Recent News: Much has happened since our first exploration to Europe, lots of seed growing, seed saving seed swaping, presenting workshops, and a wonderful trip to Romania.
Below is a summary of our less recent adventures...
Andrew and Sarah traveled through northern Europe for four months and are now back in Oregon. The Seed Ambassadors initiative has now evolved beyond our most optimistic expectations. Our trajectory among key individuals and organizations standing at the heart of the independent European seed stewardship movement continues to gather impetus. Indeed, such is the intelligence flowing our way that we are now introducing European seeds people unknown to one another. The flow of seed and knowhow continues apace. The warmth of Andew and Sarah's reception only deepens.
Kleeger & Andrew Still visting the vegetable plot of the
We are not sure exactly what happens now. Organizing grow outs of some of the accessions (700+) from some of Europe's finest seed stewards, also maybe some more ambassadorship work. Quite an adventure has unfolded!
Andrew and Sarah began their travels at an event with Frøsamlerne, the Danish Seed Savers organization, in Odense on November 25, before moving on to stay with the folks of the Applied Sustainable Development program at Vestjyllands Højskole, the Organic Agricultural College or Den Økologiske Landbrugsskole på Kalø, and Barritskov Manor, in Eastern Jutland, the largest organic farm in Denmark and the impetus behind what is now a 30,000 member CSA.
The team then spent two weeks moving among the heart of the biodynamic seed stewardship community in Germany, including visits with Christina Henatsch at Gut Wulfsdorf in Ahrensburg near Hamburg, and grain breeder and head of the Association of Biodynamic Plant Breeders, Dr. Karl-Josef Mueller at Cereal Breeding Research Darzau.
On December 19, they began a visit in Kaunas in Lithuania, as guests of the Chamber of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania and GAJA, the Lithuanian ecological agriculture association, who arranged seed-related meetings with the Lithuanian Institute of Horticulture; the Seed Growing Producers Association; the Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture (Kedainiai region); the Lithuanian Vegetable Growers Association; the Lithuanian University of Agriculture, Kaunas; "Gojelis," the Moletai region's ecological farmers community, and "Padegsnys" the cooperative society of ecological farmers.
In late December the team were guests of the Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute in Latvia, before heading on to St. Petersburg and the Vavilov Institute in early January. For those of us keenly aware of the life and work, and continuing legacy of Nikolai Vavilov, the journey to the Vavilov Institute amounted to a pilgrimage.
After Russia, Andrew and Sarah returned to Germany in early January to the agricultural and research and plant breeding center at Dottenfelderhof; additional biodynamic plant breeding efforts at the seed powerhouse Bingenheimer; the good folks at Bio-Saatgut; Bioland, Germany's largest organic farmer's association; and a meeting with the German seed saving organization, VEN; before heading on to Switzerland and a visit with Pro Specie Rara, the Swiss foundation for the preservation of rare animal breeds and crop varieties; and the Biodynamic seed stewards at Sativa Rheinau.
Sarah and Andrew met with Belgian seed savers, hosted by Peter Bauwens, on the way to the many events we attended in the United Kingdom in February. These included visits and presentations at Seedy Sunday, the country's largest seedswap, in Brighton on February 4; the Biodynamic Agricultural Association's annual seed workshop in Gloucestershire on February 18; and the Heritage Seed Library and HDRA, the national charity for organic growing and a mainstay of the English seed stewardship community. Moving on to Wales, the team visited Real Seeds - the onetime Vida Verde folks- and Brithdir Mawr Community Farm, the Dyfi Valley Seed Savers and the Machynlleth Seedy Sunday Seedswap on February 25, before continuing on to Ireland.
The beginning of March 2007 found Andrew and Sarah in Ireland where they met with the Irish Seed Saver Association in County Clare; Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds, the only family-run seed company in Ireland; and Joy Larkcom, one of the more influential gardening writers on the international stage; before returning to Denmark for a major Spring event with Frøsamlerne, the Danish Seed Savers organization with whom they began their European adventure, some four months previous.
With the Seed Ambassadors caravan on the road, the content format of this website has morphed. Andrew and Sarah, rather than Nick, have made most of the 'recent news' updates and they're posting them to our blog.
