Winona LaDuke

Seed Sovereignty: Who Owns the Seeds of the World - Feb. 9, 2022

Winona LaDuke
February 09, 2022
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[Greeting in Native language] Hello my relatives. Can you hear me okay there? Someone give me like a thumbs up.

[Audience Member] We can hear you.

[LaDuke] Okay. Thank you.

I'm honored to be with you tonight. I'm pretty much due north of you – the deep north, as we call it on the White Earth Reservation in Northern Minnesota. And binesi-ikwe – that's my name in Anishinaabemowin – Thunderbird woman, and I’m bear clan. I live here on Round Lake and I'm really especially honored to talk to you guys at Iowa State because a lot of my journey, as a farmer, some of it started with some seeds that I got from Iowa State. But let me show you some pictures of our territory. And I also want to thank you, Taylor, for your introduction and what you said in your land acknowledgement, I thought that was very good.

Okay, now see if I can find my PowerPoint here. … All right, I'm gonna go with it; you can see that.

And so this is some art from my neck of the woods: this is a water protector; I'm a water protector. This is in downtown Duluth. We have a lot of stories of our missing and murdered indigenous women, all the time now, but this one is not going anywhere. She's about 20 feet wide and about 30 feet tall; Second Street and Second Avenue. So it's time to be those kind of women.

This where I live, this where I'm right now, Gaawaawiye Gamaag Round Lake here in the middle of the reservation.

This is some art from our territory – I always like to show this ‘cause you know when I was undergraduate at Harvard University, if you understood the art from Europe, you went to the fine arts department; you understood the Indigenous art, you went to anthropology. What’s that say about valuation and knowledge? I think it is really time that we start to value more knowledges than the single way, you know it's just like biodiversity. You need biodiversity, not a mono crop. You need different thinking.

So, I want to talk first about making America great, which is also about biodiversity. So 10,000 varieties of corn, varieties all developed over here in North America. See now here is some corn that we got actually, and I got some corn back from Iowa State – Bear Island Flint corn – and these are some of the varieties we've grown out. But I got this much from a guy at Iowa State – Ricardo Salazar, I think. Anyway, and we started growing it and then we grow fields of it. I'm going to talk about it later, but look, you know America was great when there was 10,000 varieties of corn; when there was 900 varieties of potatoes; and when it was buffalo - single largest migratory herd in the world - 50 million buffalo; over 250 different species of grass – that's when America was great. And that tremendous agrobiodiversity, that's indigenous.

This is kind of what remains of it. As we talk about seeds, this our wild rice, our Manoomin. That's me and Don Goodwin here on Lower Rice Lake here in the heart of the White Earth Reservation, just due north of me, where we live for our rice. And that there is a field, it looks like a field, but it's a lake and it's our Lower Rice Lake, and that is all wild rice. This is late August, early September.

So this picture I think exemplifies the conflict between two world views. Everybody's indigenous to some place, but there's this whole other industrial or wendigo worldview that is really about scorched earth policy. And this is a Sitting Bull and Custer – I think it really exemplifies this conflict between organic and GMO. From the get-go.

This is how you lose your agricultural diversity. So this picture here is the taking of the dams on the Missouri river. That's them signing in the Garrison Diversion Project, the Pick-Sloan Diversion Project, where they took all the bottom lands of the Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan people. That guy there to the left is a Mandan travel chairman. He's crying because they're gonna flood his reservation out and they're gonna lose everything that ever was. All of their food, and all of their people, put under. That's what colonization looks like. Not only they take your food, but then they take your land and they bury it under water. And then they change how you view.

There's making a living and make a killing. This society we live in is about making a killing, not about making a living – extractive ownership. Rights of corporations over their rights of seeds, over the rights of people; foreign ownership, domination. In our teachings, we call this a scorched path. That's what it's known as, as the scorch path. And we're told as, Anishinaabeg people, we have a choice between two paths. At the time of the seventh fire – that's a time they say we're in now – and in that they say, we have a choice between two paths: one well-worn but scorched and the other green. That's the other path. That's what you're all talking about here, sustainable agriculture.

