Mohawk seed keeper Terrylynn Brant aims to help next generation grow traditional foods

Terrylynn Brant of Ohsweken, Ont., is building a seed bank of traditional foods, like blue potatoes, red corn and strawberry beans, and hopes to inspire the next generation to grow their own food.

'Everything in our being is about agriculture ... agriculture’s in our blood'

Terrylynn Brant is a Mohawk seed keeper and has six gardens in Ohsweken, Ont. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Growing her own food is in Terrylynn Brant's blood.

"Everything in our being is about agriculture," Brant said, standing in one of her six gardens in Ohsweken, Ont., where she is growing plants to collect their seeds.

She said the Haudenosaunee people "are an agricultural society" and she grew up with family that grew their own food.

Now, she's hoping to inspire the next generation. Brant is in the middle of a seven year project to create a seed bank for foods that have declined in popularity.

That includes seeds like the red and blue corn, strawberry beans and blue potatoes.

"I've been growing the seeds from my own family lineage, it's something I grew up with and I've never left," Brant said.

"I hope to be able to have a fairly large depository of a variety of seeds and enough that I can start lending out to people so they can start," she said.

Terrylynn Brant marks the corn in her garden using old cobs. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

'Weird and foreign'

It can be a hard sell for some, who see canned black beans and fresh yellow corn as the norm.

"A little kid who would look at a red cob of corn, he probably wouldn't eat it because he'd think it was something weird and foreign," Brant said.

But there has been renewed interest in recent years by the younger generation to be more conscious of what they eat.

They want to eat traditional foods, but the problem is, they're not growing it.

"You can't just walk into a store and buy" the food, Brant said.

She wants to impart her knowledge on younger gardeners and farmers so they can grow their own traditional foods and connect with their past.

"Everything in our being is about agriculture," Brant said. "Agriculture's in our blood."

She said her family instilled in her the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it nourishes your whole being.

"When you're brought up on certain things, any culture, you try to keep those things going forward for yourself and for your kids," she said.

"There's so many foods that we have and enjoy that make us strong emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, that we couldn't continue to exist as Haudenosaunee people if we didn't continue to eat the foods of our ancestors."