Seeds in Story, Song and Soul

By Rowen Whiteimage (2) In all their shapes, sizes, colors, the seeds have granted us sustenance, flavors, art, craft and most importantly story and song. The life giving mystery in a handful of seeds has inspired the many stories and songs that create the sacred dance between people and plants. These seeds share insight on the alchemy of transformation of sunlight to food, one kernel into many.  In the Seed Seva programs, we are humble disciples of these teachings of the seeds. We look to create gardens and methods of seed stewardship and plant breeding that strengthen the inherent life force within plants, and ensure that the seeds that we carry on to our next generations are selected for low input, whole organic systems.

In this time, it is a joy to be a part of the great re-awakening; seeing these ancient stories and connections within us come alive again. Our ancestors, who have faithfully passed us this incredible gift of life, are re-birthed through our connections to these seeds; these are their songs, their stories. It has only been a few short generations that we have seen these connections slip away; in the big wheel of time, only a few fleeting moments where we saw ourselves become distracted from the great mysteries by some of the false promises of technology and convenience.

These seeds are the diverse expression of life itself, ever hopeful, renewing, and sustaining. I invite you to walk this path with me, to find those tiny little sparks inside your heart that yearn to be re-kindled. These seeds, these tiny capsules of life and witnesses to the past, they speak to me in my dreams. The message that is sent to me again and again is simple, yet deeply nourishing; Take care of the seeds, and they will take care of you.

We have a long dry season here in Northern California, which makes it an ideal seed growing climate.   For us it is always this delicate dance of gratitude; the promise of the fall rains is such a welcomed balm upon our dusty lands, hands and hearts. The long hot and dry season leaves us ragged and parched, with dreams of cozy rainy days with pots of soup bubbling and our hearth warmed by woodstove fires and fresh fragrant loaves of newly baked bread.

Yet as seed stewards, we also recognize the lingering warm and dry weather as our ally; early Autumn is key ripening time for many dry seeded crops. If the rains come too soon, a season’s worth of care, work and prayer can easily wash away to the soil in a sudden and unexpected early fall downpour.  Again, each fall we bear witness to the tenuous balance of a life lived close to the Earth. Balancing rocks and eagle feathers, burdens and blessings are often one in the same.

So we deeply listen to the subtle patterns and signs that the Earth and all our Relations continue to shareimage (3) with us, and cultivate a strong sense of intuitive action to miraculously bring in the harvest once again.  From the time of seed ripening to the coming of the consistent fall rains, we are in full activation mode, willing to put in the long hours from dawn until dusk to take care of our responsibilities to the seeds and to the sustained nourishment of our family and extended community.   To put away our own feelings of overwhelm and discomfort for a short few weeks, with an intuitive knowing the the coming of the rains will signal rest for our well worked bodies.  Just as our ancestors did, we rally the community to help us bring in the baskets of beans and corn, till under the fields and plant the cover crop seeds that will be the transformative keeper of the soil during the wet winter months.

Baskets and buckets of tiny seeds begin their parade into our barn and living space. Shiny smooth squash seeds dry next to flats of tomatoes and peppers.  One but can’t help plunging their hands into the soft and supple bucket of cleaned amaranth, beans, or millet seeds that sit breathing off their last bits of moisture before going into cold storage.image (4)

Our one room main house is the showcase of all the diverse seeds that came out of our green fields this season.  I always marvel at the expansion and contraction of the growing season.  We start off with a tiny handful of seeds to begin the seasonal journey, which quickly germinates and rapidly expands to fill whole fields of greenery and abundance.

Yet, once the seed harvest begins, we see another round of contraction, as we gather whole plants and thresh them into bins, which then get winnowed down to smaller containers of seed again.

We celebrate in the unbelievable exponential abundance of the seed’s gift. ..50 tiny amaranth seeds multiply into a 5 gallon bucket of billions of little bundles of potential….the ratios of expansion are mind-boggling, and heart expanding.  When we witness the generous and ever nourishing patterns of the cycles of seed life, we are reminded again that the foundations of life are rooted in abundance.  The seed harvest asks us: How did we ever buy into the image (5)story of scarcity? With every seed crop that is brought in and cleaned for safe-keeping, my heart is filled once again with hope for our sustained future.

We witness a sacred distillation of life in the harvest and handling of the seed crops.  Each day, a new crop to thresh and winnow while the air is still dry and conducive to the act of dehiscing seeds from stalks.  We see whole fields of corn, millet, cowpeas, and peppers distilled into small but potent bags of pure potential for seasons to come.

