Alum Heather McCargo 78F’s Wild Seed Project Brings the Fight for Environmental Diversity to Your Backyard

Started by Hampshire College alum Heather McCargo 78F in 2014, the Wild Seed Project (WSP) is actively helping to restore some of New England’s lost biodiversity as well as building bridges to make the world of sustainable horticulture more accessible. What started as an organization comprised of McCargo, a working board, and a small group of volunteers has grown into a nationally recognized non-profit with 2,000 dues-paying members, programming for garden enthusiasts and climate activists, and an online store offering curious gardeners access to hundreds of native seeds.

“My strategy is, how do we help people find their entry point?” McCargo said. “Is it because you really care about birds that you want native plants? Is it because you don’t ever want to mow again? Is it because you’re really into foraging and wild edibles? Is it because you care deeply about climate change? Or is it your gardening aesthetic? There are, like, a million other reasons to get excited and engaged with native plants.”

In an effort to spread awareness and energize a young and diverse demographic, the WSP is planning to place its planting and growing guides in public libraries and schools as well as working towards hosting bilingual events and printing bilingual publications.

At the core of McCargo’s mission is a plea, asking people to reimagine and redefine what makes landscapes beautiful. The WSP asks us to challenge what we consider to be an aesthetic garden and to instead prioritize what is so often overlooked — our pollinators, healthy biodiverse soil, and ecological communities.

DownEast profiled McCargo in an article called, “This Woman Wants to Destroy Your Lawn." Read the whole story.

McCargo received her bachelor’s degree in plant ecology from Hampshire College and a master’s degree in ecological landscape design from the Conway School of Landscape Design. In 2021, McCargo won a Source Award for her leadership in promoting native plant populations and working to restore biodiversity in Maine.

Photograph by Michael D. Wilson for DownEast

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