OSOC: Setting up your own

Note, this page is under construction.

Outline of this page:

  1. Explaining the program
  2. Getting started, pick a plant
  3. Picking a bean variety
  4. Picking a pea variety
  5. Finding your beans/peas, resources
  6. Choosing quantities
  7. Packing, share your seeds
  8. Increasing participation
  9. Corresponding with your growers
  10. Celebrating the harvest
  11. Submitting your feedback, questions.


  1. First, an overview

One Seed, One Community (OSOC) aims to strengthen our community by providing a shared experience that teaches people how to grow nutritious food and save seeds.

The One Seed, One Community project is based on “one book, one city” or “community read” programs. Instead of uniting a community in reading a single book, we find common ground by growing the same seed.

Many home gardens are usually too small to grow the minimum plant numbers to maintain the genetic stock of many seed varieties. The solution: choose one seed for many gardeners to build a greater genetics diversity of that variety. We share our seeds with one another through the vehicle of our seed libraries and seed swaps. Over time, this process has the potential to build local adaptation in these seeds and strengthen our local food systems.

2. Getting started: pick a bean, or a pea

We recommend starting with a species that is super easy to save the seeds from. Easy choices are: tomatoes, lettuce, peas, and beans because these are extremely easy self-pollinating plants and their offspring come out true-to-type, which means they look like the parent plant. However, for the One Seed, One Community Project, we recommend selecting either a bean or a pea variety. For a few reasons:

  • There tends to be more satisfaction in saving these larger seeds for some people. Perhaps it’s size or a tactile factor.
  • Many bean seeds are gorgeous and can hook folks into seed saving!
  • Although tomato seeds are easy to save, the plants are not as easy to grow. Tomatoes, a subtropical plant, often have to be started indoors on heat mats in many regions.

3. Picking a bean variety

We recommend selecting a variety that meets at least some, if not all, of these criteria:

  • Unusual variety: Select something that is not available in your home garden store or big box store; perhaps it’s a locally saved variety that has a story. (Maybe you find something that is a local variety, but you can’t currently get the volume you need. Put a plan together to grow it out on the side to offer next year.)
  • Gorgeous bean: There is something exciting about opening a dried pod and beautiful beans are inside. Selecting an eye-popping bean when dried will inspire both kids and adults alike!
  • Snap bean or dual purpose bean: Most folks are not going to grow soup or dried beans in quantities that are sufficient to make a meal out of. As a result, they may be discouraged to save seeds again and are less likely to share the seeds that they did save. Finding a bean that is eaten in the green stage is better for the purposes of engaging people in saving and sharing seeds. You may also find a bean that can used as a snap and soup bean. Once again, most folks are not going to have the quantity to make soup from their dried beans, but they’ll have the satisfaction of harvesting some of their green beans, saving some of their seeds, and having an increased appreciation for the amount of time and land required to make soup beans.
  • Bush beans: Although offering either a bush or pole beans is fine. Bush beans will not require extra materials (poles) for novice gardeners.  However, the downside is that the yield will be less. Maybe you can start with a bush bean, and then the following year, once you and your community have built some capacity, you can start offering pole beans.

4. Picking a pea variety

We recommend selecting a variety that meets at least some, if not all, of these criteria:

  • Unusual variety: Select something that is not available in your home garden store or big box store; perhaps it’s a locally saved variety that has a story. (Maybe you find something that is a local variety, but you can’t currently get the volume you need. Put a plan together to grow it out on the side to offer next year.)
  • Unusual characteristic:  The peas in the pod are not going to be eye-catching. See if you can find a pea that has some unusual characteristic, ex Golden Sweet Pea (yellow podded), Sugar Magnolia (purple podded), or an attractive bi-colored flower.
  • Sugar snap, snow or dual purpose: It takes a lot of shelling peas to make a dish and the same is  true for soup peas. We recommend starting with a sugar snap pea. Snow peas may not have as much appeal as a sugar snap, but they are the next best option. You may also be able to find a pea that is dual purpose, such as one that can be grown as a snap or shelling pea.

5. Finding your beans/peas, resources

  • Talk with local farmers several months in advance to see what they are offering. See if they have any interesting things they are selling. Perhaps, you can work something out for the following year, if this year doesn’t work.
  • Look at regional seed companies or larger seed conservancy projects that sell seeds, such as Seed Savers Exchange and Native Seed/SEARCH in the USA.

WARNING: You do NOT want to get seeds from the supermarket to sell or from out of the country.  There is a bean mosaic virus so you want to make sure you get your seed from a reputable grower who is selling beans for growing.

NOTE: Many small growers cannot afford to pay for the organic certification, but use good farming practices. Additionally, it is better to buy something that is conventionally grown, but unusual, and preserve that than it is to pick a commonly available variety.

6. Choosing quantities 

Three different colored packets with different quantities of seeds. You can get a rough estimate of how many peas or beans are in a pound/kilo from many professional growers. You can have all packets contain the same amount of seeds, 20 is a good number, or you can have different sized packets.