But please don't pass up the opportunity to cast a quick glance over the 'not-so-recent news' below. The descriptions and photos of preparations leading up to our team's departure paint a compelling picture of the community, landscape and values in which the Seed Ambassadors Project is grounded. Our project may have an international reach, but it is motivated by and deeply grounded in the wisdom-of-place. It grows from and blends with our local land.
Echo Hollow, November, 2006
Wednesday evening, November 8, 2006
The travelling officially begins! Today, Andrew and Sarah left Oregon, headed south to visit family and friends, before catching their flight to Denmark, out of LA, on November 23. Late last night, the couple swung by Nick's for farewells, nettle tea, dried-pear nibbles; and to drop off assorted seed, to be left behind, in further need of cleaning and drying down.
Our goodbyes were deeply optimistic, but also a little poignant - the preparations of recent months have gifted us a fast, firm, deeply treasured friendship. Our fondness for one another has grown with every encounter. We will miss one another.
On Friday we all made a final visit to Dr. Alan Kapuler's in Corvallis, to say goodbyes. 'Shrume, as he is known to family and friends, gifted Andrew and Sarah material to carry - among it some of his recent breeding successes, including: multicolored, and dark red, frost- and cold soil-tolerant sweetcorns; edible-seed lupin; 100-flower-per-tress cherry toms; cooler climate eggplants; glaze lacinato kale; 5' tall, big-bushy marigolds (Tagates petula) with prolific, exquisite, gold and burgundy flowers; and more! And, of course, all organically bred and grown in the maritime northwest. Go OG! Go OP! Go the wisdom-of-place!
In between the Kapuler visit and last night's farewells, Nick made it to the wedding of Gnome McBride and Careesa Connor of Under The Yew Botanicals at their new herb farm where, lurking among the plant geeks, an unusual photo op presented itself - three of our more influential local seedsmen, all within the same frame. From left to right: John of Rivers Turn Farm, Taylor Zeigler, and Steve of Green Journey Seeds.
Eco-geeks were in rich abundance. One of the wedding dinner speeches was made on behalf of the Spirit of Yerba Buena; the wedding tea, a complex balance of several herbs, had been wildcrafted and grown by the bride and groom; nurserymen clustered in corners, talking seeding mixes; various members of the wedding party kept drifting off into the hills to check out the wildlife! Over the three day celebration, an extensive plant list of the land's flora emerged. Yes, this was a wedding in ecological context!
Tuesday afternoon, November 7
Our Ukrainian translation is in, thanks to Dakia Anheluk. Dakia is a loyal farmhand at Horton Road Organics, one of the most highly regarded organic farms in our bioregion. Through the years, 'Horton', as it is fondly referred to by locals, has built one of the finest apprenticeship programs in the Western States for up-and-coming organic farmers, under the exemplary stewardship of principals there, Bill Booth and Debra Seido Martin. Sarah and Andrew have served apprenticeships at their beautiful farm, nestled in Oregon's Coast Range.
Late night, Monday October 30
Our Danish translation is in, thanks to Lila Towle, teacher and social worker. Though a native New Englander, Lila has spent the better part of the last 30 years in Denmark where, among other varied accomplishments, she started the Danish seed savers oranization. Lila has been instrumental in handholding our visit to Denmark and arranging contacts for us there. An enormous hug for Lila!
Viktor Zelazny, a young horticulture student living in Poland found our website and took it upon himself to translate our material into Polish. It looks as though Poland is emerging as fertile ground for us - other offers of help are coming in from complete strangers there. Hooray for Viktor and the spirit of generosity in his home country.
and Sarah playing up for the camera at their
Morning, Thursday October 26
Nick gets a long-ambition started: the first round of seeding for a Community Tree Nursery. The initial focus? Oaks! Indeed, he and local oak-seer Finn Po (known to friends as 'Mastah Po') potted up 186 of them. The variety? English Royal Oak which, Finn and Nick suspect, is the most productive food plant on the face of the planet. Indeed, along with a bucket of acorns he had recently harvested, Finn turned up carrying acorn bread and acorn cookies - enthusiastically devoured by visitors. Yes, we are acorn eaters! Next week, we turn our attentions to seeding the local oak.