Well, this is where we are now. We're in a time of catastrophes of biblical proportions. I think that's a fair thing to call it. From the east to the west, you have catastrophes of biblical proportions. The entire west coast on fire, the ice caps melting, hurricanes, and tornadoes and to the south, and political disasters to the east – and a pandemic. Now in the midst of these times, it seem like it'd be a good time to kind of wake up and take a stock of what's going on in the world. And while we're giving Zoom lectures, although bless them - and I wish I had stock in Zoom, along with Amazon…

Look, Arundhati Roy she's a good Indian writer, she talks about pandemic as a portal. And she says that in the history of the world, pandemics have always forced societies to change – this one is no different; put society on its knees. And in this time, it's a portal between one world and the next. So what did we just see? Food systems collapsing. My father used to talk about that one day there'd be no food in the store, and I thought he was talking about a long time away. No, he was talking about last couple of years – this is what he was talking about. He used to say to me, "You're a smart young woman, but I don't wanna hear your philosophy if you can't grow corn." This is this pandemic, this is this portal. But during this time, I think that there was like a 40% or I don't know, it was a quadrupling excuse me, of who would grow food at home. That is to say that home gardening went up, through the roof.

But in the meantime, in the last days of the fossil fuel empire, this is what you gotta do. You guys are just south of me. I just spent seven years fighting the Embridge Corporation. Canadian multinational that just threw a pipe – forced, shoved, a pipeline down our throats up here. There's a bunch of the Indian women standing out here on a site. We did our best, we did our best – I didn't miss a regulatory hearing; didn't miss a moment to comment. I tried everything and the system was rigged for a Canadian multinational. And so I went to jail. I got charges in three counties.

This is my arrest in Wadena County, on the banks of the Shell River. Those are my kids, my grandchildren, that's who's there on those horses. They all live with me. And this is what it is to be a water protector. Here we are protecting the shell – I was arrested with seven women and you know what? There's a thousand people arrested, fighting Embridge up here; thousand people, water protectors. So what a scorch path looks like is that. And then one day people say they wanna do something better. That's us, we wanna make something better.

And we could call it the Green New Deal and we could call it the Sitting Bull Plan – That's what I call it, The Sitting Bull Plan. Cause I keep thinking that Sitting Bull was a great political leader. And among the many things that he said, he said, "Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children." Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children.Cause it takes all of us, all of us are gonna have to make this change.

So, let me tell you about my story. It has a lot to do with seeds, that's why I'm here talking to you.

This is Gete-okosomin, that's a real old squash. I was told that it came from an archeological dig near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Was 800-year-old seeds found in a clay ball, that's what I was told. And it cracked that ball open, clay ball – cause that's how you keep your seeds if you're old; should do that now too – and in there, there was these seeds. And if you carbon dated it all and it was 800 years old. Well then I got corrected by a white guy – thankfully white guys can always correct you – and truth that it's a 1000-year-old seeds and they're from a Miami collection. Probably grew right around you. This what we grow in our gardens here. Grow cool squash. Why?Cause they're a lot better for you nutritionally if you grow a heritage variety; but besides that, squash keeps. I got a whole room up here full of squash, I gotta take some of them down, they’re not keeping, but by large squash keeps for months. And you can feed a lot of people with squash. Low carbon food.

And then grow cool corn. You know that's over here on the right, that picture on the right, that's Jonesy Miller with Bare Island Flint. And those are the seeds I got from a guy … Ricardo Salvador, that's what his name was, and he was down there at Iowa State. He was in the corn program, he's in the genetics program. There's a pink lady corn, growing in the middle, and then look at that corn on the left, that's called Eagle corn, a Pawnee Eagle corn. That's exactly what it looks like. How much diversity is that? How beautiful is that? So be beautiful, grow biodiversity and you get to learn how things work.

Grow in your own structures. You know the USDA wouldn't give me a high tunnel for years. They're gonna give me one this year. So I took our old Midewin one lodge here - see these pictures of it; there's a picture graph of the lodge, there's the lodge on my reservation in 1906. Oh yeah, there you are. Made some high tunnels out of them.

I got even better pictures than that too.

There you go, there's my cannabis plants. This would be hemp, inside my high tunnel, which is my wigwam. They love it. My plants love it in there.

So grow cool food, grow cool seeds, put some fish guts on it. This is us, there's actually some fish in there, but this is me distributing fish guts, picking them up. And then this is us putting fish guts out there in the field with a team of my horses. And then there's me doing it by myself. It is better to do it with the team of horses – grind those guts up, throw them all over.

And then grow all kind of biodiversity. Now these are potatoes. I grew 17 kinds of potatoes last year – [no] the year before, this last year I grew about eight. Anyway, why wouldn't you grow purple potatoes? My ancestors grew purple potatoes. I think you should grow all kinds. This is from the potato museum in Peru, and scientists are sending these potatoes because they're interested in which ones are best for climate change. I grew a bunch of varieties this last summer and noted which ones of them did well, best, during the most brutal drought that we had experienced in my lifetime.

And this is to inspire you. These are some vegetables that were grown in Yellowknife Northwest Territories; in some grow boxes where they had to put together soil and compost, including caribou hair in their compost. And that's what they got, all those vegetables. So if they can grow this in some caribou hair and Yellowknife Northwest Territories, chin up buttercup, we can grow everything.

And we can grow hemp. This is me and my hemp farm. What am I talking about here? I'm talking about this kind of hemp, fiber hemp. I've been growing for six years; I have a State of Minnesota permit, and a federal permit. And this is what our hemp crop looks like; it looks kinda like bamboo, and it grows really fast. This is, I think, X59, but we've been growing this Futura, which is from, I think it's from Italy. And we're interested in textiles in fabric. Here’s this last year, a couple years ago, picking some of the hemp in one of our test fields.

But this is the story. Hemp is, I refer to this as the new Green Revolution. Yeah, this is the new Green Revolution. And I like talking about it that way, because if you think about it, the Green Revolution came from Minnesota – that Norman Borlaug University of Minnesota brought us all that industrialized agriculture, and brought a bunch of it to Iowa as well. Well, we need a new Green Revolution which deconstructs the old Green Revolution so that we have a better chance of survival. Keeps some biodiversity; grow out a bunch of organic agriculture; sequester a bunch of carbon; and grow a bunch of hemp because that sequesters carbon really well – that's actually one of the best things for sequestering carbon. So it turns out that the fiber hemp that I just showed you, there's the stock, it has the bast fiber it and the hurd in it. And in that, 70% of the plant is hurd; and bast fiber, which is what you're gonna make like thread out of for clothing, that is about 30%.

So look at this here. Say you wanna make clothing … well first of all, most of us aren't wearing cotton. Most of us are wearing polyesters, which is basically like slathering a whole bunch of fossil fuels on your body. That’s what we're all doing, we're all walking around with fossil fuels all over us. Alright, so, say you didn't wanna be in the fossil fuel world anymore and you wanted to move towards maybe a natural fiber. Well there's wool, and there's cotton, not so much in our ecosystem, but we're all wearing cotton then. It takes, I think a quarter of the world's agricultural chemicals, and it represents about 4% of the world's agriculture. That's crazy. And it uses all this water.

I am a fan of the hemp for the textiles.

It turns out that the thing I like the best is that the word canvas comes from cannabis. The word canvas comes from cannabis. And many Minnesota used to have 11 hemp mills. You know, this is definitely the answer for many different facets of the material economy. And trees – I've been looking at all these different elements of hemp in construction. And here it is in terms of plastics, bioplastics, but we really just should move from single-use containers. You shouldn't make the amount of hemp either. We should just reduce our single-use containers.