It is in these repetitive daily actions of threshing and winnowing that I find deep satisfaction, reflection and inner peace.  While my hands gently work with wind and simple screens to winnow away the seed image (8)from the chaff, I find myself in my inner reflections doing similar processing.  Sifting out the things, thoughts, actions in my life worth keeping, and allowing all the rest of the “chaff” to blow away in the wind.  The plants and seed continue to be my teachers on so many levels.

While this chaff represents parts of the plant that were fully supportive to the seed development and growth while living, once dry down, this dried plant material no longer is in service to the seed…the transformation of one mother plant who gives of her own self for the extended life of her thousands of children.

This is true from my own inner landscape;  when I take the presence to make my work my sadhana, or spiritual practice, it allows me the tools to identify aspects of my life that were once in place to support my own personal growth, but now need to be “winnowed” away to leave room for more expanded potential.  Fall image (6)is a potent time for this “inner winnowing,” to give ourselves the quiet, spacious reflection time to see what is worth carrying with us through the dark winter months, and what is ready to be released.

What an honor when simple daily tasks in our work become our spiritual discipline, helping us to see clearly how simple and profound the little actions in life really are. That they are indeed living metaphors for the deeper lessons in life. All of this helps me cultivate gratitude in my life. When my hands work with the foods and seeds of the  harvest, I clearly see that there is a roadmap in this work, that this ancient rhythm of harvest illuminates an inner medicine wheel of work that is to be done before winter settles in.

Thank you seeds for all your teachings, wisdom and blessings.

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Thank you to all our Relations; sun, moon, sky, Earth, wind, water, animals, fish, insects and pollinators, stones, ancestors and all others in the sacred hoop of life.

And I will leave you with some wise words of Peter Blue Cloud: “And season merged into season, and we learned the life cycles of all around us. Like the moon, the face of each thing is in constant change and yet life goes into death a seed awaiting rebirth.”

Until the rains arrive, I will be the patient and steadfast winnower of seeds.

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At Sierra Seeds, our Seed Seva Immersion and full season internship is our prayer for what we hope to see for the future of our food. By empowering community members to reawaken seed stewardship in their lives,  we are seeding hope for more sustainable and beautiful agro-ecological foodways.  A part of our vision is to see the Restory-ing the Grace and Beauty in our Daily Life and ways of growing food... That sustainable and organic agriculture can evolve again to be Exquisite and magnificently beautiful and offer us truly sacred nourishment.......We can nourish farmers and SeedKeepers so that they can continue to nourish beauty and our deep ancestral connections to food and tradition, For then food and seeds can truly be our medicine. We dream of a time when the farmers andSeedkeepers of the world will truly be valued in the highest order in our communities as the keepers of life....

By bridging both practical hands-on skills with indigenous knowledge and reverence, we are cultivating a way of seed stewardship that is based upon service to life and seeds. Finding ourselves again by rekindling a relationship with our food that is mutually beneficial, and truly honors the seeds for all that they continue to share with us.  Writing ourselves back into the story of the sacred dance between humans and plants that is dynamic, evolutionary and resilient. Seeds are sacred. By saving these seeds, we re-engage with a powerful lineage of Seed Keepers. I honor this responsibility from the center of my heart, and hope to share with you the deep, heart-opening aspects of these Seed Keeper traditions. Using an indigenous ecology of education via story, handiwork, and connection to place, we re-kindle our connection to our these ancient traditions.

Please join us for our upcoming Seed Seva Immersions. We have two options, one that is 4 weekends over 4 months, beginning in August. We also have a weeklong intensive, that is October 18-23, 2015.  Please visit this link to find our more:!/Workshops/c/2383848/offset=0&sort=normal

For More information about our signature Seed Seva Immersion Program, please visit our website


( Photos by Rowen White and Joan Bosque) -Rowen White

Rowen White is a Seed Keeper from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and a passionate activist for seed sovereignty.  She is the director and founder of the Sierra Seeds, an innovative organic seed cooperative focusing on local seed production and education, based in Nevada City CA. She teaches creative seed training immersions around the country within tribal and small farming communities.  She weaves stories of seeds, food, culture and sacred Earth stewardship on her blog, Seed Songs. She is the author of “Breeding Organic Vegetable;  A Step by Step Guide for Growers” and her forthcoming book called “Seed Seva.”  Follow her seed journeys at