The Nomad Seed Project sets out to research, document, experiment, and propagate wild, native, and perennial plants which have exceptional value to humans and their ecology as food, medicine, shelter, materials, and beauty.

Imagining the world of nomadic gatherer-hunters invokes to mind a patchwork landscape with oases of human habitat along pathways of migration unfolding with the pattern of the seasons, plants, or animals. For thousands of years, humans lived in this manner. Along the way, they gathered useful plants and intentionally spread the seeds as a form of populations management. Ecology has been a co-creation alongside humankind for a long time.

Humans often acted as the “legs” of important plants, expanding them both in their range and abundance. It was humans who first brought the pawpaw (Asimina triloba) out of the subtropics and spread it around the eastern temperate forests, and it was humans also who spread the sunroot or Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) throughout the continent.

The Nomad Seed Project is a re-envisioning of this old paradigm. By gathering and planting the seeds of native, wild, perennial plants that are important to us, we as humans have the power to impact the ecosystems we are a part of in positive and healthy ways, while also meeting our own requirements for food, shelter, medicine, and materials. Neither agriculture, gardening, nor preservationism, but something in between.

It may be a long time however before we can fully sustain our lives again from the wild plants growing in nature’s garden. While prior to colonialism the presence and abundance of plant foods and medicines was much greater, our ecosystems today have been degraded, fractured, or destroyed in the wake of farming, ranching, mining, urban development, suburban sprawl, and the highway system. Now it is more important than ever that we act again as the legs to the plants that we love, helping them gain new ground, ahead of mass extinction and climate change. The Nomad Seed Project describes work that could also be called do-it-yourself ecological restoration, at the hands of citizen scientists acting according to their own conscience. By working with these native plants, with the same stroke we expand our own habitat. There is a lot of work to do, but it all starts with the power of a seed…