So here's us decorticating some of our hemp. All this equipment is made in China, i just wanna point this out to you, for those of you who are thinking about the agricultural economy, everything that we have is made in China. So if you actually wanna grow this stuff, we should think about making it here.

Here's my crazy cousin trying to decorticate a bunch of my hemp.

And then here is an artisan hemp decortication project over in Southern Minnesota.

But here is some hemp building materials. So you break the hemp into two things - One is the fiber and here is a rope, which is made of fiber. You can see this is, is a rope, this is the nicer rope. There's the nicer rope here. And hanging rope was required to be made of hemp. Did I say that right? Hanging rope – didn't want the rope to break.

And then this is hemp insulation, which I have just put into our farm. This has an R value of about 22 at four inches and 28 at six inches, very good.

This is processing, harvesting.

And this is the hemper, Alex White Plume; grew hemp in his community. And this is a Navajo rug with hemp and wool.

So I'm interested in basically figuring out how to rebuild the materials economy in this country and make a new green revolution that legalizes cannabis. And in the middle of it and the center of it is hemp, as the way to transform the materials economy away from a fossil fuel economy, to something that we can all live with. So, I just wanna thank you for this opportunity for visiting with you. You know, it's been a tough year. I mean, I spent all last year getting arrested. Did I already say that? Spring's coming, plant your seed. Seeds are full of hope. Seeds are about promise and that's how we grow our future. So I'm just happy to talk to y'all because you all, a lot of you are farmers and are interested in this. As we grow our future, and look ahead and have this promise, be grateful that we have this good life that the creator gave us.

In my tribe, in 2018, we passed the rights of wild rice as a part of our tribal constitution. We said that seeds have a right to live and that wild rice, or Manoomin, has a right to exist. To flourish, to be free of genetic engineering and contamination, to continue to grow, revitalize – rights of nature. This picture here's Evo Morales, 2010 Bolivia following Ecuador to put out the rights of nature. Saying that the rights of mother earth, the rights of the plants and the seeds, superseded the rights of corporations. You know we grow good food, but then also you gotta remember, we gotta change some laws so that the rights of mother earth and the rights of the seeds are once again recognized. And that is how we'll have a much stronger future as farmers. We'll have a stronger future for all of us there.

Let me see how to make my PowerPoint get smaller. Thank you. I see two. Let me see here… I share. Oh, here we go there. There, we good.

Thank you for your time, happy to answer some questions.

[Taylor Sklenar] Thank you so much. Can you hear me? Okay. There it goes.

Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being here. We are just honored to have you. Please, everybody feel free to drop questions you have in the chat. I'll start off. So you mentioned Ricardo Salvador, which is really exciting because he is actually one of the founders of the graduate program in sustainable agriculture and media.

[LaDuke] Is that right?

[Sklenar] Yeah – and we'll actually be speaking with him in the colloquium series later in this semester, which is really fun. So I was just curious to hear a little bit more about how you… what that relationship was or how you ran into him, maybe.

[LaDuke] That is the greatest thing. So I went down to talk, just like this, but back in the days I fly down there. I mean, you already heard me – I farm, I mean I farm. But anyway, so he hears to our story and he comes with this, it was -- I don't know if he brought the package of seeds or he sent them, he might have sent them, but I remember it was like an envelope full of these seeds from Bear Island. And he said that they were from, that they had been collected near Bear Island Flint. This first time I ever saw those seeds. So I took them back and I planted them, and planted them, and planted them – and now there's fields of them up here, fields of it, so great.

… See the thing is, is that this Bear Island, this is the important part, is an island in the middle of the Leech Lake Reservation. ‘Cause, I wanna say it sounds funny, but White people build luxury homes on islands, Ojibwes plant food there because … you have a better shot at keeping away your enemies – like the deer. So all these islands and these lakes up here, a lot of them, there's one like potato opiniig island; mandaamin corn island. Isn't that interesting? It's a different way to look at what real estate's worth.

