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Seedy Explorations in Land Use and Colonization

By the time you read this, I will officially be on a sabbatical from this massive labor of love that’s grown from literally a tiny seed to a successful and valuable community resource. But before I go, I want to take a moment to thank you for all we have done together thus far, and plant some seeds for the next leg of the journey.

The Snake River Seed Co-op employee crew is absolutely spectacular, each member contributing so much technical expertise, creativity, and heart to our organization. We have an amazing group of family farmers who make space in their fields and their lives to tend seeds for all of us to plant, and we have a rockin’ base of adventurous and committed local gardeners and small farmers who plant these little bundles of sustenance alongside us to feed their own families, wildlife, and communities. Thank you all for participating in building a resilient and sensible bioregionally-based agricultural economy. Together we are creating something breathtaking!

As I re-enter the formal student world, I want to embark on the journey with clear goals for what I will achieve to help both me and SRSC be useful well into the future. My focus centers on the questions I want to explore during my time in school. (For those who don’t know, I’ve enrolled in a 1-year Masters degree program at the University of Idaho Outdoor Science School in McCall). Of course, the most immediate and personal question for me is, “What’s next?” And, once that’s answered, “How do I go about building it?”

But underpinning that basic question is an interlocking puzzle of much bigger ones, which will be the central focus of my time there. Our SRSC staff-wide group reading and weekly discussion of White Fragility and An Indigenous People’s History of the United States have zeroed in on a poignant conundrum: How do we move forward as farmers who don’t own or have long-term leases on land (nor does Snake River Seed Co-op), who have been struggling to gain secure access to land on which to grow seeds and food, when the farmland we now covet was stolen from Native Americans by our European ancestors?

To begin to address it, I want to learn as much as possible about the human-land interaction in what is now Idaho. How do the ecology and history of the place shape the cultures that exist here now? How do the conservation movement, public lands, agriculture, urban/suburban development, and other forms of US-led land management relate to Native Nations past and present, and how do I best move forward as a descendant of Anglo settlers who had committed her life to a land-based career as my way of contributing positively to society?

Obviously these are massive questions and I can’t hope to fully answer any of them in a lifetime, let alone a year in institutionalized academia. But they seem to be the most important ones I can be asking right now, as our state’s settler population swells. Farmland and rangeland across the continent was not that long ago communally-managed by Native communities, but through colonization nearly all of it was stolen and converted to privately bought and sold “real estate.” It is no wonder that the sacred US cow of Private Property is being paved over at an alarming rate in our area, as settler-farmers look to cash in and pass along a sizable inheritance to their descendants, much to the dismay of open-space and food systems advocates. With a tide of Central Americans fleeing violence met with armed US settler resistance at what is now the southern border of the United States and a good portion of Boise’s settler population, including a KTVB news anchor, suggesting that other people (ahem, Californians) shouldn’t be moving here, it’s hard to make sense of any of this. Earthly land is finite, and we humans and our capacities for ambition, creation and destruction seem nearly infinite.

None of us alive today personally created any of these problems, and yet they are the birthright of every single one of us. I have always believed in the promise and hope of seeds and their ability to accelerate abundance, beauty, and sustenance for all, when stewarded by groups, systems, and models committed to that end. Though the path forward feels murky and sticky right now, I believe we are asking some of the right questions, so I also have to believe that the answers will help us move forward in appropriate and useful ways.

Thank you to Reiley, Christina, Henry, and Cassie, who will be holding down SRSC while I’m gone. I have the utmost respect for your work and confidence in your abilities. And if anyone has any favorite resources to send my way about the interconnected intricacies of migration, land use, race/ethnicity, and agriculture, I’d be most grateful to check them out!

With curiosity,