Why the focus on oaks? Check out Nick's article 'Opening the Oak Door' which not only includes a description of Oak as a foundational cross-cultural archetype, but gets down to the nitty-gritty of our own local ecology and kitchen-practices.
Late Tuesday evening, October 24
Andrew has spent much of the past two nights configuring our new Seed Ambassadors blog. Tonight, over dinner at Nick's, Andrew explained how it all works. Later, dishes cleared, the blog goes live. We're delighted you can now dialog publicly with and around us. Check it out!
Monday morning, October 23
Friend and supporter Dr. Alan Kapuler, who was one of the more promising molecular biologists of his generation before he peeled out of the lab to garden, has spent the better part of a lifetime surfing the interface between human experience and the life of the soil. Until now, most of his writings have been circulated by hand among a small group of admirers. Here, for the first time, are some of the key Kapuler Papers, webbed. Who is Alan? Check out the photo essay of our September visit to his garden and home.
Saturday morning, October 21
Our first official event in Europe is confirmed! Leaving the USA on November 23rd, 2006, Andrew and Sarah will be meeting with the Danish Seed Savers at their Seed Cleaning Meet in Slagelse on November 25, then hanging with plantspeople before heading on. Where to then? Invite us!
We have also been asked to contribute the commentary to the programme for the UK's foremost national seedswap, Seedy Sunday, which is scheduled for February 4, 2007. To the British Isles, then!
Thursday afternoon, October 19
Many thanks, Jaci (McKamey) Guerena for taking care of our Italian translation. Jaci lives in Corvallis, just down the road from us, where she teaches classes in Herbal medicine; organically grows medicine and food; and homeschools her 5-year-old son.
Late night, Sunday, October 15
What happens when seedswaps meet avant-gardening collectives?
Here's a photo essay from today's 8th annual Food Not Lawns seed swap - an all-day affair that took in seedswapping, food, drink, music, and dancin'!
Sunday morning, October 15
Our Russian translation is in. How rich we are, locally, in kind hands. Many thanks, then, to Tatiana Efremova, lover of truth.
Monday, October 9
This forthcoming Sunday, we will be seedswapping at the Maitreya EcoVillage in Eugene. All are welcome.
Last week, Nick added A New Card Deck for Lisa to his biographical details. Yesterday morning, Lisa, kindness personified, died.
Late night, Monday, October 2
More than 950 volunteers from 60 local companies worked on more than 80 projects around Lane County during United Way's 'Day of Caring' last week, and the Register-Guard, our local newspaper, devoted almost their entire coverage of the multitude of events to a focus on activities at Andrew and Sarah's farm!
We made our own photo essay of the greenhouse-raising that day. How do you put up a hoophouse, quick and cheap? Check out the piccies!
And local seed grower and ethnobotanist Tobias Policha reported back on his recent adventures in Ecuador, to a packed house of local plant geeks on Saturday night. Here are just a few images from his slide show. Check out the baby playing with the 3' earthworm!
Late night, Tuesday, September 26
The Finnish translation is in. Thank you Ossi Viljakainen, Ayurvedic physician in training, visiting the United States.
A phone call late in the afternoon from Heather Coburn Flores alerts us to big news. Her book, Food Not Lawns, three years in the writing and publishing, has just arrived in the mail, hot-off-the presses. An impromptu party is planned for this evening at Rivers Turn Farm in Coburg.
Sarah, Andrew and Nick had already planned dinner together. We meet at Nick's as arranged, have a relaxed meal (sweetcorn, potatoes, spinach, melon, all harvested in the minutes prior) then determine whether we're up for a post-prandial drive to Heather's. We are, and so off we go to visit, congratulate and celebrate, with Thom Yorke's new solo album as road-trip accompaniment through the darkness.
Heather is surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers, including the circus-vaudeville team who will be accompanying her on her book tour in the Pacific Northwest. (Circus-vaudeville!!?! Hey, deep gardening is fun. Check out the poster, designed by Heather, advertising a FNL benefit back in 2000). Yes, quite the party this evening! Andrew and Sarah get to check in with seedsman Taylor Ziegler. Among other topics, we discuss with Heather next month's book release parties in Portland and Eugene where the Seed Ambassadors team will be co-ordinating seedswaps. (See our calendar for details.)
