Nepali Bhutanese refugee gardeners and their seed systems

Placemaking and foodways in Vermont




Seed Systems, Placemaking, Refugee Gardeners


As the world grapples with how to support the millions fleeing the ongoing war in Ukraine, attention must be extended to how these indivi­duals, and the many others who are forcibly dis­placed in other parts of the world, can be wel­comed to new lands. Research indicates that creating foodways through gardening can provide cultural connections for diasporic communities. However, few studies have addressed how neces­sary inputs, such as seeds, affect refugees’ abilities to reconstruct culturally significant foodways. Drawing on placemaking theory, this article ex­plores if and how access to seeds and seed systems enables refugee gardeners to grow essential crops, which might be otherwise difficult to obtain, to produce foods reminiscent of their homelands. Focusing on Nepali Bhutanese refugee gardeners in Chittenden County, Vermont, we present findings from 30 semi-structured interviews demonstrating how refugee gardeners draw upon known practices and preferences to make a new land less foreign. Seed systems offer refugee gardeners the oppor­tunity to access, plant, and save familiar crops and experiment with new planting techniques and crop varieties. This study indicates that seed systems are an important way through which people make place, both physically and symbolically.


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Author Biographies

Junru Guo, University of Vermont

Guo is now a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology, Indiana University.

Daniel Tobin, University of Vermont

Assistant Professor, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics

Teresa Mares, University of Vermont

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology



How to Cite

Guo, J., Tobin, D., & Mares, T. (2022). Nepali Bhutanese refugee gardeners and their seed systems: Placemaking and foodways in Vermont. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(3), 197–210.