Gardening is not just about planting seeds. It is a tradition that is often passed down through generations. Seeds may be shared across families, communities, and time. The seeds carry with them not just genetic diversity, but also long-standing traditions. They provide more than sustenance. They support and reinforce culture.
CAAH! is a project dedicated to preserving agricultural folkways and knowledge by in situ and ex situ conservation methods. Agricultural tradition is spread by saving seeds in a central seed bank and giving them to gardeners throughout Arkansas along with the stories and meaning that have become a part of their essence.
Why save seed?
All human and animal food comes from plants. Whether one is a vegan or avid carnivore, plants are the basis for our food chain. The extinction of just a few plant species would permanently change human and animal diets.
Plant varieties are dwindling due to a host of social and ecological factors. Most concerning to CAAH! is how modern agriculture reduces the diversity of traditionally-planted seeds. Reliance on monocultures threatens heirloom seed strains. Instead of planting a large variety of open-pollinated crops, farmers may plant a single “improved” crop. The older varieties are no longer saved, and hybrids replace them.
When those heirloom seeds are no longer planted, they will disappear forever. While this in and of itself decreases the ability of agricultural systems to endure, it also reflects the loss of human traditions related to agrobiodiversity. Many humans living in (post)industrialized society have become completely divorced from natural processes. Most U.S. citizens have very little understanding of how their food arrives in their store, home, and belly. We have become completely dependent on an industrial system that destroys us. CAAH! hopes to empower people to become involved in food production again, one seed at a time. With seeds come hope, life, and beauty. And as I love to say, one of the most subversive acts you can engage in these days is growing and eating your own food!
Why a seed bank?
A seed bank serves as a reserve in case of crop failure. It preserves genetic diversity in plants, and when paired with annual planting and seed saving, a seed bank stocks seeds which are more weather- and pest-tolerant than a seed bank which simply stores seeds for years on end.
CAAH! aims to promote genetic diversity by continuing the tradition of growing heirloom seeds, support and record the histories and origins of seed varieties, and encourage local sustainability through use and dissemination of traditional, open-pollinated, heirloom seeds.
Dr. Brian Campbell holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. from the University of Georgia Environmental and Ecological Anthropology Program, and a B.A. from Truman State University. He teaches courses in Environmental Anthropology, Native American Cultures, Cultural Anthropology, Regional Anthropology, and Introduction to Anthropology at the University of Central Arkansas, and he is especially interested in agroecology, historical and political ecology, environmental/agricultural policy, sustainability, and the Andes, Appalachia, Ozarks, Caribbean, and Latin America. His current focus is the historical ethnoecology and agrobiodiversity of farming in the Ozark region.
Dr. Alison Hall holds a Ph.D., M.A., and B.A. from the University of California in Santa Barbara. She teaches courses in anthropological theory, human evolution, magic, religion and witchcraft, and museum anthropology at the University of Central Arkansas. Some of her research interests are Utopian societies, cooperatives, and nonprofit organizations, museum anthropology, the history and philosophy of science, and humanities exhibitions and public programs.
Project Contributors / Collaborators
Jim Veteto, Ph.D Candidate, University of Georgia Anthropology Program
Jim Deitrick, Ph.D., Director, UCA World Cultures and Humanities Institute
Zachariah McCannon, Ozark Satchel, www.ozarksatchel.com
Mandy Waggoner, 1/54th Acre Gardens
Daniel Roth, Ozark Seed Bank, Brixey, MO
Tina Marie Wilcox, Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View, AR
Rex Enoch, Ph.D., Heifer International, Little Rock, AR
Joanna Seibert, The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, University of Arkansas System