As another semester wraps up at UNM with final papers and presentations due for undergrad and graduate students alike, in our AHA Mellon Field Course we do not have the simple luxury of a final product. In my own line of research with seed libraries, I have found out that seed exchange might be a solution for libraries seeking community engagement and small backyard gardeners interested in using open source seeds. Yet how this rather present day condition of seed saving reflects upon New Mexican food history has confounded me. I have tried to delve into the New Mexico seed law but I did not care about the legal conditions for seed labeling because I did not make patented seeds a part of my original research project. I then took a turn towards the non-profit organizations like Native Seed/S.E.A.R.C.H. and The Chile Institute to see if the foundations of their southwest seed saving came from a particular zeitgeist, but that too was fruitless. So I’ve decided that with what I have researched that the best seeds of the future should be education to connect New Mexicans with their food system through a traveling seed exhibition.
This idea comes from my Museum Studies background which influences a great deal of my project planning. I like to think about my subject as a theme for an exhibition in a museum and what could come from either a permanent installation or an educational traveling exhibition. In the case of seeds I believe an exhibition that could travel across the state would be interesting because it could inspire communities without seeds libraries to organize their own. If it were to have a home, the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum would be a good institute to house it permanently.
The information included in the exhibition would be concerned with seed heritage in the southwest; the open source value of heirloom seeds versus patented seeds for the small scale farmer and backyard gardener; the multiple non-profits who promote seed saving; and finally the history of seed libraries. This information would be interpreted through objects like seed packets, seed maps, pictures of planting seeds, and hopefully the collaboration of the PBS show Food Forward TV which did an episode entitled, “Seeds of Change” featuring a seed library in Tuscon, Arizona (see http://www.pbs.org/food/features/food-forward-season-1-seeds-of-change/). Since New Mexico does have a seed library, perhaps even an interview conducted with seed librarian Brita Sauer could be featured.
Another partner for this exhibition is SeedBroadcast, a New Mexico based project interested in recording seed stories from across the country. The Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station is currently visiting Tuscon, Arizona for the upcoming International Seed Library Forum on May 3rd – 6th. The collection of oral histories about seeds would add to the traveling exhibition because it connects seed stories to listeners who might not understand that seeds do have stories. My hope is for the seed exhibition to have connections with food history via modernity, tradition, and leisure versus work as interpretative tools.
At the end of this seminar, I do not know if my project has been historically research based. I took my interest in seed libraries on a journey into what community libraries can do for the seeds of the future, and did not pay much attention to the seeds of the past. Perhaps this says something about where I am going in my own studies as a graduate student, but hopefully in my blogs I have shown that I have learn and wish to teach others about the importance of seeds for the food we continue to grow and consume in larger portions across a planet struggling with global weirding.