SE Seed Video: Southern Peas

Thanks to Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network for sponsoring the southern pea episode:


How to Save Southern Pea Seeds

How To Save Southern Peas explores seed saving, seed growing and seed heritage in the Southeast USA. Interviews with farmers and growers across the south tell a story of seed heritage deeper than any one variety. Take a deep dive into saving southern peas to learn both the technical side of saving seeds and the reasons why it’s so important.

Botanists have placed the Southern Pea’s genetic homeland in the Niger River Basin of West Africa. Like many other crops with African origins, Southern peas crossed the Atlantic with the slave trade and first became established in the Caribbean before moving up into the American South. As a drought-tolerant, heat-loving legume, the Southern pea thrives in the heat and humidity of the Southeast. Another pea-plus is that Mexican bean beetles (a notorious bean pest) don’t really have a taste for Southern peas, although sadly this doesn’t apply to deer, who wholeheartedly love them. Cows and pigs are also big fans, although it wasn’t until Southern peas arrived in North America that they received the name cowpeas. It’s unfortunately a term most likely rooted in racism—to denigrate a nutritious West African food crop to a mere fodder crop. The term African Pea reclaims the legacy of an important, nutritious and delicious African crop.

SPACINGSame as when grown for eating
POLLINATIONPerfect flowers, usually self pollinated
SEED LIFE3-4 Years
POPULATION SIZEViable seed: 1 plant
Variety Maintenance: 10-25 plants
Genetic Preservation: 50 plants
SCREEN SIZE9/64 -24/64 inch

This video features:

Matthew Raiford, Gilliard Farms, Georgia
Angie Lavezzo, Painted Crow Farms, North Carolina
Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Virginia
Megan Allen-Lazaro, Care of the Earth Community Farm, Tennessee
Dove Stackhouse, Sand Mountain Seed Bank, Alabama
Haylene Green aka The Garden Queen, West End Community Urban Garden and Nursery, Georgia
Dan Greer, Tennessee
Amyrose Foll, Virginia Free Farm, Virginia
Jon Jackson, Comfort Farms, Georgia
Michael Carter, Carter Farms, Virginia
Jamila Norman, Patchwork City Farms, Georgia

Thanks to our video series sponsor:

Two Seeds in a Pod logo
Sow True Seed logo

In 2021 The Utopian Seed Project and Communal Studios received a grant from Southern SARE to create a Southeast Seed video series. The project traveled across 12 states and interviewed over 50 farmers, community gardeners, seed savers, seed growers and seed advocates. The footage was weaved together to tell the story and seed saving of six southern crops: corn, okra, southern peas, collards, sweet potatoes and squash.

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2020-38640-31521 through the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under subaward number LS21-351. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider.