Molly Hicks, Ph.D., is a 2019 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Alesia Maltz, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Jean Kayira, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Theresa Moran, Ph.D., Committee Member


Seeds, Seed Saving, Actor-Network Theory, Agriculture, Local Food Movement, Social-Ecological Resilience Thinking

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Since the beginning of agriculture, seeds have been cultivated, saved, and exchanged by farmers each year to ensure the success of future crops adapted to local environments. Yet, over ninety percent of our diverse vegetable and fruit crop varieties have been lost due to the industrialization and commercialization of seeds. Industrial agriculture has caused a great homogenization of crop varieties, but locally adapted seeds and their seed savers do still exist on the fringe, and across the world. There is a small but growing body of research on agri-food networks in Western and developing countries where advocates are working to continue and/or redevelop a stock of locally adapted seed in order to better serve humanity's needs in light of the effects of climate change and corporate interests. Using Actor-Network Theory (ANT), this dissertation explores the seed as it exists within different agri-food networks. First, I explain ANT through a review of agri-food studies literature that utilizes this unique "theoro-methodology." Next, I investigate how the seed exists within traditional, modern alternative, and industrial agricultural networks in order to discover the effects that emerge from actor interactions with the seed in these networks. I then put this knowledge to use in an on-site research project where I conduct an ANT investigation of the Ridge & Hollow Seed Alliance network, located in southeastern Ohio. Important network effects that I discover include saved seed, profit, survival, and what I call "resilience knowledge" - knowledge that is gained at the margins of our food system, outside of the hegemonic industrial agriculture complex. Social-ecological resilience knowledge is being created through local food networks (and especially those that include seed saving and exchange). People, plants, and things - actors in these networks - are creating important resilience memories that might assist the local food movement in establishing itself as a viable alternative to industrial agriculture.


Molly Hicks

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-8475-5421