Seed to Farm to Table: How Local Seed Saving is Cultivating Sustainability


San Diego Seed Company Owner in Urban Farm Field

“Everybody gets lost the first time they come here,” laughs Brijette Peña, founder and owner of the San Diego Seed Company. A quick turn off the busy Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway, amidst apartment complexes and urban, you think you are in the wrong place for a thriving small farm. But head up a steep driveway and there sits Romstedt’s self-created farm oasis, producing over 160 varietals of seeds with over 98 percent sold locally in California. The ecologically diverse property overlooks metro San Diego.

“We’re the only certified organic urban seed farm in the United States, but I don’t want it to stay that way. We need as many people as possible doing this to achieve true resilience,” shares Peña as she walks through her quarter-acre operation. “There are a lot of conversations about local food, but not a lot about local seed. It’s the missing piece of the full circle of any sustainable community because we trial and breed varietals that specifically do well in our climate.”

 San Diego Seed Company Hands with Seeds

Local seed production also allows adaptation to regional growing seasons. In San Diego’s case, that would be a very short winter and low water environment. Peña also develops specialized seeds to perennialize certain crops like tomatoes and chard, a growing feat that would be impossible in most other parts of the country. “Our trialing in particular helps new market growers to succeed from the start as we’ve gone through the dirty work for you to find out what varietals grow best here.”

Interestingly, urban centers like San Diego create ideal spots for seed production operations because seed can be produced on small, condensed acreage and you don’t need to worry about cross-pollination contaminating your seed. As we see in so many regional food initiatives across the country like Farmshed in Wisconsin, operations located in metro settings also provide an easy means to invite folks for various classes and educational opportunities to experience the full “seed to plate” sustainability circle. 

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