Let me get my tea here.

[Sklenar] I've got another question here from Brianna Burke. How do you maintain your stamina, your hope, after so many battles? And in parenthesis she says, “You are a force of nature.”

[LaDuke] Well, first of all, they say women get more radical with age. Isn't that exciting? I am having so much fun. I mean, if you thought my 50s were fun, just wait till the 60s. Oh my God. Got arrested already three times.

So, my point is - is that first of all, live well, be grateful, life's good. Enjoy it, enjoy it. Make things grow. That's one of the reasons we garden, like my gardens are all full of flowers. That's how you stay hopeful, is surround yourselves with beautiful things. Haters are gonna be haters. They're gonna wallow in their own stuff. Just grow even more beautiful flowers.

That's what I think, and then – just keep it up. I mean I just fought this corporation for eight years. I have PTSD. I tried to do a hearing a couple weeks ago – they're trying to go on a different state, Wisconsin – I got like all like sweaty and my hand, I was wadding my notes up. I said, "I'm not gonna subject myself to them." I fight them other ways. So there's different ways to do things too. Does that make sense? Like if you something gives you a headache, go find some other way to do something cool. Change the world.

[Sklenar] All right, thank you. From Lakhnau, how can we be mindful of sharing and saving seeds, and prevent spreading diseases which may remain in seeds?

[LaDuke] Okay. How can you be mindful of what?

[Sklenar] Of sharing and saving seeds, and prevent spreading diseases which might remain in seeds?

[LaDuke] Oh, that might be a little complicated for me. Okay.

So, I'm trying to figure out things with like potato viruses right now – ‘cause I'm super interested in potatoes. Oh yeah – I could say that I'm interested in potatoes and it doesn't sound weird to y'all. But so you're wondering like if a virus came with it, if the potato bugs came with it – or like I'm sitting in the middle of, there's this evil potato empire up here that we're taking on now – R.D. Offutt – those guys, they got all kind of bugs ‘cause they spray everything super lethal, right? So, you know what I do, I don't grow my special stuff right by them. And generally when I grow my more variety … I save seeds from the middle and eat around the edge.

I should actually just put this out to you all: our organization, Anishinaabe Agriculture, which I also work for, Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute – we're a research program and our research is on hemp, and research is on these traditional varieties as well. We have purchased a seed collection of hemp seeds from Russia. There's 71 varieties, of these hemp seeds from Russia and they have to be grown out. The seeds gotta be collected to see what the traits are. Like we grew some out, someone grew some out, and the birds liked one of them. Do you understand what I'm saying? You guys are seed people. So maybe that's the one you want for your chicken feed. And then one grew super tall. Maybe that's the one that you want for your structural work right? Super interesting work. We're really interested in collaborations and maybe some of you from Iowa be interested in looking at some of our projects up here. We have a number of them – super interesting.

And this kind of stuff requires, that's all our minds need to go together. All our minds, ‘cause the first of all, the need to make epic change – is right now. Everybody who's in this forum got that one. And now is the time for agriculture of our kind, the sustainable regenerative kind. Now more than ever, it was always our time – that was traditional agriculture until they went all crazy fossil fuels, conventional agriculture. But now, especially. So, I just feel like … do your best.

[Sklenar] I see a couple of kind of related questions to that, which are: how can we help towards this cause; and also how can we help support efforts in your hemp clothing, and all of that?

[LaDuke] Okay. And I see someone was asking me about seeds.

So seed savers, there's all kind of people, they're cool people in Iowa. For your seeds grow local, grow diverse, stretch out, don't get stuck. I mean, I'm just saying like even my seed varieties – you learn over time, you need to grow different ones out a little bit, so do that.

