Presentation Title

Seed Producer Motivations for Maintaining Crop Diversity in Vermont

Abstract

Crop diversity is fundamental to the sustainability of agricultural and ecological systems, especially as climate change imposes new challenges to food production. However, insufficient attention has been placed on its conservation within the United States despite its continued decline. As crop diversity in the US has chiefly been accounted for by crops grown commercially, the conservation of crop diversity that occurs through non-commercial activities such as gardening have been largely ignored. This stems to a great extent from the lack of knowledge surrounding the crop diversity extant within the US, as well as the actors practicing its conservation. Furthermore, the research that has been conducted on crop diversity in the US has principally focused on the economic motivations of producers, which has neglected to consider other factors that span political, environmental, cultural and community-related motivations, all of which have found to be important among producers in other areas of the world. These oversights underscore a need to take a more holistic approach to crop diversity research within the US. Based on 161 responses (63% response rate) received through an online survey among seed producers in Vermont, this paper focuses on seed producers, the crop diversity they maintain in their farms and gardens, and their motivations for doing so. Findings from the survey suggest that seed producers are motivated by a variety of factors, with economic ones being the least considered. Based in the findings that high levels of crop diversity exist in Vermont and that its conservers have myriad motivations, this paper argues that resources exist in Vermont to adapt agricultural production to climate change, but that to leverage those, new ways of examining crop diversity must be pursued. By accounting for crop diversity outside of formal systems, as well as exploring alternative motivations that influence the maintenance of crop diversity, this paper can help work towards this objective as well as facilitate greater interest and investment in crop diversity conservation in Vermont and across the US.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Daniel Tobin

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Program/Major

Community and International Development

Primary Research Category

Food & Environment Studies

Secondary Research Category

Social Sciences

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Seed Producer Motivations for Maintaining Crop Diversity in Vermont

Crop diversity is fundamental to the sustainability of agricultural and ecological systems, especially as climate change imposes new challenges to food production. However, insufficient attention has been placed on its conservation within the United States despite its continued decline. As crop diversity in the US has chiefly been accounted for by crops grown commercially, the conservation of crop diversity that occurs through non-commercial activities such as gardening have been largely ignored. This stems to a great extent from the lack of knowledge surrounding the crop diversity extant within the US, as well as the actors practicing its conservation. Furthermore, the research that has been conducted on crop diversity in the US has principally focused on the economic motivations of producers, which has neglected to consider other factors that span political, environmental, cultural and community-related motivations, all of which have found to be important among producers in other areas of the world. These oversights underscore a need to take a more holistic approach to crop diversity research within the US. Based on 161 responses (63% response rate) received through an online survey among seed producers in Vermont, this paper focuses on seed producers, the crop diversity they maintain in their farms and gardens, and their motivations for doing so. Findings from the survey suggest that seed producers are motivated by a variety of factors, with economic ones being the least considered. Based in the findings that high levels of crop diversity exist in Vermont and that its conservers have myriad motivations, this paper argues that resources exist in Vermont to adapt agricultural production to climate change, but that to leverage those, new ways of examining crop diversity must be pursued. By accounting for crop diversity outside of formal systems, as well as exploring alternative motivations that influence the maintenance of crop diversity, this paper can help work towards this objective as well as facilitate greater interest and investment in crop diversity conservation in Vermont and across the US.