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 mentor and provide financial support for community and family farms who want to steward their ancestral seeds and make them available to their local communities and to other people 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 support 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. For example, each year, we visit Novick Urban Farm, spending the day cleaning seeds with the Burmese farmer community who grow their traditional crops for their community and for 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 growers and stewards of culture. Each apprentice cares for their ancestral seeds on our farm and joins us at least once a week 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. This past year, two apprentices were supported by other organizations: GrowNYC’s Farm Beginnings Course and Rodale Institute’s Veteran Farmer Training Program. Farm School NYC has supported a couple apprentices in the past through offering apprenticeship credit to their students. 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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philadelphia Seed Exchange:
Since 2015, we have been arranging and hosting several seed swaps per year with the Free Library of Philadelphia as the Philadelphia Seed Exchange. At our swaps, gardeners and farmers from around the region bring their extra seed harvests and half-used seed packets and 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 as part of the event.
Indigenous Seed Rematriation:
While seeds are for everyone and the earth is naturally generous, honoring the origins of a cultivated variety, especially one that was stolen or has become inaccessible to its original community, is only right. At Truelove Seeds, 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. For example, we send many packages of Lenape seed varieties to Lenape groups and individuals each year. We also grow and save them at our farm to sustain their livelihood, bolster ample 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. Finally, we send 25% of our sales of Lenape and Wampanoag seed varieties to a couple food sovereignty projects in their respective communities in New Jersey and Massachusetts. This year, we are also 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.