Seedy Talks is a community engagement and educational event that I initiated and have been organizing since Spring 2019, in conjunction with the Morgantown Seed Preservation Library project. The series focuses on topics related to environmental, food and health justice, seed and food sovereignty, local economies, story telling, and food and farm traditions of underrepresented minoritized communities.
Some talks in the series were funded by West Virginia Humanities Council, various departments across the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences and me until 2021. Since 2021, event series has been sponsored by the Dean's Office at the Eberly College.
You can find the list of the past speakers below:
Social Justice and Community Work in McDowell County, West Virginia
10th installment of the speaker series took place on Tuesday, 27 October 2022, at 4:00 EST in 338 Hodges Hall. The lecture was also streamed online and followed by a Q/A session.
About the talk
The economic development work that is needed in McDowell County, West Virginia, begs for research, data, and analysis as well as raising awareness, and creating educational and entrepreneurial opportunities around these findings to properly express the impact of agriculture and other economic drivers to investors, funders and collaborators who would like to join the cause of rebuilding the county and the region.
WVU has significant presence through athletics in communities of persistent poverty across McDowell County. How can our communities in the county work with our institution for changemaking beyond the presence of athletics?
How, despite the ways in which Europe underdeveloped Africa, places like Rwanda have been rebuilt after destruction and is growing while West Virginia continues to report some of the worst health statistics, population drain and an uninspired youth population in the U.S.?
When do community and academia collide
and collaborate on identifying solutions for McDowell County?
In the 10th installment of
Seedy Talks, Jason B. Tartt, Sr., will seek answers to these questions while discussing
his community work, social justice challenges, accomplishments, and his vision
for regional development in Southern West Virginia.
About the speaker
Jason B. Tartt, Sr., is originally from the Vallscreek community in McDowell County, West Virginia, and a graduate of Bluefield High School in Bluefield, West Virginia. In 2010, he returned to West Virginia with his family in tow after a military and Department of Defense contracting career. He has spent the better part of ten years on working to understand and create awareness and education around the viability of agribusinesses in the region.
Tartt co-founded Economic Development Greater East (EDGE) and several other organizations to identify regional economic drivers and develop models around food and agriculture, clean energy, tourism, and community health. He has developed training and experiential learning programs for budding food producers and future business owners in McDowell County.
Tartt is an entrepreneur, farmer, business owner and an ambassador of change who is passionate about exploring the opportunities Appalachia offers, to empower our communities and build sustainable businesses for future generations. One of his main goals for McDowell County and Southern West Virginia is to demonstrate “Black excellence” through creative agriculture and entrepreneurial projects. Tartt recently appeared on CNN in an episode of Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America.
The Importance of Indigenous Worldview in Climate Adaptation & Policy
The ninth installment of the speaker series took place on Tuesday, March 22, at 2 p.m. The virtual discussion will be followed by a Q/A session.
Seedy Talks is a community engagement and educational programming event that focuses on food justice, environmental justice, food and seed sovereignty, racism and discrimination in the food system, and food and farm traditions of People of Color and other Underrepresented Minoritized Communities. The event is organized by service assistant professor Mehmet Öztan, and sponsored by the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences.
About the talk
Academic research, government agencies and world leaders fail to make meaningful Indigenous engagement for climate governance and policy-making while Indigenous communities around the world experience serious impacts of climate crisis. Rebecca Sinclair (left) and Tiffany Traverse (right) will discuss their efforts to decolonize climate policy, vital importance of Indigenous-led climate research and planning, and success stories from their communities in Canada.
About the speakers
Rebecca Sinclair (she/her) is a nêhiyaw-iskwêw, wife and mother of three, she is originally from Barren Lands First Nation (Treaty 5) and a member of Little Saskatchewan First Nation. She moved to Winnipeg, a guest on Treaty One territory, to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Native Studies from the University of Manitoba. Rebecca holds multiple positions in land defense, cultural revitalization, research, and is a part of multiple boards. Actively reclaiming her native language, Rebecca pursues higher learning that comes from the land and through learning alongside knowledge keepers and Elders. Her childhood spent on the land in northern Manitoba, has shaped her understanding and guided her efforts to protect and preserve the great gifts of our sacred Earth.
