By Diana Zhu
DAVIS – A panel discussion called “Seed to Asian Heritage” was held on Thursday afternoon as a part of the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center’s (CCC) Asian Pacific Culture Week.
Talking points of the discussion included the meaning of Asian seed preservation, food diversity and community building amid the rise of racism and xenophobia.
Thursday afternoon’s event was held by the Strategic Asian Pacific Islander Retention Initiative in partnership with the Asian American Studies (AAS) department and the UC Davis student farm.
The panel featured AAS faculty member Dr. Ga Young Chung, local Asian American farmer Kristyn Leach of Namu Farms, local chef and educator Aileen Suzara and the UCD student farm’s Katherina S. Ullmann and Jiana Choi.
Dr. Chung kicked off the discussion with a video showcasing people of all ages talking about what seeds mean to them.
Answers ranged from explaining that seeds are important because they provide us with the nutrients needed to survive to seeds being important because they carry memories, such as when one plants the seeds with people, they join the seeds on their journey to harvest.
Ullmann asked panelists to introduce themselves and asked them what seeds meant to them.
Leach answered by putting an emphasis on the importance and comfort it is to have access to these seeds, as they are a way to hold onto the roots of one’s native homeland. She also mentioned the importance of having accessibility to seeds and how Asian seeds in America are becoming more difficult to come by because of the increasingly capitalized seed market.
Choi echoed Leach’s sentiment on the importance of the accessibility of seeds and how she had observed the monopolization of the seed market. She said that being a part of the student farm has helped her see the wonderful process of “a seed becoming a cute little sprout and growing into a fully-fledged thing to consume.”
Suzara said she wanted to find a way to reclaim and recover memories of her Filipino farming culture and discover how to weave environmental justice into food culture preservation. She said she has been working to find ways to connect with her ancestral kitchens and learn from their secrets and has worked since to bring change for a more sustainable and just food system for all.
Suzara also brought up that when people talk about climate change, it should not at all be disconnected from farming and that farmers are “at the forefront of seeing the effects of this global disaster unfolding.”
UC Davis’ CCC is holding four weeks of virtual events throughout the Spring 2021 quarter for each of their culture days, and they ensured their Asian Pacific Culture week was during the first week of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and that their theme was API (Asian Pacific Islander) Represent.
During this week, the CCC partnered with other departments and guest speakers by hosting a variety of different virtual programs where people who identify as being in Asian and Pacific Islander communities were able to share experiences, passions and create connections around culture, home and identity in the Asian Pacific diaspora.
Diana Zhu is a fourth-year transfer student from Rancho Cucamonga, CA. She is majoring in Chinese and minoring in Professional Writing.
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