The Importance of Local Seeds



You may have noticed the last couple of years have made it more difficult to source seeds. This is both great and can be frustrating at the same time. On the plus side, so many new gardeners are joining the gardening community. On the frustrating side, seed farmers and distributors are having trouble keeping up with the high demand. How can we welcome these new gardeners into our community AND have enough seeds for everyone?


In the past, farmers and gardeners often saved their seeds for the next season. These locally-grown, resilient seeds were also shared with friends, family, and the broader community. Today there are barriers to saving seeds:

  • Seed saving skills have not continued to be widely shared and taught

  • Seeds that are sourced from other countries or regions make them less adapted for the climate where they will be grown

  • Patents prevent seeds from being legally saved and shared

  • Traditional seeds that belong to Indigenous communities were taken away

We have seen countless heirloom varieties of plants lost over time; and if no one stewards the seeds for generation after generation, then that specific variety will be lost forever.


These seed shortages and lack of access to regionally-adapted, climate-resilient seed and decreasing numbers of seed stewards are signs that we need to strengthen local channels of seed access in our community.


Saving seeds from the 2019 Seed of the Year: Rattlesnake Bean (image taken before pandemic)

Blazing a Trail

Fortunately, a small but growing group of people have noticed this and are trying to bring back regionally-adapted and biodiverse seed varieties.


Cait Caughey, Alex O’Hanlon, and Alajia McKizia are three such people. They are part of The Blazing Star Seed Cooperative (BSSC), a budding, local group behind the community seed bank here in Omaha. Cait, Alex, and Alajia —along with local organizations City Sprouts, The Big Garden, and Big Muddy Urban Farm—have been working together to create a seed bank. Omahans can participate in this seed bank by growing and saving seeds or volunteering with packaging and distribution so the larger community can have access to free, locally-grown and saved vegetable, herb, and flower seeds. The Blazing Start Seed Co-op seeks to develop local self-sufficiency, education, infrastructure, and community building around seed growing and saving.


Seed saving can be intimidating for new gardeners, but it doesn’t have to be. Seed saving can be as easy as letting beans dry in their pod and saving them for next year! BSSC seeks to make education accessible and build individual’s confidence around seed saving. Anyone who is interested in doing work around seeds is welcome to participate in the co-op. Whether you’re someone who would like to volunteer to help package seeds or you’re a farmer who wants to grow out various plant varieties to save seeds from, and everything in between.

When you grow seeds in your local environment, you create locally-adapted varieties of those plants. Each area presents its own unique factors around humidity, temperature, disease, pests, and soil composition. In turn, each variety of plant can be adapted for those specific factors. The more generations a plant’s seeds are grown and saved in the same region, the better and healthier that plant will grow in that specific area and the more locally-adapted it will be. If we want food that is climate-resilient, we need to put in the work to increase biodiversity in plants.

Alex O’Hanlon (left) and Cait Caughey (right) at the teaching at Seed School

Learn from the Experts!

One of the BSSC’s goals is to provide free seeds for the Omaha-Metro community. The locally grown and saved seeds that you can find at the upcoming Omaha Seed Share features many of the seeds that are part of this project. This year the Seed Share will feature over 18 locally-grown and saved varieties from this project.


This is not only an opportunity for individuals to create a deeper connection with the plants they grow but also for our gardening and farming community to grow stronger together. We can be confident that no matter what life and years 2020 and 2021 this throws at us, we can feel rich knowing that we have the seeds to regrow.


Upcoming Opportunities

  • The Omaha Seed Share on Saturday, March 20th will feature locally-grown seeds from this project

  • Cait, Alex, and Alajia will be teaching a virtual Growing Gardeners workshop on Planning for your Seed Saving Garden on March 31st, 2021

  • Seed School, a 2-day intensive will be offered for its third year this fall

  • Subscribe to the City Sprouts newsletter to stay up-to-date on upcoming events and classes


More About Blazing Star Seed Cooperative

Blazing Star Seed Cooperative is a grassroots, cooperative project of growers, organizations, and distributors. Anyone in the community can join as a member and be involved in how they choose. The purpose is to save + share locally-grown, regionally-adapted seeds!

Please contact Cait Caughey (mulleinhillfarm@gmail.com ) and Alex O’Hanlon (alexandrialohanlon@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions about BSSC.


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Sustaining Community Through Gardening
Since 1995

Call us:

402-504-1910

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4002 Seward St., Omaha, Nebraska 68111