And then there's different ways to support this. Like this work on hemp is really, it's really quite revolutionary, because it was illegal for so long. And so there's a really good film by Patagonia – Misunderstood by Patagonia. It's like a 12-minute film on hemp, and the history of it. And we all know that it was like all made illegal and now, but I expect that marijuana will be legal even in Minnesota in a couple of years. I mean, is it legal in Iowa? Is it not legal in Iowa is it, marijuana?

I don't really know.

But anyway, having said that – we need people to help research it and find the history. You know for me, I'm interested in intermediate and appropriate technology. I think that most of you will understand what that means. In other words, size matters. Really, really big is not a good idea – because of all of the reasons that we see in CAFOs, confined animal feeding operations. Big is not good, small is beautiful. And then there's scale issues, because if you're doing something like hemp, looking to rebuild the materials economy – like did I show you this? Did you see this here? This is the insulation, right? I mean, this insulation is made of hemp. This is like 95% hemp. This is called Hemp Wool is the company. This is great R value, right? Now, this is what you need. You don't need fiberglass, you need this. Sequesters carbon; cleans up soil; makes this stuff not toxic - put it by your face, no slivers. This is my point. This is not boutique stuff. You don't need one hemp farmer. You need 5,000 acres of hemp probably for a decent-sized facility, or maybe 1,000 acres. And then you need a bunch of facilities so that you're not shipping stuff everywhere because that takes energy. So that's what y'all gotta help figure out is how to scale things at a level that transforms the world. Also at the same time, make things that's a size that is not killer for its energy use. I know you understand that exactly what I'm saying Taylor.

[Sklenar] Thank you. I've got a question here from Kathleen Delay who says “Wonderful talk, Winona. Thank you so much. Do you need to worry about any contamination from other farms? Are there any farms close enough to worry?”

[LaDuke] Well, first at our farms, no. They're kind of isolated, out of the GMO haze, pretty much. A couple farms are in this valley, and so we've been kind of protected like that. Then in the hemp, nobody grows hemp because nobody can make a million. Everybody thought that they should just grow CBDs and then recreational marijuana. Nobody wants to grow this stuff ‘cause this is, like work and isn't as cool – but this is even cooler. Right?

So my point is that so far so good with the hemp. And then some want to grow marijuana over by me … it's not gonna do them any good. So the future is gonna be interesting though, and we battle industrial agriculture here. This corporation RDO Offit – large potato company, independent potato grower in the country, all over my reservation – and we actually are just buying out one of their parcels. Very expensive, most expensive land purchase I've ever made, but they were spraying right next to my granddaughter's school. And I said, I could sit here and scream or we could just offer you a pile of money to leave town. That's what we did. I mean, I don't know. You think I had an option to do that? Or maybe what you need is your friends who are in the 1% to do that for you.

[Sklenar] Yeah. Okay. So, Tony K. says, “are there states or other regions that have large scale infrastructure, like Iowa's Grain Cooperative, for hemp trade? Do you see this as likely to develop if legislation changes? Can hemp become a large-scale cash crop for the Midwest?”

[LaDuke] It has to. You guys gotta go hemp. It's the antidote to the industrial ag mess. I mean, I could call it out, I live in Minnesota. I'm looking at Iowa, it's the same thing. I think that the term is shit show actually. You get all that industrial agriculture – that is not good for your soil. A lot of run off, pretty much. So anyway, the antidote to that is hemp.

So, I go check out these guys, Hemp Wood. I don't have a piece of their stuff here, but they like basically make flooring. They take the hemp and they have soybean paste that they mix up and they smoosh it together and glue it and make like joists, is that what I'm calling it? You know what I'm saying? They make industrial lumber. Now, if you could do that and leave the forest intact, way to go Iowa. Right?

[Sklenar] Yeah. That sounds amazing, envisioning that.

[LaDuke] Yeah, it's an epic thing. And we're gonna do things at a scale that's cool for us, but change is gonna need to be a lot of different scale. I mean this insulation thing, you know what I'm saying? This is like, that's a pretty big gig, right?

