The Berea College Horticulture Farm has produced seeds such as cowpeas, Mexican sunflowers, sweet peppers and tomatoes, to name a few. Seed saving has become an excellent source of side income for the Farm and offers students a valuable educational opportunity.
Additionally, students learn how to select plants to grow to seed and seed saving processes. For example, to save tomato seeds, students participate in planting and caring for the tomato plants. They then learn how to identify the optimal time for harvesting. Students smash the tomatoes, monitor the fermentation process and then help clean and set up the seeds’ drying station. Lastly, students learn how to clean the dried seeds and prepare them for shipping. This process is a new experience for many, but they soon realize that it’s not overly complicated. Perhaps most important, this process is critical in giving students an understanding of the whole farm system.
In 2011, the Horticulture Farm started a contract with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE). The seed company offers several seed varieties, most of them produced by SESE or small farmers rather than purchased at wholesale. Based in Virginia, SESE has more than 60 growers all over the US growing a variety of seeds, including Organic Certified and Heirloom varieties. They are continuing to expand, helping farmers diversify their income and creating a valuable network.