The Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) partnered with Cornell University Horticulture Program cohorts in 2022 and received a research and education grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Agency, titled: Increasing Capacity to Produce High-Quality, Regionally Adapted Seed to Enhance Northeast Biosecurity and Diversify Markets. The award will increase the availability of seed production in the Northeast region, providing access to organic, commercial, heirloom, and indigenous varieties. IAC will also use the award to provide indigenous seed keepers and farmers access to training and knowledge that will help produce seeds more efficiently, focusing on effective processing and storage methodologies.
With increased volume and higher quality products available to seed keepers, they will continue stewardship of rare indigenous varieties of seeds. One of the identified challenges that Native producers have experienced is disease and pest infestations. Yet they are hesitant to bring their seeds in for lab testing that would help determine the likelihood of diseases being seed-borne diseases. Providing culturally appropriate seed preservation training and practices for Native producers ensures food security for tribal members, preserving cultural and natural resources that are sacred to the tribes in the region.
Among the Northeast SARE grant deliverables, one focus area is the connection between tribal producers and the online seed production course. Outlining the benefits of the training and encouraging their commitment to receiving training and education in organic seed production will accomplish this goal. The course includes mentorship and support from expert seed steward Angela Ferguson from the Onondaga Nation Farm, free to producers as part of the grant funding. In addition to the seed production course, producers can also take commercial seed production training. Outreach efforts to the Northeastern IAC network have resulted in 30 tribal farmers/seed keepers committing to participate in this training.