[Sklenar] Oh yeah. Okay so, Amber Anderson asks, “I'm wondering about more information about the pipeline in Minnesota.”

[LaDuke] There's a whole bunch, I would say there's some videos too. There's a video, really great arrest videos; and there's a line-three video, "No more pipeline blues with Bonnie Raitt," – oh my god, "No more pipeline blues," you guys should definitely watch that - just like, greatest hits of our repression. Horrible scene.

This what you got, Enbridge. Canada, why don't they export something like their healthcare system? No, what they gotta export is their oil. And so, the dirtiest oil in the world is up there in Canada. And that's what the Dakota Access, well that's frack oil. This is tar sands, dirtiest oil in the world. And the company is Enbridge and they import 75% of the tar sands into the United States from Canada, the dirtiest oil in the world and the biggest pipeline company. And they have a hold on the great lakes – evil corporation.

So, line three – we fought the Sandpiper off successfully. We fought Embridge, they were fought off in Canada, that one was called the Northern Gateway. Two pipelines they lost, third one they got – line three. And we tried, but that's 915,000 barrels a day of oil. … You don't get a tiara for this thing. Put the last tar sands pipeline in and they don't even have it full because everybody's leaving the tar sands. I mean the Norwegians, Harvard – Harvard never was gonna leave anything – The Saudi Sovereign Fund, divested in all stock and the tar sands. That's crazy.

So anyway, you guys should fight that, you're fighting that CO2 pipeline I assume down there. It's endless bad ideas. The answer is hemp. The answer is not new CO2 pipelines and new other tar sands pipelines. The answer is ‘don't sequester your carbon in some imaginary pipeline world;’ sequester your carbon in your soil, because that's where carbon is supposed to go – into the soil, not into the air. And you do that with organic agriculture. Go Iowa.

[Sklenar] There are a couple of questions asking about resources for sustainable and indigenous seeds or where you might recommend starting to find seeds different than typical seed varieties. So resources for seeds.

[LaDuke] Like I said before, the seed savers, is it the seed savers. I was gonna say, and I'll offer for you guys, that next week, we have a few slots left, we have a class we're teaching on hemp: Hemp 101. If you look up Winona's hemp, it's mostly tribal students from our area, but some people might be super interested in.

[Sklenar] Yes, somebody in the chat: “Seed Savers Exchange near Decorah, Iowa” as a researcher seeds.

[LaDuke] Yep, that's where you get your seeds: Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.

[Sklenar] Great. I see from J. R. Buckle, he says, "Thank you for your inspirational and hopeful words. Sometimes it's hard to stay hopeful. Question about hemp: what do you rotate hemp with?"

[LaDuke] Ah, good question. Beans. It takes a lot of stuff like corn does and, I think I'm gonna do beans in there now. … I don't know if I'm gonna do potatoes. I might do … like alfalfa or something too . [Sklenar] And this is kind of a related question – and we've got time for maybe one or two more questions, I'd say – but are you doing anything with prairie restoration to increase biodiversity and assist with your sustainable agriculture practices?

[LaDuke] Yeah. We have one plot that I got USDA money for prairie restoration and I did a bunch up there. I liked it … but not really as much as I would do – ‘cause I'm mostly focusing on these plants and then I'm also interested in goats and in pasture restoration work, or grazing, browsing `cause I have horses. That's kind of more of what I've been involved in. And goats, now we're gonna do some more browsing and then raise some dairy goats and some meat goats this year.

[Sklenar] That sounds awesome. Okay, last question, and I think this is a great place to kind of leave things. What processing and agricultural needs are most important to develop in the next 5 to 10 years to fuel the Green New Revolution that you talked about?

[LaDuke] Excellent question. You need to take that class, Hemp 101. I'm telling you it's like at the beginning. ‘Cause I say like, it's like that question – “who killed the electric car?” but it's like, “who killed the hemp industry? And where'd the body go?”