Tiffany Traverse (she/her) is a Secwépemc, Swiss/Italian farmer, land and seed steward, language learner, and food sovereignty advocate. Her passion for feeding people and firm belief in the right to healthy, culturally-appropriate foods for all, drives her work. She is passionate about the uncomfortable work in dismantling structural racism within institutions and conducting experimental plant breeding projects to adapt nutrient-dense cultivars to our changing climate as a guest in Treaty 8 Territory. Traverse has served as a volunteer Advisory Council member with the Community Seed Network. She currently represents the Mountain Forests Biome on Indigenous Climate Action’s Decolonizing Climate Policy Advisory Council, as well as serves on the Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee for Farmers for Climate Solutions, a Board Member of Regeneration Canada, and is the newly-appointed Chair of SeedChange. Her hope is to continue being a ‘Weaver’, advocating to create better access to resources and increase our collective seed and food security and sovereignty.
Deranger, Eriel Tchekwie, Rebecca Sinclair, Beze Gray, Deborah McGregor, Jen Gobby. 2022. Decolonizing Climate Research and Policy: making space to tell our own stories, in our own ways. In Community Development Journal, Volume 57, Issue 1. Pages 52-73.
Indigenous Climate Action: Decolonizing Climate Policy
Farmers for Climate Solutions: Equity Framework
From Garden Warriors to Good Seeds: Native American Food and Seed Sovereignty Movements
You can find Dr. Hoover's statement about her lack of tribal connection that she posted on her website in October 2022 here: https://www.profelizabethmhoover.com/identity
Elizabeth Hoover, Photo by: Adam Sings In The Timber
Dr. Elizabeth Hoover joined the eighth installment of Seedy Talks. This virtual lecture took place on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 at 2:00 EST. The lecture was followed by a Q/A session.
About the talk
Because ‘we are what we eat,’ the Native American food sovereignty movement is working to revitalize and perpetuate traditional food systems, in order to promote good physical, cultural and spiritual health. This is being done through the promotion of seed sovereignty and the reclamation and rematriation of Native heirloom seeds; through the work of Native chefs seeking to reclaim and define Indigenous cuisine; and in fighting for a clean environment in which to nurture these foods. This talk discusses nationwide Native American food sovereignty efforts, as well as current projects at UC Berkeley.
Dr. Hoover braiding corn at a food sovereignty summit at Red Lake Tribal College
Photo by Dan Cornelius
About the speaker
Elizabeth Hoover (she/her/hers) is an associate professor in the Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Department at the University of California Berkeley whose research, life, and community work focuses on food sovereignty and environmental justice for Native American communities. Based on collaborations with tribal communities across the US, Hoover has published books and articles about Native American food sovereignty and seed rematriation; environmental reproductive justice in Native American communities; and tribal citizen science and community based participatory research.
Hoover, Elizabeth. 2020. “Native Food Systems Impacted by COVID” Agriculture and Human Values 37(3):569-570. DOI: 10.1007/s10460-020-10089-7
Hoover, Elizabeth. 2017. “’You can’t say you’re sovereign if you can’t feed yourself:’ Defining and Enacting Food Sovereignty in American Indian Community Gardening” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 41(3): 31-70. DOI 10.17953/aicrj.41.3.hoover
“The Indigenous Corn Keepers Conference of Uchben Kah.” New Farmers’
Almanac, Vol V published January 2021
Rowen and Elizabeth Hoover. 2019. “Our Living
Relatives: Maintaining Resilience and Seed Diversity in Native American
Communities.” IN The New Farmers Almanac, Vol 4, edited and published by
the Greenhorns, Chelsea Green Publishing Company. P 332-337.
“For Tribal Peoples, Food Justice Requires Environmental Justice.” In Lessons
in Environmental Justice: From Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter, edited by
Michael Mascarenhas, 199-215. Los Angeles CA: Sage Publishing.
“Protecting Our Living Relatives: Environmental Reproductive Justice and Seed
Rematriation.” E-flux architecture. Special Issue: “Exhausted,”
April 13 2021.
Hoover, Elizabeth. 2021. “Sky Woman’s Daughters.” The Common Table May 13 2021 https://thecommontable.eu/sky-womans-daughters/
Clockwise: Aileen Suzara, Kristyn Leach, Mehmet Öztan
American seed keeper Kristyn Leach (she/her), Filipino American educator, food
activist and chef Aileen Suzara (she/her/siya), and Turkish seed keeper Mehmet
Öztan (he/him/o) will be the next speakers of the Seedy
Talks. This virtual lecture will take
place on Thursday, October 28 at 1:00pm EST. The lecture will be followed by a
Q/A session. Seedy Talks is organized by Mehmet Öztan, Service Assistant
Professor, and sponsored by the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences.
