Date of Award

Spring 4-28-2023


Daniel Tobin

Heron Breen

Eric von Wettberg

Project Description

Often a neglected item in our current industrialized food system, seed is now typically seen as a commodity. Agrobiodiversity is in decline with diverse crop varieties being lost from cultivation and memory, further threatening levels of biodiversity. Research indicates that seed systems are crucial for the conservation of crop diversity and local adaption of cultivars. Globally, people are working to grow and share seeds that support seed production based around the premises of community-based production and (agro)biodiversity. This project and paper draw attention to the regional seed work in the US Northeast. Through a participatory approach, and an active participation in the Northeast Seed Conference, this project engages seed organizers, growers, and keepers across the region in exploration of regional seeds and their stories and aims to document important stories before they are lost. This project aims to collect, share, and analyze narratives in the NE that tell the story of four culturally significant cultivars in hopes to further shed light to the modern implications of seed saving and the stories that support it. This project explores the different kinds of relationships that people have with diverse cultivars, and the values and meanings embedded in those relationships, through examining the stories and oral history of specific seed cultivars in the NE. Key findings include the values and motivations for regional seed preservation that have influenced people's actions, such as the shared goal of regional resilience and the centering of care for the seed. The findings highlight cultural shifts and climate change as two main factors that impact the work of regional seed keeping. The conclusions drawn from this research can help further the understanding of the NE seed system and the ways in which it is supported by mentorship relationships, shared stories, and connective place-based seed projects, and similarly challenged by industrialization and ownership. The implications of these findings suggest that to strengthen NE regional seed work, it will be necessary to build new cultural traditions around varieties through relationship building and community centered seed projects.

Document Type