What defines the legacy of a place? Is it its history, its citizens, its architecture? For the Southern Seed Legacy (SSL), it’s all about what grows in the soil.
The non-profit, based out of the University of North Texas Laboratory of Environmental Anthropology, was founded in 1996 with the help of a USDA grant. Now, SSL is a member-funded organization working to support local seed-saving exchange networks and conservation in the American South. As a self-described “decentralized network,” the organization brings together various organizations and individuals, who each focus on an agroecoregion and a group of crops to catalogue and preserve.
SSL runs several programs, including Pass Along Southern Seed (PASS), where members borrow from the group’s seed catalog for free in exchange for the promise to save one third of the grown-out seeds, pass one third along to another farmer or gardener, and return the third back to SSL. The group also runs an Old Timey Seed Swap, which brings together heirloom gardeners and farmers in the South to network “with the hope that the exchange of knowledge, seeds, and enthusiasm will help toward the preservation of unique southern heirloom plant varieties,” according to SSL. The swap takes place in a different southern city every year.
In addition to seeds, SSL also collects “seed stories,” scouring the South for people who have memories of the region’s seed history so that they can chronicle and keep those as actively as they do seed.