Using the SEED-O-MATIC is straightforward. All you need is 60 cents for seeds, 50 cents for soil, and a makeshift planter—try poking holes in the bottom of a milk carton or a tin can and adding the soil over a layer of rocks for drainage. Once you’ve planted one of the five seed varieties available here, leave it on your windowsill and water it according to the instructions on the envelope. In two or three months, your greens will be ready to eat.
As simple as it is to operate, SEED-O-MATIC provides a point of entry into complex issues of food justice. The work was designed in 2013 by artists Emma Dorothy Conley and Halley Roberts in concert with the Center for Genomic Gastronomy (CGG), an artist-led organization working internationally to “imagine a more just, biodiverse, and beautiful food system.” Brought to campus and sighted in Cotter Union by the Colby Museum, the machine will be at Colby through May 2020.
Today, CGG’s vision is more important than ever. Large agrochemical companies are buying out seed suppliers and patenting the genetic information of the seeds they sell, posing serious threats to agricultural biodiversity and food sovereignty worldwide. The Open Source Seed Initiative aims to establish a protected commons for non-patented seeds and push back against the hegemony of “Big Food.” In stocking seeds that are organic, locally saved, and/or open-source, SEED-O-MATIC makes supporting an agricultural system based on access and equitability as convenient as using a vending machine.