At UCFA we view seeds as more than a commodity, but also as vessels of cultural heritage. As a commodity, seed farming can be a lucrative business opportunity for farmers, gardeners, and growers as demand far outstrips supply. On just a small plot of land, growers can make a profit from seed farming as a side business.
“Seeds are not just seeds. They’re like ancestors. They have a history. Seeds have stories.”
Winona LaDuke eco-activist
Farming started when local communities started collecting, planting and selecting seeds to meet their needs. Seeds are living links in an unbroken chain reaching back into agriculture’s antiquity. Indeed, the birth of civilization involved seed saving, agriculture, and written language.
Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance (UCFA) recognizes the need for increased diversity in farming in general and the $15 billion dollar seed industry in particular. We are commited to providing more opportunities and support for growers from historically oppressed and marginalized communities. To this end UCFA is working to bridge the gap between prospective growers and seed companies.
Seed farmers grow crops in a way that enhances the quality and maximizes the quantity of plants for the purpose of selling the seeds to other farmers and gardeners. Growers of flowers, herbs, vegetables, grains, legumes, and fodder crops all rely on seed farmers for their planting material.
The $58 billion global seed market – in which patented GMO seeds are the dominant commodity – is controlled primarily by large agribusinesses, though small, independent seed growers and co-ops are on the rise. Heirloom seed farming is a potentially lucrative business opportunity, as demand far outstrips supply.
Seed farming does not require huge acreage in order to make a profit. Many farmers take up seed growing as a side business, rather than as their sole source of income. Land grant universities and local cooperative extension offices often offer classes and technical advice on growing seed for specific crops.
Over the past century or so, there has been a seventy-five percent decline in agricultural biodiversity, meaning many varieties of edible plants are no longer available today. This is mainly due to the rise of commercialized agriculture.
A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations warns that once lost biodiversity for food and agriculture – i.e. all the species that support our food systems and sustain the people who grow and/or provide our food – cannot be recovered.
The report points to decreasing plant diversity in farmers’ fields, rising numbers of livestock breeds at risk of extinction and increases in the proportion of overfished fish stocks. Of some 6,000 plant species cultivated for food, fewer than 200 contribute substantially to global food output, and only nine account for 66 percent of total crop production.
According to the FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “Biodiversity is critical for safeguarding global food security, underpinning healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities. We need to use biodiversity in a sustainable way, so that we can better respond to rising climate change challenges and produce food in a way that doesn’t harm our environment,”
“Less biodiversity means that plants and animals are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Compounded by our reliance on fewer and fewer species to feed ourselves, the increasing loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture puts food security and nutrition at risk,” added Graziano da Silva.
Check out this great documentary that aired in 2016. In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared. As biotech chemical companies control the majority of our seed, farmers and indigenous keepers fight a David and Goliath battle to defend the future of our food.