Heather's book, which includes a sizeable chapter devoted to Seed Stewardship, grew out of the endeavors of the Eugene-based Food Not Lawns avant-gardening collective, of which Nick was a founding member. Check out Nick's contribution to the book, 'Seed Swaps for Cultural Evolution'.
His reward for all those years of tending devotedly to Heather's horticultural biddings? ("Not over there, Nick! Over here!")
Late night, Wednesday, September 20
Busy day, which began with a religious experience in the garden for Nick, morphed to a fast drive with Andrew to the Organic Seed Alliance field day at Bejo Seeds Research Farm in Cottage Grove...
...and a return to Wednesday's Garden Club at Brattain Elementary for seed-saving with the youngsters.
Here's a description of the day's activities including a photo essay.
Seedgeeks in Cottage Grove.
Morning, Monday, September 18
Saturday marked a pilgrimage of sorts, as the Seed Ambassadors team spent a magical day visiting with Dr. Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds, the former research director for Seeds of Change, a defining presence on the U.S. plant-breeding scene and an icon to an up-and-coming generation of plant breeders. 'Shrume, as he is affectionately known, lives just an hour north of us. A dear friend. Here's a photo essay, in two parts, describing the day's delightfully diverse array of activities.
Evening, Sunday, September 17
Ramon Galvan, local interpreter, gardener and volunteer, has gifted us a Spanish translation of our home page.
Per Kielland-Lund, local Breema practitioner, has provided us with a Norwegian version.
And our Swedish translation comes to us courtesy of Nina Forsberg, an editorial assistant at Skipping Stones magazine and a lit teacher at South Eugene High School, who also enrolled the assistance of her uncle, Gunnar Larsson and brother, Martin Forsberg. Quite the family effort!
Early morning, Friday, September 15
Our Dutch translation is in, thanks to Leo Langendoen, local gardener and mushroom harvester.
And the report made by Nick to the Eugene Permaculture Guild Steering Committee in May 2006 (on behalf of the 'working group' vested with responsiblity for 'improving group dynamics') was put up on the web, yesterday, by Sue Supriano. What's this got to do with the Seed Ambassadors Project? The health of seed cultures and that of the larger social ecology of which they are a part, are intimately interwoven.
Late night, Wednesday, September 13
French translation is now in the mix, courtesy of Stephanie Schiffgens of The Little French School, in Eugene.
13. First day back with the Garden Club at Brattain Elementary.
Late night, Tuesday, September 12
'Der Saatgut-Botschafter Projekt' is wot we iz. Yes, our first home page translation, German, came in late last night and it's up, with corrections in the making. Thank you, Zoltan Varga at the U of O. We appear closest to French, Danish and Dutch, next.
How I wish I'd paid more attention in skool.
Early morning, Sunday, September 10:
We announced the Seed Ambassadors Project little more than a week ago and, between our continuing field work (the harvest, and seed-collecting, are still in full swing) and our early morning and late night outreach efforts, we've been been keeping busy. Opportunities are evolving daily, it seems, as word of the initiative spreads, and births feedback, pointers to new contacts, further pondering of logistics, new ideas and new questions.
Sarah, Andrew and Nick met at the Youth Farm, last night, Saturday, for another of our delightful full-bandwidth check-ins - after a day we separately spent canning. Dinner by candlelight consisted of cucumber, onion, and pepper salad; mixed green salad; potatoes and Pentland Brig kale; with cantaloupe for dessert. All harvested from our farms in the late afternoon. How truly blessed we are.
We are learning how to work together. So far, great fun. Talk was animated...plant breeding strategies were pondered, intelligence shared, tasks assigned and data swapped - check out the photo of Sarah's new tattoo!
Our sense of the emerging
role of grexes (or 'cultivated landraces') in moving cultures toward long-term
sustainability keeps surfacing as a theme in our conversations.
A: "Well, they don't lend themselves to being marketed, do they?"
It was agreed that Andrew's going to try and put some thoughts to keyboard. Then Sarah whisked him off to watch local heroes, The Kitchen Syncopators, playing at Sam Bonds Garage.
Please stay posted for more news from the Seed Ambassadors Project.
Tao at the Laurel Valley Educational Farm