It is time for the seed industry in the U.S. to be transparent, accessible and respectful to People of Color and other Underrepresented Minoritized people, beginner-level seed growers, immigrants, cultures, history, and individual stories.
A content analysis of the Organic Seed Alliance’s self-identified seed producer list as of October 2019 (https://seedalliance.org/directory/) shows that 86% of these producers are White and 8% of them are POC (listers are commercial seed growers so Indigenous growers usually don’t list their names in such lists since seeds are not commodity for them).
Please keep in mind that since whiteness centered the organic seed industry in the Pacific Northwest, this data is also geographically-biased, and there are only a few seed companies in other regions of the U.S. that actively work with a diverse group of growers. However, please also think for one second and ask yourself: Why does only 8% of the list posted on OSA’s organic seed producers list associate themselves with one of the flagship non-profit organizations in the U.S. that claims “to advance ethical seed production solutions to meet food and farming needs in a changing world?” Why? Is it because POC lack skills and/or intelligence to grow seeds like white people or is it because there is a privileged group of people and companies who decide what seeds to grow, how those seeds are grown, and who grows those seeds? Is it about who favors who, is it about personal connections? Is it because of lack of outreach to the Underrepresented Minoritized communities? Does this data have anything to do with who owns land in the U.S.?
In 2018, when we first decided to contract growers to help us produce seed stock for our seed catalog, we realized that while there is technical information and data available online, there wasn’t a single document that summarizes how the whole process of commercial seed growing, from taking over seed assignments to how successful completion of an assignment works to contract prices works. Hence, we prepared our Seed Grower’s Manual (v1.0) in Fall 2018, based on a compilation of various technical documents, a very limited amount of almost hidden data that we had to squeeze out from a few books and manuals, our experiences and the field data we have recorded in the last ten years.