Seedy Talks was initiated in 2019 by Mehmet Öztan as the educational programming component of the Morgantown Seed Preservation Library with a focus on the topics related to environmental and food justice, seed sovereignty, story-telling, and food and farm traditions of Underrepresented Minoritized Communities.
About the talk
Crops of our cultural lineages have the power to connect us to our people and homes, no matter how far we are from our beloved ones. We re-live our childhood memories through the meals we prepare in our kitchens where we also meet our communities to share our stories, food traditions, and recipes.
In the seventh installment of Seedy Talks, Kristyn Leach, Aileen Suzara, and Mehmet Öztan will take the audience to their personal and professional spaces where growing, preparing and sharing food are deeply rooted in building their respective communities and connecting with the cultures of their homelands. The interactive lecture will explore the cultural appropriation and abuse of traditional crops of Underrepresented Marginalized Communities by the American seed and food industry, using the examples of soybean, ube and wheat, and talk about the importance of reclaiming community-centered narratives of these crops.
About the speakers
Born in Daegu, South Korea, in 1982, Kristyn Leach grew up in New York. She ate Korean food for the first time at the age of 19. This is when she became curious about growing Korean crops and began reading cookbooks, investigating culturally important and appropriate vegetables and herbs.
After moving to California, she managed a lettuce farm where she also grew 깻잎 (kkaennip) for Namu Gaji, a Korean-owned restaurant in San Francisco. This partnership inspired her to start her own farm, Namu Farm, in Sunol Ag Park of Alameda County, CA, in 2011. Two years later, she visited Heuksalim, an organic seed research institute in Korea, to observe the diversity of the seeds kept in the institute’s vault which inspired her to be a seed keeper and story teller.
Now located in Winters, CA, Namu Farm quickly became a center of agrobiodiversity where Leach grows traditional Korean and Asian vegetables and seeds. She continuously works with Asian American communities on the West Coast to further her efforts in environmental justice, food justice, and sustainable agriculture projects which are inspired by more than 4,000 years of Asian teachings of farming.
Kristyn Leach received the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) Ecological Farmer award in 2021.
Aileen Suzara, MPH, is a first-generation Filipino American educator, food activist, and chef who, while growing up in California and Hawai’i, re-forged connections to her family’s migration stories through nearly-lost recipes. She weaves a love of food with a background in sustainable farming, environmental justice, and health advocacy.
Sparked by the rise of chronic disease among Filipino American Communities and kindred Communities of Color, and Eurocentric narratives of nutrition, Suzara pursued a master’s degree in public health nutrition at UC Berkeley, with a focus on reclaiming her community’s cultural foodways for wellness. She launched Sariwa (eng. Fresh) food project to lift up the healing strengths of heritage, using cuisine as a tool for public health, offering community workshops and meals, and engaging students of all ages at schools, universities, organizations and hospitals.
A 2019 Castanea fellow, Suzara received Bon Appetit’s Superpowered award in 2018, Yamashita prize in 2016 and Big Ideas Food Systems Innovation prize in 2015. She is a teaching member of Sama Sama Cooperative, an intergenerational space that collaborates with scholars like Kristyn Leach.
Mehmet Öztan, Ph.D., is a Turkish seed keeper, farmer and public scholar who focuses on seed restoration and preservation work on his 6-acre farm located in Reedsville, West Virginia. The farm is an experimental learning space and a gateway to exploring more than 50 food crops for their cultural significance, culinary uses, climate adaptability and significance related to food justice and food security. The farm houses one of the largest independently-managed seed collections in the Appalachian region.
Öztan holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Michigan State University and is currently a Service Assistant Professor in Eberly College of Arts & Sciences at West Virginia University.
This is a free event. Attendees are required to fill the registration form below to receive the Zoom link and the password to join this event. You can send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attendees are encouraged to check out the following resources prior to the event, to be prepared for the subject matter.
Dr. Jonathan Hall hunting in Lost Creek, WV (Photo Credit: Mike Costello)
“There is a tension
between an “American ideal of a color-blind national identity” and the identity
of [People of Color], such as African Americans whose history and experience
does not fully jibe with current values and beliefs.” -From Dr. Carolyn
Finney’s Black Faces, White Spaces
About the talk
American parks and wilderness that white Americans enjoy for their recreational activities and hunting can be painful spaces for Black people. Statistics of land ownership and access also directly speaks to this pain. In 1920, there were 14 percent land-owning Black farmers across US. Today only 1.4 percent of US farms are controlled by Black farmers. Similarly, only 2 percent of the hunters in the country are Black.
