Start Seeds/Save Seeds
About the Program
The North Farm at the MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center, the Transition Marquette Seed Co-op, MQT Growth, and the U.P. Food Exchange have come together to create a program to offer garden support to five schools in the Central U.P. in 2016.
Saving seeds for planting next year is part of the origins of agriculture, and today it is practiced mostly by seed companies for sale. But more gardeners and farmers are saving their own. Seed saving is a part of the food system that is almost invisible, as seeds are often not mature until after a plant is harvested for food. As more public attention is dedicated to questions like this about where our food comes from and how it is produced, area schools are incorporating gardens into their classroom activities. For school gardens, seed saving shows young learners the entire food system, rather than just the part that lands on the plate.
In response to an increased number of school gardens in the Upper Peninsula, and teachers looking for activities and support for those gardens, a group of organizations that support agricultural education came together last year to form Start Seeds/Save Seeds. This program provides transplants, seeds, and classroom activities that give teachers access to the tools and expertise needed to try something new in the garden at their school. After saving seeds for a growing season, they are invited to trade seeds and stories at a community-wide Seed Swap in the fall.
"Several schools in the U.P. have started hoophouses and gardens in the past five years," says Abbey Palmer, Education Coordinator at The North Farm, a farm incubator and education center located in Chatham at the Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center. "Using those gardens for seed saving lets us study basic plant genetics, the history of our most common food plants, and start a conversation about the food system." The program was launched last year to provide technical assistance and experiential learning opportunities around farming to area schools. "At Graveraet, kids are learning how to grow food, which is an empowering skill set," says Miriah Redmond, co-founder of MQT Growth, a non-profit that maintains the Graveraet hoop house in the summer.
Seeds and transplants are provided to participating schools by The North Farm at the U.P. Research and Extension Center and Transition Marquette Seed Co-op. Visits to the classroom and educational programming on topics such as planning a seed saving garden, how to save seeds, and seed heritage are also provided by project partners. Mike Riesterer of the Transition Marquette Seed Co-op says, "Seed saving is practical, but not often practiced. When kids participate in the process from growing and eating the plant, then start next year's plant with seeds they saved, they understand the entire cycle in a way that few people do. They start to look at food differently—and they're more likely to eat a vegetable that they grew themselves."
2016 Seed Saving Schools Announced
Welcome to the five participants for Start Seeds/Save Seeds in 2016:
- Graveraet Elementary (Marquette)
- Munising High School (Alger)
- Superior Central School (Alger)
- Teaching Family Homes (Marquette)
- YMCA HOST (Marquette).
How to apply