Seeding the Future With Hope

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Our co-director, Rhianna Simes, was recently featured in a story by the Mail Tribune, "Seeding the Future With Hope, Celebrating Women’s Work with Plants in the Rogue Valley: Rhianna Simes." This is one part of a series of stories about women gardeners in the Rogue Valley. Read the full story below to learn more about Rhianna and Cultivate Oregon's recent projects.

Photo by Rhonda Nowak. Rhianna Simes has been an advocate for community seed exchanges and seed saving for many years. She’s built a seed library at Verdant Phoenix, her urban mini farm and educational center.

Seeding the future with hope
Mail Tribune | December 25, 2021

“We must set ourselves to the task of revitalizing the earth. Regreening the earth, sowing seeds in the desert — that is the path society must follow.”

— Masanobu Fukuoka, “The One-Straw Revolution,” 1978

Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a Japanese farmer, philosopher and author who developed and taught natural farming methods. One of his techniques was the ancient practice of making seed balls, in which different kinds of seeds are mixed together, rolled into clay, and then dispersed onto the ground. Nature takes over from there, and the result is a garden or field filled with diverse plants that support wildlife and humans.

Inspired by Fukuoka’s teachings, Phoenix resident Rhianna Simes decided seed balls were an ideal way to help regreen some of the scorched earth in her hometown left by the devastating Almeda fire that occurred in September 2020. A year after the fire, Rhianna organized Sowing Seeds of Hope, a community seed swap that included making seed balls and throwing them into burn areas.

“It was a fun and tangible way for people to celebrate the importance of seeds,” Rhianna recalled. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the plants that come up in the spring.”


Rhianna and co-director Laura Jean have established two programs aimed at increasing access to seeds. Seeds to the People provides donated seeds to low-income and underserved populations in Oregon. Rhianna and Laura are working with the Medford library to establish a free “seed library” with some of the donated seeds. The Local Seeds for Local People program focuses on providing locally grown and adapted seeds to farm programs and school gardens in the Rogue Valley.

“We want to support existing farming programs by providing them with seeds that will thrive in our environment and support local seed growers, and by providing education about the importance of planting and saving locally adapted seeds,” Rhianna said. “Seeds are an amazing bridge — they are part of our past and our future.”

So far, she and Laura have partnered with The Farm at Southern Oregon University, the ACCESS Food Share gardens and mobile food pantry, and the Rogue Valley Farm to School gardens.

Another focus of Cultivate Oregon is to provide education and incentives for local farmers who use regenerative and carbon sequestration practices. They hosted a virtual Soil Symposium in November 2020, aimed at helping landowners learn how to produce healthy soils and mitigate against the effects of climate change. In April 2021, they co-hosted the Living Soil Awards with the Friends of Family Farmers organization to celebrate Oregon “HEROs” (holistic, ecological, regenerative operators).

Rhianna also spends time at state conferences and agriculture-related public hearings to advocate for organic and regenerative farmers, and for open-source seeds.

“Farmers are busy facing layers of challenges,” she said. “It’s hard for them to be in an advocacy position, so we make it a point to show up and advocate for them. We know that without farmers we have no food; without seeds, we have no future.”

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📷 Photo by Rhonda Nowak