Our Work

Seed Bank

NS/S utilizes a two-pronged approach to conserving crop genetic resources from the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico. Ex situ approaches involve conserving samples of crop seeds under frozen storage conditions, where they may remain viable (able to germinate) for long periods of time. We also utilize in situ approaches that support and encourage the ongoing relationship between people and plants through which both natural and human selection pressures continue to result in the development of new crop varieties – the same relationship between people and plants that produced the diversity present today.

The NS/S Seed Bank is at the core of our conservation efforts. It serves as a repository for seeds, guarded in a safe environment for the proverbial "rainy day". In this case, the rainy day is when a crop can no longer be found growing in a farmer's field. Domesticated crops depend on an intimate relationship with humans - they don't exist in the wild. Over thousands of years, traditional agriculturists have selected and saved seed from plants that expressed a diversity of traits of interest to them or their communities - the ability to mature before the first frost, a sweeter taste, faster cooking time, or resistance to specific insects or diseases. Local, regional and global food security depends on this diversity. A seed bank's primary function is to conserve this genetic diversity for the future.

Conservation Farm

On December 19, 1997, NS/S and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) each purchased a portion of a 160-acre farm in Patagonia, Arizona. NS/S bought 60-acres of rich flood plain fields away from the creeks and TNC purchased the remaining 100 acres of farm, including the creek bottom and neighboring corridor of native Sacaton grass and cottonwood trees. While TNC would work to preserve the Sonoita Creek riparian corridor running through its newly acquired land, NS/S would use the flood plain fields to grow and conserve native crops.

The first grow-out occurred in the summer of 1998. Beginning with one acre of land, we grew about 40 different accessions of crops. Weeds were by far the biggest challenge (that and the 2-hour round-trip daily commute from Tucson!). Since then, we’ve continued to increase both the number of acres being managed as well as the number of crops being grown each year. A typical season consists of regenerating between 200 and 350 accessions on 12-15 acres, seed increase, and growing crops identified for specific projects, such as seed stock for Tarahumara farmers in the Sierra Madre or a new seed bank initiative at Hopi. Remaining fields are covered cropped, often with cereal/legume mixes to add nutrients and organic matter to our soils.

Past Projects

Since its founding in 1983, Native Seeds/SEARCH has engaged in diverse and innovative programs that have spanned the fields of agricultural conservation, cultural resilience, and health and nutrition. Several of our past projects are described below and on associated pages. These are integral to our history and demonstrate the breadth of our approach and collaborations.

Cultural Memory Bank

Read more about the Cultural Memory Bank project.

RAFT Alliance

Read more about the RAFT Alliance.

Sierra Madre Project

Read more about the Sierra Madre project.

Southwest Regis-Tree

Read more about the Southwest Regis-Tree.

Native Seeds/SEARCH is a 501(c)(3). Copyright © 2015 Native Seeds/SEARCH. All Rights Reserved.