Gary Paul Nabhan Speaks at Seed Savers Exchange

2013 Conference Keynote

Gary Paul NabhanAt this year's 33rd Annual Conference and Campout, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) was more than happy to welcome back a long-time friend, Gary Paul Nabhan. Gary has been a supporter of Seed Savers Exchange going back to before 1980, and has since appeared at numerous SSE Conference and Campouts. Having recently published a book titled "Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land," he spoke this year about climate uncertainty becoming the new normal and the importance of adapting our food systems to a changing climate. Stressing the importance of agrobiodiversity in mitigating the effects of climate change, the Ecumenical Franciscan brother led Conference attendees in a renewal of their vows—to seeds. Repeating after him, the crowd recited:

I, (name), a gardener, farmer, seed saver, and eater,

wish to renew our sacred vows

to take care, love and serve,

the astonishing diversity of life on this earth.

Through sickness and in health ("I bet you knew that line," Gary laughed),

in times of crisis and times of joy,

to sow the seeds of food justice,

to sow the seeds of food security,

to sow the seeds of food democracy,

to sow the seeds of true food sovereignty,

through our own actions and our own eating patterns

so that we may all eat what we have truly sown.

I reaffirm our covenant with this earth,

to humbly be one more way that seeds themselves regenerate into more seeds to nourish all of us.

View the video of Gary Paul Nabhan's keynote address at the 2013 Conference and Campout:

Check out Gary's website here, and his recent article in the New York Times here.

Stop back to our blog in the coming weeks for more coverage of this year's Conference, as well as the Harvest Edition of the Heritage Farm Companion coming out this Autumn.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. Our mission is to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.


Remembering Tom Knoche

Tom Knoche (OH KN T), 1938-2013

Tom Knoche

Sardinia, OH


By Diane Ott Whealy

Kent and I first met Tom and Sue Knoche in 1981 when they attended the first Seed Savers Exchange campout in Princeton, Missouri. I recall how the first thing Tom said after giving affectionate hugs was, "I drove over 650 miles to get here! I have never met anyone in my life that I could talk to about my collection of seed. I always gardened with my granny and we saved seeds. No one else ever understood or shared my excitement."

Tom once said, "My grandma is going on eighty-nine years old, and she's said all her life that no bean was worth eating unless you had to string it first. A lot of the old folks say that about the string beans."

Tom was known as "the squash collector." When asked about his squash collection in the early 1980s, Tom said, "The squash that I've collected and that I'm the most concerned about are the large-fruited ones. These types are dying out so fast that there is no way they're going to be preserved if somebody doesn't take an interest in them. People want the little tiny handy size. Nobody wants to raise the large family sized types anymore. If I were to take some of my precious squash to our County Fair, there'd be no place for them. They have everything so categorized that if mine isn't a Hubbard or a Butternut or a Bush Scallop, there's no place for them. That's how bad things have gotten. And how on earth are young people ever going to know that there's anything different? I went to the State Fair for several years and tried to acquire seed from some of the growers. But there's so little interest that they don't even bother anymore to put the names of the growers on the specimens at the State Fair."

Tom Knoche


Tom and Sue were early members who truly loved Seed Savers Exchange. We cherish their spirit, enthusiasm and expertise that gave SSE the courage to move forward with our mission over 35 years ago, a time when no one else was noticing. John Swenson, another long time member, once had a wonderful description of those who have joined us over the years. "Of those who have contributed over the years," he said, "they become one of the sparkles on a gem." We will miss Tom's stories, but his spirit and seeds are very much alive in our organization. There is one sparkle on that gem that shines brighter today.

Over three decades ago Kent and I wanted to meet our early members to hear their voices. The last time I saw Tom was at the Seed Savers Exchange 2011 Campout. I am somewhat comforted knowing we recorded his voice and stories to be heard again by the new members of Seed Savers Exchange. Are there stories in your life that need to be recorded?

Tom Knoche speaking at the 2011 SSE Conference (part 1)


Tom Knoche speaking at the 2011 SSE Conference (part 2)


"I may not be a very big grower anymore, but I am thankful that I could contribute to the ongoing success of the Seed Savers Exchange."

Healthy Food Systems with Dan Carmody

This year's Harvest Festival was filled with presentations and workshops from SSE staff as well as two guest speakers presenting as part of our Harvest Lecture Series. Dan Carmody, president of the Detroit Eastern Market, spoke in the final hour of the event, describing the history and future of Detroit, the market, and the larger narrative of regionally-based food systems. Dan's presentation discusses issues with current food systems (energy use, nutrition, subsidies, distribution) as well as strategies for reform. Using the Eastern Market as an example, he describes the potential for local food systems to bring about transformative economic, social, and ecological change - particularly in urban areas.

The audio below contains the entirety of Dan's lecture: from Detroit's long decline to its recent rebirth; from the surging community gardening movement to the rebuilding of a local food processing infrastructure.

The Great Famine, Green Acres and Detroit


An Effect Greater Than Carpet Bombing


This Narrative of Rebirth and Detroit Eastern Market


Offering Food and Conviviality, Food Systems and Energy


A Host of Problems, Favorite Dichotomies and Local Food Production


Department of Defense and Rebuilding a Regional-Based Food System


The Community Gardening Movement and Our Future Food Systems (Excluding Underwater Cities of Tomorrow)


Eastern Market Capital Plan, Pickles and Custard Pie


$20 Million Worth of Meat and Pieces of the Food System


Graffiti, Bloody-Run Creek, Food Access and Engagement


This Country Deserves More Than Two Hams and How We Feed Cities


Food and Local Economies, Craft Beer and Furgency


Lectures were supported by a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Seed Savers Exchange Member Profile - Russ Crow (IL CR R)

Blue Jay bean Each year, hundreds of gardeners from all corners of the world share heirloom vegetable and fruit varieties they’ve collected from their own backyards.

Within Seed Savers Exchange they’re known as Listed Members, the core of our seed exchange and the source of more than 10,000 varieties that are listed in our annual Yearbook. To other SSE members, they’re often known individually by their listed member code (IL CR R).

Each month, we’ll be profiling one of our listed members in order to give our audience a closer look at some of the individuals responsible for preserving America’s endangered garden heritage.

I had the opportunity to interview Russ Crow in the spring of 2012. Russ was a part of Seed Savers Exchange back when the organization was just getting started in the mid-1970’s. Though he took a break from gardening in the 90s, Russ has since returned to one of his horticultural passions—beans—and currently serves as an important informational resource to our seed historian.

The following audio clips describe Russ’s discovery and subsequent stabilization of a new bean variety discovered in his garden in 1977, as well as his initial forays into seed saving and the reason he continues saving seeds himself.

Blue Jay bean (Russ Crow audio) [audio:|titles=Russ Crow - Blue Jay Bean]

How I Started Saving Seeds (Russ Crow audio) [audio:|titles=Russ Crow - How I Started Saving Seeds]

To learn how to access the largest heirloom seed catalog in the world and browse over 12,000 listings from Russ and hundreds of other members, visit