Saving Culturally Significant Seeds

Preserve traditional practices and foodways by cultivating crops that carry a legacy.

Photo by Amyrose Foll


Planting a seed is a sacred way for a hungry soul to walk the path back to their ancestors and reconnect with the Earth. Each seed is a gift in our hands, given to us by the generations of farmers before us who held the ancestors of that seed. As modern seed keepers, we stand upon the shoulders of those farmers, and we must ensure future generations will know these seeds. Our gardens are the legacy of those farmers — their seed song. These seeds are our ancestors’ ecological knowledge that we’re tasked with holding at this moment in time.

When you begin your journey by saving the seeds from plants you’ve grown and planting them again in subsequent years, you become part of a ritual that’s thousands of years old. That ritual gave us the bounty through which each and every one of the world’s unique culinary traditions was born; and it developed all the food we eat, passed down from the plants’ wild ancestors. When we look to the past, none of us, from any heritage or walk of life, has to go back many generations to find a farmer in the family and a connection to seeds. By saving seeds, you’re living your farming ancestors’ legacy of strength and resilience, and protecting that sense of place that grows out of our shared traditions.

Seed saving preserves culturally significant crops for future generations.
Photo by Amyrose Foll


It’s never too late to begin saving seeds. Starting with something easy, such as squash, can be delightful and fulfilling. Seeds make a wonderful gift, and you may just light the seed-saving fire in a fellow gardener. When we save seeds, we’re not only preserving the past for future generations, we’re also keeping money in our pockets. Saving seeds is inexpensive, and if you locate a seed library or seed swap, you can procure additional cultivars while also depositing your own seeds into the collective system.

N’tongwezid Nebizokikonek  (‘Welcome to Our Garden’)

As a native seed keeper and member of the Abenaki tribe, I occupy that liminal place between the present-day world and the sedulous care and reverent safeguarding of our ancient foodways. Keeping an endangered culture (or cultivar) alive for future generations is a great honor that I don’t take lightly. The balance between keeping the old ways relevant and living a practical daily life in modernity can be challenging.

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