Seed of the Year: Rattlesnake Bean

The Seed of the Year initiative is a partnership between City Sprouts, opens a new window, The Big Garden, opens a new window, Omaha Public Library, Big Muddy Urban Farm, opens a new window and The Union for Contemporary Art, opens a new window. The program invites any interested Omahans to plant the Seed of the Year at their homes or gardens in order to save seeds from the plants to donate back to OPL's Common Soil Seed Library.

The 2019 Seed of the Year is the Rattlesnake Bean. (View the 2019 Seed of the Year flyer) Alex O'Hanlon, south garden manager at City Sprouts, and Cait Caughey, education director at The Big Garden, chose the bean because they are easy to grow and care for; their purple and green pods have a distinguished appearance; and they can be consumed as a fresh or dried bean.

The two returned to Omaha from the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance’s Seed Saving Teacher Training last fall with a better understanding of the seeds and seed saving, as well as the motivation to start a seed-saving initiative locally.

2019 Seed of the Year

Have you heard about the Seed of the Year?! City Sprouts & The Big Garden are happy to tell you all about it! You'll want to plant these mid-May through mid-June, so get yours today! Let's all work together to create a more resilient local food system. Watch the video to learn more!

Posted by The Big Garden on Monday, March 11, 2019

"We're concerned with growing our own food for ourselves the number one thing we need is seeds," said O'Hanlon. She and Caughey reached out to other gardening nonprofits, including OPL, with its Common Soil Seed Library, to build a network to help distribute seeds and spread the word. Stocking OPL's Common Soil Seed Library was a big goal for their effort because of its accessibility.

"It's a way for the community to learn how to save seeds together," said O'Hanlon. "Common Soil is there year-round, for people to use as a resource. Having it at OPL opens up the idea of gardening and seed saving to a larger group of people, which is really our goal, to inspire folks."

O'Hanlon and Caughey opted to focus the annual campaign around one type of seed to allow the community to learn about saving a specific type of seed each year. They sourced a large quantity of seeds from Meadowlark Hearth Farm, opens a new window in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and their respective organizations have been distributing them all year. They also shared the seeds with OPL, which stocked them in the Common Soil Seed Library until they ran out.

On November 2 and 3*, City Sprouts and The Big Garden will host seed-saving parties at their locations. Anyone who’s grown and saved the beans can attend, bring their beans, learn how to process them as a group, and take some home for themselves while leaving some to donate to the Common Soil Seed Library.

Questions? Contact Alex O’Hanlon via email at, opens a new window.

Interested in growing beans? Learn more from this guide from Seed Savers Exchange.

*This date was edited from October 19 and 20 in the original post to reflect changes made by the hosting organizations.