It's like not a dang thing left of the 11 half mills in Minnesota. Iowa probably had some too. I don't know, disappeared – books burned, everything. I mean trying to find the things, super interesting. And so you're trying to reconstruct. And so, I've been traveling around for a number of years trying to hear things, and I hear all kind of stories; and everybody's gonna make a million bucks. And in Turkey they do it this way; and in Romania they do it this way; and in China they do it this way and – very interesting.

So that's what I think: first of all, you gotta get your seed variety stabilized over here. We do have to tackle this 0.3%, because that's kind of crazy because you can't get high off of 0.5% or 1% anyway. Why would you be worried about getting high off of this stuff? Because you could just go get 22% THC cannabis, no problem. So tackle that, get some genetic varieties that are stable for seeds, fiber. You understand what I'm saying? Some oil seeds, nutrition varieties, bird seeds – gets your seed varieties stabilized Iowa. You understand exactly what I'm saying. Your fiber variety stabilized – nothings stabilized, that's why I'm really interested in these Russian varieties that we have, that we have to grow out. And then get them so you own the seeds. Like we wanna own our seeds, that's our intention. I don't wanna have Monsanto own my seeds. Seeds gotta be owned by farmers. You gotta develop those varieties, you gotta figure out how to protect those varieties. Then, how the heck do you process it? I think we've got the combining down now. I've seen some equipment, but oh yeah, then the next thing is that the decorticating at different scales, and degumming – all of those. Milling, I don't think you could get seeds built in this country right now, because they're so oily you gotta send them to Canada. And I'm just telling you that because trying to rebuild the local food grain milling industry is key to Iowa and Minnesota. You got bobs to red mill. I don't know if you understand what I'm talking about, but there's not very many intermediate organic mills for artisan producers or people who are not General Mills.

And then hemp decortication, hemp milling. I wanna build one of these things, make this. Needing all kind of value-added industries. They're making plastics out of hemp. We need to move along from fossil fuels – that is an immense economic opportunity. It's a brand new economy. It's a brand new economy. it doesn't exist as an economy. It's just coming, being born, largely with legalized marijuana. But this stuff, this isn't even at the market yet – think about that potential. And you guys at Iowa, you got this potential. You need to come work for all the Indian people too, so we could be part of this economy. We don't wanna be a side note in this next economy, we wanna be at the table. But that's how you make a change – we all work together, and I'm super excited. Do I sound like it? I know I do. That's what everybody tells me. They're like oh LaDuke, I was like, "Oh my God, spring's coming, we're gonna plant more hemp."

Anyway, you guys are cool. I'm so glad I got to talk to you because you're like farmers and such. That's like great. You know I talk to a lot of people, they don't grow anything. I was like, “that's not helpful.”

[Sklenar] And we are just very excited that you were here and we're honored that you took the time out of your very busy schedule to talk to us. And so thank you for joining us. Thank you for all of the good work that that you're doing.

[LaDuke] Yeah, for sure. Well, remember Ricardo got me going on this path. He was at the Kellogg Foundation, I think, as a program officer there. I don't think he's still there though. He might have retired – but I saw him many years later, that's what I'm saying.

[Sklenar] Very cool.

[LaDuke] You guys do some good work down there, but yeah, I'm looking forward to it. So I hope to hear you that Iowa State doing organic hemp in agriculture in your sustainable program, right? We'll see.

[Sklenar] Yeah, we'll see.

[LaDuke] I know it takes a while.

[Sklenar] There's lots of different projects going on. I know a lot of people invested in different parts in different species, in different rotations and all kinds of things, so.

[LaDuke] Good, good. Thank you all, you guys have a good evening.

[Sklenar] You as well. Thank you.

[LaDuke] You bet.

LaDuke, W. (2022, February 9). Seed Sovereignty: Who Owns the Seeds of the World [Speech audio recording]. Iowa State University. Retrieved on March 21, 2022 from