Urban farm plot in Coney Island, New York

Erin Sagen and Araz Hachadourian – From Growing Edible Forests to Banking Heirloom Seeds, Solutions to Keeping Your Food Local


As the proverb goes, no self-respecting Cherokee would ever be without a corn patch. But since the Trail of Tears, the nation had forgotten how to farm corn or, for that matter, any other heirloom crop cultivated from seeds passed down from their ancestors. The effects of this loss had been devastating: Diabetes and obesity were on the rise, and, like many other tribes across the country, the Cherokee struggled with addiction, depression, and violence. Around 2006, Cherokee leaders approached administrative liaison Pat Gwin about starting a seed bank. They already had launched an initiative to improve health care access and infrastructure at the reservation; now, they wanted to go even deeper by recovering ancestral seeds to preserve their cultural heritage.

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