience of our planet. Lynda is currently the Agriculture Supported Communities Program Manager at the Rodale Institute Experimental Farm in Kutztown, PA. Her seed production/conservation experience includes Conservation Farm Program Manager for Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona and the Farm Director of the High Desert Research Farm at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico — both projects that grew and conserved the seeds of indigenous and arid land food crops, including small grains. She was also the Vegetable and Fruit Technical Advisor to organic farmers for NOFA Vermont.