Date of Award

Spring 4-17-2024


Dan Tobin

Travis Reynolds

Micaela Colley

Project Description

Seeds are often valued solely as agricultural inputs, which diminishes the other benefits they provide such as cultural connections between people and the food they consume. Because seeds are primarily valued for their ability to enhance productivity and profit, a limited supply of culturally meaningful (CM) seeds exist in the US, creating barriers for individuals and communities - and particularly ones of color - seeking to connect to their traditional foodways. The Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance (UCFA), a collective of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) seed growers and distributors, is working to construct a seed value chains (SVC) which proliferates the accessibility of CM seeds for communities of color and promotes seed sovereignty. In this project, we conducted a SVC analysis, which accounts for all the activities required to take seeds from production to consumption, to better understand how the Northeastern United States’ SVC functions, what the priorities of different stakeholders are, and where bottlenecks and opportunities exist to develop market opportunities for CM seeds. Based on data from three focus groups (Ujamaa seed growers, other farmers/gardeners, seed companies; n = 14), and survey responses (n =1753), this study elucidates several areas in which developing market opportunities for CM seed will require harmonizing diverse priorities and objectives along the SVC. For example, farmers/gardeners note CM seeds as a limiting factor for providing CM produce to their customers, seed growers express an interest in accessing market opportunities for their seeds, but seed companies expressed concern about culturally appropriate marketing of CM seeds. Further, farmers expressed the desire to work with CM seeds, but the agroecological constraints to locally grow those crops in a Northeastern climate creates a tension between local and CM seeds, highlighting potential market constraints for regionally adapted CM seeds. Lastly, all stakeholder groups agreed that CM seeds should be treated differently than typical market goods, emphasizing the need to embed values, such as fair labor practices, seed sovereignty, and ecological sustainability, into the CM SVC, rather than only considering supply and demand analyses. By examining stakeholders in relation to one another, this value chain analysis will inform strategies to better link different actors along the Northeastern US SVC, supporting seed growers to better access markets to make CM seeds – and the foods they produce –more widely accessible, enhancing both seed and food security.

Project Approach

Scholarly research

Document Type