Projects and Service
You can find some of my service activities, community engagement/outreach projects and grants that either I initiated, completed, received or organized for Eberly College of Arts & Sciences and WVU.
Training Small Farmers for Commercial Seed Production while Exploring Profitability of Annual Vegetable Seed Crops in West Virginia-SARE Partnership Grant (ONE21-403), $16,996, 2022
My position at WVU involves community-based projects, including working with farmers to enhance their sustainable farming practices. In 2020, I introduced the concept of contract-based commercial seed production to WV by working with two farms to grow seeds for the catalog of Two Seeds in a Pod (my farm in Reedsville, WV). This collaborative work generated $900 in total for the farmers; it also helped us replenish seed stock for 11 varieties in our catalog. In 2021, we will work with additional farmers in WV to have them grow seeds for more than 20 varieties for our catalog. I estimate that this collaboration will generate a total farmer income of over $6,000.
In early 2021, I distributed an online survey to small farmers to assess their needs and to better understand their interest for growing seeds. 75% of 24 respondents expressed interest in growing seeds for commercial seed market; however, they also said that they need educational support, network, and connections to pursue this economic opportunity.
This project will help me give the partner farmers the training they need to evaluate seed yields and profitability of a variety of open-pollinated vegetable seed crops in field and tunnel growing conditions. I will assist the farmers with all aspects of growing high quality seeds such as dry and wet seed processing methods, maintaining high seed germination rates and seed quality, rouging (removing) plants with undesirable characteristics, crop isolation, hand-pollination, improving seed yields, and professionally packaging seeds for delivery and fulfilling seed contracts.
This project aims to:
- Train the partner farmers to grow and maintain selected seed crops of tomato, pepper, bean, squash, lettuce and arugula in open-field and tunnel conditions;
- Train the partner farmers to produce high quality seeds that meet the minimum federal seed germination requirements and commercial seed standards;
- Train the partner farmers to evaluate the seed yield of each crop for profitability;
- Walk the partner farmers through the successful completion of commercial seed production contracts and development of seed enterprise budget;
- Improve the productivity of the partner farmers and the economic viability of their farms through increasing land use by commercial seed production as a financial incentive;
- Educate the partner farmers to steward regionally-adapted heirloom seed varieties, carry on the cultural and agricultural traditions associated with seeds, and engage other farmers in their network for growing seeds; and
- Reach out to more small farmers, via workshops, visual materials, Zoom presentation, seed growers’ manual, and social media, who would be interested in growing seeds, to assess their needs and answer their questions.
Soul Fire Farm's Uprooting Racism in the Food System Training, 2022
I organized this event for WVU and our communities in West Virginia. The training was facilitated and presented by Soul Fire Farm.
"The Uprooting Racism training is a theory and action workshop for environmental and food justice leaders to uproot systemic racism in our organizations and society. We delve deep into the history and structural realities of racial injustice and develop an understanding of the movement strategies of frontlines communities struggling for food sovereignty. We will examine our personal and societal roles of complicity in and resistance to the system. Much of the time will be spent developing tangible action plans – to use our sphere of influence to uproot these oppressions. True to Soul Fire Farm’s values and culture, this work will be rooted in fierce love, courageous self-reflection, and healing connection to land."
West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program grant ($3,000), 2020-2021
I worked with my apprentice, Lafayette Dexter, on topics related to seed saving, sustainable farming, seed justice and cultural significance of seeds as part of this apprenticeship program.
West Virginia Humanities Council mini grant ($2,600), 2019
This grant was used to fund the Seedy Talks speaker series of the Morgantown Seed Preservation Library.
Morgantown Seed Preservation Library, 2019-
collaboration with the Morgantown Public Library and WVU Libraries, Mehmet Öztan created the Morgantown Seed Preservation Library
(MSPL) that was initiated on April 12th, 2019.
In West Virginia, 20% of the population suffers from hunger. Seeds are critical food sources, and in a changing climate, preserving regionally-adapted seed varieties is increasingly vital for the state’s food security. A diverse pool of such food sources significantly improves the chances of establishing sustainable food systems. Long-term objective of MSPL is to make a self-sustainable preservation center that addresses the urgent need to secure unique seed varieties and food diversity of the State.
seeds always have a story associated with their keepers, and they oftentimes
give insights about the communities in which they have been stewarded for generations. Typically,
families grow and select seeds based on
their traditions, cultural identities, and cuisines, all of which help us identify
seeds geographically. In
addition to its capacity as a preservation center, MSPL will also be dedicated
to discovering seed-oriented human stories. Preserving
the State’s seeds, along with their stories, is a way to celebrate Appalachian foodways and
farm traditions, and it will also help the Morgantown Community reflect on the
cumulative knowledge and wisdom of Appalachian families, that have been carried
on generation after generation through seeds.
MSPL aims to celebrate the cultural diversity involved with seeds and promote an inclusive society through seeds in greater Morgantown area.
Artwork by Ruth Smith of Tampa, FL