In the sixth installment of Seedy Talks, sponsored by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at WVU, Dr. Jonathan Hall, Assistant Professor of Geography at West Virginia University, will discuss how institutional and environmental racism and dispossession of Black people’s land affects the hunting landscape in the U.S. Mike Costello and Amy Dawson, co-hosts of Pickle Shelf Radio Hour, will join the discussion to share their thoughts on the fifth episode of the podcast: Bigos, Big Does and Hunting While Black, which featured Dr. Hall to explore the relation between race and hunting in the context of West Virginia.
Dr. Mehmet Öztan, Service Assistant Professor of Eberly College will host this event on April 6, at 2:00 p.m. via Zoom.
About the guests
Dr. Hall is a wildlife ecologist by training with a broad interest in wildlife conservation, human/wildlife interaction, environmental justice, and species movement ecology. He founded the Wilderness Geography Lab (previously the Conservation Geography Lab) in 2014 in the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University. The lab currently conducts research in West Virginia, California, Yellowstone National Park, and Rajasthan India. Dr. Hall holds a Ph.D. in Ecology from the Ohio State University and B.S. in Biology from Morehouse College.
Amy Dawson and Mike Costello, Lost Creek, WV
Mike Costello received his B.S. degree from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University. Amy Dawson received her B.S. degree from the Department of Geology and Geography and J.D. degree from the College of Law at West Virginia University. Costello and Dawson are story tellers, farmers, seed savers, chefs and co-owners at Lost Creek Farm (Lost Creek, WV), a historic farm and traveling culinary venture that promotes Appalachia’s heritage-based cuisine. They are the co-producers of Pickle Shelf Radio Hour through which they explore West Virginia’s immigrant history, food traditions, and environmental and food justice stories in the state.
Guests are encouraged to read Dr. Hall’s articles Hunting While Black in West Virginia and Notes from an Angry Black Hunter: Guns, Genocide, and the Stolen Ground You ‘Own’ prior to the event to be prepared for the subject matter. Students and faculty alike are also encouraged to listen the Pickle Shelf Radio Hour’s fifth episode, Bigos, Big Does and Hunting While Black, and read Dr. Hall’s recent article Wild alternatives: Accounting for and rethinking the relationship between wild game and food security in Appalachian food systems prior to the event.
About the talk
Flowing springs of the Colorado Plateau have sustained the Native peoples of Arizona where they have lived for thousands of years. In the last 50 years, the coal industry in Arizona pumped billions of gallons of water from the aquifer that supplies drinking water for the Hopi and Navajo Nations. Similarly, the Tohono O’odham and Yaqui Nations in Southern Arizona are struggling with declining groundwater levels.
In conjunction with industrial activities, the climate crisis is escalating in Arizona where summer 2020 had 110 days of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, threatening the Native peoples’ lifestyles, farmland and sacred seeds throughout the state.
In the fifth installment of Seedy Talks, Noah Schlager of Native Seeds/Search talked about his work on integrating seed conservation efforts on the lands of Tohono O’odham and Yaqui with the support and development of Native American farmers and their communities in Arizona through a perspective of environmental justice.
About the speaker
Noah Schlager is a Mvskoke-Creek, Florida Catawba/Cheraw, Jewish and Euro-American descendant. His maternal grandmother taught him how to garden, forage and cook foods that have been in his family since his childhood. Out of the passion she and other elders have planted in him, he works to support Indigenous communities’ foodways and relationships to the land.
Schlager received a Master of Environmental Science degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His work involved the Indigenous co-management and its engagement with settler-colonial governance systems at the Bears Ears National Monument. He has worked on deconstructing the colonial legacies which have historically excluded Indigenous people from participating in western conservation and on creating space for Indigenous people to have the agency and discretion to practice and share (or not share) Indigenous knowledge around caring for plants and the land.
Schlager is currently the conservation program manager of the Native Seeds/Search, a nonprofit organization in Tucson, Arizona, dedicated to conservation of the drought-adapted crop diversity of the Southwest in support of sustainable farming and food security.
Korean American farmer and seed saver Kristyn Leach was the fourth speaker of Seedy Talks. The series’ fourth installment will took place on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. via Zoom.
About the talk
In the fourth installment of Seedy Talks, Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm (Winters, California) discussed her farming practices that are deeply rooted in her Korean identity and how these practices speak to environmental justice, food justice and sustainable agriculture. Leach took the audience to a journey of seed stewardship emphasizing hard work, integrity and place of race and culture in seed stewardship.
