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Seeds are central to crop-based production systems, yet in the United States seeds have been largely overlooked in both research and local and regional food systems initiatives. This report seeks to address the gap in seed-related research by assessing current strengths and vulnerabilities of Vermont’s seed systems. In particular, the findings presented in this report illuminate how seed systems can maintain function in the face of external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we can apply the lessons learned toward building resilience for an uncertain future due to factors such as climate change. Despite the turmoil caused by the pandemic, the last several years have provided a unique opportunity to identify strategies to strengthen Vermont’s seed systems.

The data presented and discussed in this report build on existing research and showcase a myriad of seed-related efforts in Vermont. We use an interdisciplinary approach to study the supply and demand for seed among farmers and gardeners in Vermont during the COVID-19 pandemic. To contextualize our report, we begin with a brief summary of findings taken from the 2020 and 2021 Vermonter Polls regarding seed system trends. Data from these surveys, conducted by the UVM Center for Rural Studies, were collected in February-March 2020 (before and during the onset of the pandemic in Vermont) and February- March 2021 (nearly a year into the pandemic). We then present the findings from two online surveys of commercial farmers (n=73) and non-commercial seed growers (n=75) in Vermont, which include a specific focus on five commonly grown crops in Vermont: garlic, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and potatoes. In the future, this work can guide collaborative and participatory responses to seed system vulnerabilities exposed by the COVID-19 crisis.