Sacred Seed Saving


Description - The program has several unique outcomes that center around the growing

of rare tribal seeds including corn, squash, and beans for future

preservation. People with learning challenges tend and save the seed

while preserving part of history and learn skills of gardening. The

volunteer opportunity is spearheaded by The Gifted Learning Project and

collaborates with several homeless shelters. A focus is in on Native

American families that have learning challenged family members, but all

community is welcomed.


Category - Food, Agriculture & Nutrition, General/Other Sustainable Agriculture


Population Served - Native Americans,


Short-Term Success - Participants learn gardening skills and techniques for seed saving. All

ages and abilities of community members can do this as well as enjoy the

outdoors. This program ties in physical health and activity for all members

but is of special benefit for those living in homeless shelters with little or

no access to learning from nature while being outdoors. We have

increased in the numbers of participants an increase of 90% growth in just

several months.


Long- Term - Success Preserving of rare seeds, from a just a handful of seeds to preserving 20

pounds of ancestral seed a year. The project includes all but with a focus

on those with learning challenges. One outcome is 100% of children

attending become Junior Master Gardeners. They also learn and

understand the importance of heirloom and rare seeds. The seeds are

culturally important to Native Americans for seed saving as well as

preservation of history. For example, some of these seeds represent

those present during Lewis and Clark’s journey of discovery. The crew ate

foods that were selected by Native American guides to survive through the

harsh Midwestern winters. Visual learners thrive with the hands-on nature

learning in the garden. The children learn to select and hand pollinate corn

as well as to use fish fertilizer and cover crops. The children learn and use

many STEM or science related skills. The project offers community

building skills, higher self- esteem and a sense of ownership and

independence from growing healthy food. The families also learn about

better food choices and develop a positive attitude towards garden

snacks. Families learn critical learning skills, love of gardening and

appreciation for the environment while cultivating their minds.


Program Success Monitored By  -Tribal leaders, Native Harvest Nonprofit and Master gardeners, as well as

seed libraries on Indian Reservations. Increased awareness of heirloom

seeds and preparation of foods with food grown from seed. Feedback

from shelter counselors, and other liaisons between homeless shelters

and project coordinators. Noreen Thomas, board member for The Gifted

Learning Project is master gardener and will monitor project and

completion of Junior Master Gardening program.


Examples of Program Success  -The children with learning disabilities were able to complete the garden.

Children looked forward to the garden day and shared some of the

activities with the smaller children. The families were engaged and were

able to use the garden as a science project as well as an opportunity to

learn about the cultural value of the seeds. The kids would not have had

this hands on opportunity otherwise. This kind of exposure ignites the

desire to learn. High attendance rates along with increasing numbers of

children attending with their parents indicated success. This project simply

would not exist if the families did not see the value in doing this activity.

This is a volunteer opportunity and skill building event. The volunteers are

from the homeless shelter and the majority are women whose children

come also. Many are young boys and are also Native American.


CEO Comments

The path ahead has many creative projects that are being thought of right now to make life better for those with

learning challenges. All of us as a community need to learn so that we are able to include all of those with

learning challenges. How can we make life better as our population ages and more individuals fall into the

“special needs” category? Most importantly, for those born with any variety of learning challenge to ask the

tough question of "why not?



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