About the speaker
Born in Daegu, South Korea, in 1982, Kristyn Leach was adopted as an infant by an Irish Catholic family in the Northeast and grew up in New York. While attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, she got involved with New York City’s urban community garden movement via the Food Not Bombs initiative. At this time, she also joined the resistance against Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s attempts to auction community garden sites.
Leach ate Korean food for the first time at the age of 19. This is when she became curious about growing Korean crops and began reading cookbooks, investigating culturally important Korean vegetables and herbs.
She grew 깻잎 (kkaennip), a staple Korean herb (also known as perilla) for the first time, when she moved to the state of Washington. After moving to California, she managed a lettuce farm where she also grew kkaennip for Namu Gaji, a Korean-owned restaurant in San Francisco. Inspired by her partnership with Namu Gaji, in 2011, Leach founded the Namu Farm in Sunol Ag Park of Alameda County, California. Two years later, she visited Heuksalim, an organic seed research institute in Korea, to observe the diversity of the seeds kept in the institute’s vault.
Now located in Winters, California, the farm quickly became an iconic center of agrobiodiversity of traditional Asian crops. Leach works with Asian American communities on the West Coast to further her efforts in environmental justice, food justice and sustainable agriculture projects which are inspired by more than 4,000 years of Asian teachings of farming.
Appalachian chef, farmer, seed saver and storyteller Mike Costello was the third speaker for Seedy Talks. This event took place on Monday, Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. in 325 Brooks Hall.
About the talk
In this third installment of Seedy Talks, Mike Costello will take a critical look at the actions of chemical companies in West Virginia and reflect on his personal decision to decline his participation in the Crops in Color campaign, a decision defined by his relationships with his community and the land around him, as well as the region’s culture, food, economy and, of course, the seeds he loves and is committed to preserving.
Born and raised in a part of West Virginia known as “The Chemical Valley,” Costello has a personal connection to the state’s chemical industry and especially to DuPont. Costello grew up with members of his community, including his aunt and his grandfather, working at the DuPont Corporation’s Kanawha County plant, as well as nearby plants operated by Monsanto, Bayer, Union Carbide and, later, Dow Chemical. Unfortunately, he also witnessed the industry’s adverse effects.
By the 1970s, the Kanawha Valley came to be known as “The Cancer Valley,” as residents living near local chemical plants were diagnosed with cancer at extremely high rates. In a prominent incident profiled by recent films The Devil We Know (2018) and Dark Waters (2019), DuPont's Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, dispersed more than two million pounds of C8, a toxic compound which is used to manufacture Teflon©, into the mid-Ohio River Valley area, contaminating water resources for humans, livestock and wildlife. According to a 2012 study of 70,000 people in the greater-Parkersburg area, six locally common diseases were linked to C8 from the DuPont plant, now operated by Chemours.
Though he now lives hours away from his hometown, Costello was confronted with DuPont’s troubled Appalachian legacy once again in 2019, when The Global Crop Trust approached him (along with Mehmet Öztan and other Appalachian farmers, seed savers and food producers) to participate in the Crops in Color campaign. Promoted as a photography and social media campaign to celebrate local/regional farmers and Appalachia’s agrobiodiversity and heirloom crops, Crops in Color’s primary sponsor was Corteva AgriSciences, a spin-off corporation born from the merger of DuPont and Dow Chemical. Costello wondered which would be greater: the benefits the campaign might bring to his home region or the public relation benefits for corporations with complicated and troublesome legacies in the region. In the end, Costello, Öztan and a group of fellow seed-saving enthusiasts across the region declined to participate.
“Knowing what I know about the histories of Corteva, DuPont and Dow in West Virginia, I couldn’t bring myself to participate in a campaign that would allow these companies to greenwash their toxic legacies on the backs of our uncompensated labor and institutional knowledge,” Costello said. “Appalachians don’t owe these companies anything. These companies owe Appalachia the world.”
About the speaker
Mike Costello received a bachelor’s degree from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism (now the Reed College of Media) at WVU. Costello is a chef, farmer, seed saver, storyteller and co-owner at Lost Creek Farm in Lost Creek, West Virginia, a historic farm and traveling culinary venture through which he and his partner, Amy Dawson, promote Appalachia’s heritage-based cuisine while they celebrate the diversity of West Virginia’s immigrant history and food traditions.