Three levels of seed packets:

Care to Seed Share: 20 seeds – save some for yourself & a neighbor (Spanish)

•Grow a Row: 40 seeds – grow a row for the benefit of you and the community

•Bed of Beans: 100 seeds – grow a bed of beans for the benefit of the community

The Grow a Row size was inspired by the Grow a Row campaign to provide food access to food insecure members or our community.

Here is a calculation template that you can make a copy of to see how many packets you want to make and how many pounds or kilos you need to purchase.  Here is an example of what East Bay Local Seeds did for our first One Seed, One Community program, and what we actually gave away so that we have information moving forward. We decided to just make handouts for the Spanish translations instead of packets with Spanish labels. So when someone needed one in Spanish, we just taped on a Spanish label on top of the English label. We did not get the Farsi/Dari translation done this first year.


7. Packing, share your seeds

It takes time to pack seeds, but with some planning it can be fun and efficient. Have a packing party and take a few steps ahead of time to best utilize your volunteers.

Prior to the Packing Party

1. Decide on how many seeds go into each packet. 20 is a good number.

2. Figure out a measuring tool that can quickly approximate the number of seeds you are giving. For example, the Painted Pony was a fairly small bean and 20 beans fit in a tablespoon. So count out the number of peas or beans and try a few different measuring tools, such as measuring cups. You may want to take a marker and put a line on the container to approximate how many 20 would be. Have several sets of these pre-marked before the packing party.

3.  Have your envelopes printed. Here’s an example of the Care to Share (20 beans) packet.  It’s not much space to communicate a lot of information. This is one reason we encourage you to get emails from people. Additional information will be shared via email. If you are doing several levels of packets: Care to Seed Share, Grow a Row, & Bed of Beans or Plot of Peas, consider printing these on different colored paper.

At the Packing Party

Materials: Seeds, labels, paper cutter (if at all possible) or scissors, glue, measuring tools (predetermine quantity), stapler, & staples, rags/sponges & cup for water (optional – for sealing envelopes; staplers are faster)

It is a lot of work to attach labels. Everyone is going to have their system, but you may want to have a quick discussion to see what folks thing will be fastest. 4 dots of glue in each corner is usually sufficient to attach an envelope.

Preparing for the packing party.

8. Increasing participation

1.  Attend farmer’s markets and other community events to announce your project and distribute seed packets

2.  Set up a display (8.5×11 flyer) and signup sheet at your local seed library. Have some seeds (or seed packets) available. Coordinate with the librarian as to whether people check out the seeds at the counter, or a self-check out system.

3. Reach a larger audience with social media, newsletters and websites: create and share an electronic sign-up form with an explanation of how/where folks can get their seeds. Example: create a flyer/newsletter and explain that they need to go to their local seed library (list all of the names and addresses).

4.  Create a spreadsheet of locations/people who have larger plots, such as community gardens, urban ag folks, colleges (horticulture departments), school gardens, MeetUp groups. Send emails or call them with a short description of your project, asking them if they are willing/able to do a “Bed of Beans” or a “Plot of Peas” for the community. If so, create flyers (like this one) for the growers to post in order to educate their visitors about the group grow program (seed saving, the One Seed, One Community program).

One library made this sign for patrons informing them of the One Seed, One Community program. Here is a sample of a Google form that was shared on social media to increase participation.


The above garden sign was made available to people who had a public garden to increase awareness of seed saving and the One Seed, One Community program.

9. Corresponding with your growers

It’s important to get email addresses (hopefully, people have them and are willing to share). This will allow you to support the growers throughout the growing season and build a community of seed savers. Some ways to get participants:

You will need to determine the best planting times for the crops you are growing in your area. Here are several basic emails you can tweak to get you started. A BIG thanks to HillieSalo who wrote the following emails and put the basic template for this program together!

1.  Initial email – Getting Started  (Spanish)

2.  Second email – Planting

3. Third email – Reminder to plant and also information about upcoming seed classes; it’s helpful to have a class planned during the One Seed, One Community program for folks who feel like they want a bit more support and for those who want to learn how to save other crops too.  Here is  seed saving class presentation. Feel free to use it or adapt it.

4. Fourth email – Harvesting and a save the date: Great Bean Weigh Off Party

5.  Fifth email – Celebration and details about Great Bean Weigh Off Party or dropping of seeds at seed library

10. Celebrating the harvest

Find a time to celebrate! Silicon Valley Grows did their “Great Bean Weigh Off” party on World Foods Day, October 16. Some other suggestions are having a seed swap / Great Bean Weigh Off. This would encourage more folks to show up and you can also have the next One Seed, One Community program selection to give away. Another idea is to see if there are any harvest festivals that you can be a part of and add the Great Bean Weigh Off to the celebration.


11. Submitting your feedback, questions.

If your community does a One Seed, One Community program and you have suggestions on how to improve any of the resources or create additional ones, please let us know.

A huge thanks to Hillie Salo for creating the One Seed, One Community program!


• One Seed, One Community was designed by Hillie Salo of Silicon Valley Grows, Silicon Valley, CA, USA

• This article first appeared in Cool Beans! Seed Libraries Newsletter, Issue #13