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Community Work

Truelove Seeds is a seed company that has emerged from years of work with and dedication to the Food Justice movement. After years working in food sovereignty and community farming non-profits, we made the deliberate choice to try funding our work through small seed purchases from farmers, gardeners, and aligned organizations rather than orienting towards foundations and wealthy donors. This allows us to focus on meeting the seed and cultural needs of growers rather than trying to fit and shape ourselves into something we are not in order to receive grants.

While our main focus is providing culturally-important seeds to people longing for their tastes of home, we also have many community facing programs, entirely funded by sales.

Mentorship and Profit-Sharing with our Growers:

We partner with community and family farms who want to steward their ancestral seeds to make them available to their local communities and others looking for their beloved varieties through our seed catalog. We currently collaborate with over 50 farms across the United States with a particular focus on community farms in the Philadelphia area.

As most of our growers are new to seed production, especially at this scale, we visit farms and provide virtual mentorship and seed saving education to all of our growers as needed throughout the year. We send 50% of our sales back to these growers, providing a meaningful compensation for their cultural preservation work. Our dear friend Leah Penniman at Soul Fire Farm mentioned that their quarterly check from Truelove Seeds was her favorite to receive, and this is because it is payment for their tangible work of keeping their most beloved seeds that tell their intimate stories of land, survival, and joy.

Local Farm Partnerships:

In the Philadelphia area, we arrange community seed cleaning days with several of our partners. Each year, we visit Novick Urban Farm, spending the day cleaning seeds with the Karen farmer community from Burma who grow their traditional crops for their community and our seed catalog. They also visit our farm a couple times a year to harvest their traditional crops and share a meal.

At the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden we co-lead an African Diaspora centered seed keeping workshop each year for their community and also bring an intergenerational seed cleaning station to their annual harvest festival.

Bright Spot Farms in Delaware brings their youth to our farm each year for a tour and deeper dive into the storytelling aspects of seed keeping.

Seed Saving Workshops:

Throughout the year, we offer seed keeping workshops on and off our farm to groups such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture, Farm School NYC, GrowNYC’s Farm Beginnings Course, and Swarthmore College. Our staff also participates in conference panels and virtual workshops related to seed and food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture.

On-Farm Seed Keeping Apprenticeships:

Since 2018, we have provided at least four apprenticeship positions each year to growers aspiring to incorporate seed keeping into their work as farmers and cultural stewards. Each apprentice cares for their ancestral seeds on our farm and joins us on Fridays to learn by carrying out all the duties of a seed farmer including soil and bed preparation, greenhouse work, planting, weeding, trellising, harvesting, processing, drying seeds, and of course, cultural research and storytelling.

We have had apprentices supported by GrowNYC’s Farm Beginnings Course and Rodale Institute’s Veteran Farmer Training Program. Our largest supporter has been Pasa Sustainable Agriculture who offers our apprentices the opportunity to complete their pre-apprenticeship program with 225 hours of on-farm learning (at Truelove), and 25 hours of direct education (at Truelove and elswhere). Farm School NYC has also supported a couple apprentices in the past through offering apprenticeship credit to their students who learn at our farm. Our staff is now primarily made up of former apprentices.

Our apprentices have also gone off to do incredible things with seed keeping, including starting an African Diasporic seed production farm (Sistah Seeds), becoming growers of ancestral seeds for our catalog (Cruz Family Little Farm, Fugitive Seeds Project, Growers Grange, Mill Hollow Plant Music, SeedEd Farm, Zoe Jeka), moving back to ancestral homelands with a focus on traditional agriculture, and working with other groundbreaking organizations focused on seed keeping. If you are interested in becoming a seed keeping apprentice, please email Miki at flowers@trueloveseeds.com.

Other things to note: We generally choose an apprenticeship cohort in January, run the program from mid-March to mid-December (starting in the office and greenhouse, then full-time at farm in late April), and offer a small apprenticeship stipend in addition to the exchange of learning to those who attend at least 150 apprenticeship hours on the farm. We do not live at the farm and do not have housing or transportation available. We do create opportunities for new learning and experience each workday, including direct education and opportunities to focus on your own cultural crops, as mentioned above!

Partnering with Local Institutions:

We partner closely with several important Philadelphia and Pennsylvania institutions around our programming and cultural work: 

  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently brought us into their Community Spotlight Program where we invited VietLead, Novick, Bahay215, and La Villa Africana Colobó to collaborate with artists within their cultural communities to illustrate seed packets and posters of their most beloved seed varieties. We hosted the unveiling event at one of the gardens and will continue to offer programming with the museum into 2024 around this project. Read more and see the collection here.
  • We partner with the Academy of Natural Sciences to include specimens in their historic herbarium from our farm and local partner farms (including the four mentioned above plus Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram's Garden) with information about the cultural uses of the plants. See an Instagram post we made about it here.
  • Beginning in 2021, we partnered with the Oakland Museum of California and local artist Jasmine Hamilton to create illustrated African Diaspora seed packets and postcards, which they distributed to their guests during their "Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism" exhibit.
  • In 2023, we started an on-going partnership with Longwood Gardens to lead a series of workshops and talks throughout the year focused on seed stories along with seed distributions in concert with their African Diaspora themed Community Read Program
  • We use a portion of one of the Saul Agricultural High School greenhouses in Roxborough, and offer programming to their students.

Philadelphia Seed Exchange:

Since 2015, we’ve organized and hosted several Seed Swaps per year with the Free Library of Philadelphia as the Philadelphia Seed Exchange. At our swaps, gardeners and farmers from the region bring their extra seed harvests and half-used seed packets to trade with each other after spending some time circling up and sharing stories of why they love these particular varieties. We also bring our collection of seeds gathered at previous seed swaps as well as our expired (but still viable!) seed packets from Truelove Seeds. At each gathering, we provide seed saving handouts and share advice and tips.

Indigenous Seed Rematriation:

At Truelove Seeds, honoring the origins of a cultivated seed variety, especially one that was stolen or has become inaccessible to its original community, is important to us. We aim to do our part in rematriating Indigenous seed varieties that have come into our care by returning them to their original tribal communities, farmers, growers, and individuals, free of charge.

Truelove Seeds farms on land in Lenapehoking, the traditional territories of the Lenni-Lenape peoples, near present day Philadelphia. We send many Lenape seed varieties to Lenape groups and individuals each year. We grow and save these varieties at our farm to sustain their livelihood, bolster genetically diverse populations, and breathe life into heirlooms that have become threatened under colonialism. The seeds are making their way home, and it is our duty to usher them there.

If you are Lenape, please reach out so we can rematriate these seeds to you free of charge: info@trueloveseeds.com.

We send 25% of our sales of Lenape and Wampanoag seed varieties to several food sovereignty projects in their respective communities in New Jersey and Massachusetts. We’ve also begun working with Mashpee Wampanoag farmers as our primary growers of their King Philip Corn as we understand they are best suited to care for this seed and its story.