Mr. Costello is currently a contributing editor at the 100 Days in Appalachia project, where he focuses on issues in regional food and culture, and he serves on the board of directors for the Appalachian Food Summit. His work was featured in the West Virginia episode of Anthony Bourdain’s iconic Parts Unknown documentary, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and WVU Magazine.
Mehmet Öztan, service assistant professor of geography, and Jonathan Hall, assistant professor of geography, collaboratively collaboratively hosted the second Seedy Talks, a speaker series of the Morgantown Seed Preservation Library, on Monday, Oct. 7, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in 325 Brooks Hall.
The event began with a discussion around food among the audience and continued with the screening of the short documentary, “Seeds of Hope.” The documentary tells the story of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe at Akwesasne, the Hudson Valley Farm Hub and Seedshed as they honor Native American seeds that are at risk of disappearing through planting and harvesting them. The Hudson Valley Farm Hub and Seedshed are both nonprofit organizations that work on projects related to building resilient agricultural communities and engaging communities for seed sovereignty and biological diversity.
After the documentary, keynote speaker Ken Greene unpacked a timeline of seed heritage from pre-history through indigenous seed keepers up to biotech and pharmaceutical domination of seed resources. Through looking at and digging deeper into the elegant, humorous, personal and telling images from antique seed catalogs and contemporary seed pack art that Greene talked about, the audience had the opportunity to learn about a diversity of seed stories and how seeds connect us to food, butterflies, science, geography, history, soil, our ancestors and each other.
This event was presented with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
About the Speaker
Ken Greene is the founder of the first seed library in the United States, a project he germinated in Gardiner, New York. Greene and his partner, Doug Muller, grew the library into the Hudson Valley Seed Co., a national seed company and regional seed farm devoted to ethically producing seed for home gardeners and farmers and celebrating seeds through art. Greene is also the founding director of Seedshed, a nonprofit organization focused on growing regional and cultural seed communities through seed literacy and seed justice programs.
Greene’s efforts have been profiled in a range of publications including New Yorker Magazine, Washington Post, Martha Stewart Living, Vogue, New York Times, Heirloom Gardener Magazine and NPR. He has given presentations for diverse groups including the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Culinary Institute of America, Seed Savers Exchange, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Omega Institute, many Garden Clubs of America and the National Heirloom Expo. In 2019, the Hudson Valley Seed Co was awarded the Garden Club of America Horticulture Commendation.
Seed saver, story teller and co-founder of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Ira Wallace was the inaugural speaker of Seedy Talks on April 12, 2019. In this session, Wallace talked about her work with seeds in the South and across the U.S.
This event was sponsored by Two Seeds in a Pod Heirloom Seed Co.
About the speaker
Wallace was raised in Tampa, Florida, by her grandmother Estella Brown, growing up with an abundant homestead garden. She graduated from New College in Sarasota, Florida. She left Florida after college to travel around the world throughout the 1960s and 1970s, living on Kibbutz, a community settlement in Israel, and farming in Denmark and Canada.
In 1984, she returned to the U.S., and settled in the Twin Oaks Community of Louisa, Virginia. In 1993, she helped to found the Acorn Community, a 75-acre egalitarian farm in Louisa, Virginia, which is identified by Wallace as an “experiment for economic justice.” In 1999, Wallace and other members of the Acorn Community took over the stewardship of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a small heirloom seed company that has been cooperatively managed since then, and that specializes in southeastern heirloom seeds while commercially offering more than 700 seed varieties to home gardeners and small farmers.
Wallace has served on the boards of the Organic Seed Alliance, Open Source Seed Initiative and Virginia Association for Biological Farming, and she is an organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, Virginia. She was one of the nine contributors to the Southern SARE-sponsored Saving Our Seeds Project that aimed to promote sustainable, ecological, organic vegetable seed production in the mid-Atlantic and South. She was one of the major collaborators in the Heirloom Collard Project that focused on historical documentation and preservation of the collard varieties grown since pre-civil war era in the southern U.S.
Wallace was the mid-Atlantic regional correspondent for the Mother Earth News gardening almanac in the 1990s and is the author of the "Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast." She is the 2016 recipient of the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019 recipient of the Organic Growers School’s Organic Educator Award and 2019 recipient of the American Horticultural Society’s Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award.
Wallace travels around the U.S. to tell seed stories and to teach communities about seed saving, seeds’ connection with economic and food justice as well as about southern culinary and farming traditions. She is one of the most prominent and inspirational seed advocates of our time.