Kanienkeha:ka (Mohawk) Flint Corn Seed-Saving & Education Project

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Kanienkeha:ka (Mohawk) Flint Corn Seed-Saving & Education Project

Land Prep and Planting Happening This Week!

Farms at Work is excited to announce an important seed-saving project in partnership with local youth education organization TRACKS, and Haudenosaunee grower Ieiérhes Karolyn Givogue Grant.

Together, FAW and TRACKS will be caring for a variety of indigenous corn seeds, which are approximately twenty years old, and predate GMOs. This week we will be preparing the planting site at the Trent Experimental Farm, and getting the corn seed in the ground!

The aim of this project is to grow the seed out in order to preserve its genetics, as well as to engage local Indigenous youth in a community garden project. Throughout the season, young people will learn about the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash); the pollination systems of corn, bean and squash plants; and participate in traditional celebrations related to the growing and harvesting of corn. As it will largely be Anishinaabe youth engaging with Haudenosaunee seeds, we will also explore concepts of cross-cultural sharing and migration, with the hope of returning these landraces to their homelands for similar garden programs after the initial pilot project.

These Northern flint corn seeds originally come from Mohawk communities in Ontario and New York State. The seed was grown and collected during a study conducted by the Indian Agriculture Program of Ontario in the early 1990s. Since then, they have been stored in a freezer in an effort to maintain viability. Trent University professors Dan Longboat (Director, Indigenous Environmental Studies Program), and Tom Hutchinson have been the stewards of the 35 landraces ever since. In our attempts to revive the corn, we will be growing and saving seed from only a few of the landraces. Thus far, germination testing has shown between 5% and 45% viability, which is promising considering the seeds have been in a freezer for twenty years. 

If you are interested in learning about Haudenosaunee agriculture, participating in seed-saving initiatives, or just want to spend some time getting your hands dirty this summer, we would love your help! We are looking for volunteers to help in the preparation of mounds for the Three Sisters, maintaining the plot throughout the summer, and providing support for workshops with youth. If you are interested in being involved, please get in touch.

Support for this project is provided by The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, a project of USC Canada delivered in partnership with Seeds of Diversity Canada and supported by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. We would also like to acknowledge and thank the Trent University Experimental Farm for their support in providing the land for this project.