“Re-establishing a Seed Commons through Oral History Methodology: Capturing the Story of Seed ” is a research project that provides a venue for preserving knowledge of the nearly lost art of saving seed while grounding students in an epistemology of hope as they document change-makers who are charting a course forward into the great uncertainty of the Anthropocene. It highlights storytelling and mindful listening as a means of transferring knowledge from one generation to the next, and engages students in a high-impact pedagogy within a community of practice.
In fall of 2019, Beth Bridgeman, assistant professor of cooperative education, offered “Seed Sovereignty and Citizen Action”, an advanced level eleven-week course into which this project was incorporated.
When we save seed, we are saving the important germplasm, or genetic material, within that seed. But it is critical also, to save the story of that seed. Who are those working at the forefront of seed sovereignty today? How are they saving seed, and why? What are their stories? Why do they save this particular seed? Where did it come from? Was it passed down through their family? Which ancestor passed it down? What mattered to those ancestors? What did they hope for? For how many generations has it been saved? How far back can the seed be traced? What are the memories associated with the saving of this seed?
Students identified, interviewed and archived the stories of seed-savers and those who are working to re-establish a new seed commons, thereby utilizing oral history and experiential methodology in their own learning, and making available to the public these impactful strategies of seed mentors and seed elders who are “fighting the good fight”.
“[But] someone needs to keep up an old method if it’s not to be lost; some young person needs to get interested and begin the life’s work of mastering the craft; be it botanical art or baking salt-raising bread or making saddles. Like lifeforms themselves, human crafts must be continually renewed, regrown inside a living person, or they become obsolete, extinct, within a generation”.[i]
[i] Howsare, Erika. “The Magnificence of Seeing.” Taproot, 14 Nov. 2017.
Listen to the Student Interviews:
Students in Beth Bridgeman’s Global Seminar spent spring of 2017 learning about biochar, wildcrafting, beekeeping, goatmilking, regenerative agriculture, horsedrawn plowing, culture and the power of food memories, culminating in an all day cooking session and feast.
Beth Bridgeman was the invited guest speaker at the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden on August 23 where she spoke on the history of U.S. seed patent legislation since 1930, gene trait and utility patent law and seed sovereignty. She is an invited speaker at the Ohio School Garden conference on October 13 and a panelist on “Community Efforts and Environmentalism” at the Chatham College Food and Climate Change conference October 14. On October 21, she is co-presenting at the InFACT Seed to Sustainability Workshop at Antioch College with Dr David Francis, geneticist and tomato plant breeder from the Ohio Agriculture and Research Development Center. Second in a series of four statewide workshops, the InFACT series provides professional training for seedsavers, grower and plant breeders. Bridgeman and Francis will speak on seed policy law for small-scale commercial seed production.
For his first co-op, Tyler Clapsaddle traveled to the beautiful, isolated location of Lopez Island, WA. There he became acquainted with the owners of Horse Drawn Farms, “an 80-acre market vegetable and livestock operation that acts under principles of stewardship, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.” Working as a farm hand, Tyler spent most of his time tending to the livestock: herding sheep, milking cows, caring for the pigs. When he was not focused on the livestock, his responsibilities turned to more work on the land from tilling, planting transplants, to laying down protective cloth. He found himself immersed in a world of learning, always seeking to ask “why” and digging deeper into his work for greater understanding. As Tyler coins it, he is “forever a student.” Through this thoughtful meditation, Tyler found himself becoming more process-driven in his everyday life, whether it be doing homework or completing farm chores. Beyond the daily work on the farm, Tyler worked to educate the locals on the efforts of Horse Drawn Farm, to foster an appreciation and support of organic, mindfull farming methods.
Photo Credit: Tyler Clapsaddle ’19
The vision of Antioch College is to be “the place where new and better ways of living are discovered as a result of meaningful engagement with the world through intentional linkages between classroom and experiential education.” In keeping with this vision of “new and better ways of living”, Antioch College has established itself as a national leader in higher education sustainability. In 2014, the College signed the Real Food Campus Commitment and is currently the second highest Real Food campus in the country, utilizing 56% real food; behind only Sterling College. In 2015, the College became a “neonic-free campus”, one of only three in the United States, committing to the Bee Protective Campaign, as recognized by The Center for Food Safety and Beyond Pesticides. Also in 2015, the College signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and in 2016 The White House Educator’s Commitment on Resilient Design.
Antioch College is now ready to support the next conversation in new ways of thinking: closing the human nutrient cycle. As water becomes more scarce, droughts become more frequent, and dead zones appear in lakes and oceans due to nutrient run-off, we can no longer afford our current practice of using potable drinking water to flush our waste into treatment facilities and on into rivers and estuaries.
Beth Bridgeman, cooperative education faculty member at Antioch College, has received a $4500 grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation for four days of campus and community-wide workshops on advancing the use of human waste as a resource in order to conserve water, prevent pollution, and sustain soil fertility. The workshops will be offered in spring, 2017, led by staff from the Rich Earth Institute, a national change leader in the issue of river and estuary pollution, water scarcity and human waste. Through research, demonstration, and education projects, The Rich Earth Institute illustrates the positive effect of this approach in important areas including water quality, food security, energy use, soil health, economic sustainability, carbon footprint, public health, and emergency preparedness.
Along with their partner institutions University of Michigan and University of Buffalo, they are the recent recipients of a three million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation. The work of the Rich Earth Institute has been featured in National Geographic, NPR’s The Salt, Modern Farmer, and BBC Mundo, as well as in national professional journals such as Water Environment & Technology, Pumper, Planning, and Public Works. Their constituents include scientific research partners, wastewater engineers, environmentalists, and all people concerned with water quality and sustainable agriculture.
They have presented at conferences and symposia throughout New England; at Tufts, MIT, and six other higher education institutions as well as the 2013 New England Water Environment Association, the 2015 & 2016 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association conferences in Boston, and the 2015 WEFTEC conference in Chicago. Their programming at Antioch College will be their first higher education presentation in the Midwest.
Workshops will include the hands-on building of a prototype urine diversion dry composting outhouse to be used by Antioch to train additional local and regional community members and organizations in this “new and better ways” technique. These presentations and workshops are being co-sponsored by the Ethos Center at the University of Dayton School of Engineering. They will take place on the Antioch campus and will be open to the Yellow Springs community, public works officials, area institutes of higher education and interested people and organizations throughout the Miami Valley. Look for details in the coming months.
Jen Ruud ’18 traveled to the Bahamas to be a part of the exciting work taking place at the Forfar Field Station. The Forfar Field Station exists to educate “students from American high schools and colleges to local Bahamians about the environment using the local ecosystems.” In her time at Forfar, Jen wore many hats from facilitating trips around the island and out to sea, to dive lessons in blue holes, and even carpentry, gardening, and cooking! While initially focused on exploring environmental justice issues, through this experience Jen developed a fascination with teaching and learning. “I love seeing the look in a student’s eye the first time they hold a sea star or the smile on their face the first time we go kayaking,” Jen remarks. And while she never imagined it, her love and desire to pursue a career in education grew with each new, transformative student interaction. Learning by doing. “It’s about wanting to learn geology and oceanography because you saw the tongue of the ocean while scuba diving, not learning about it because your professor assigned that reading,” she states. Antioch has provided Jen the ability to learn beyond traditional methods and to truly immerse herself in experiential learning an opportunity she hopes to share with others.