Our genetic heritage is key to a resilient, ecologically based agriculture. However, the genetics of our crop plants are
threatened on many fronts—from monoculture, urban sprawl, corporate takeovers, the incursion of genetically modified traits, to the lack of funding for preservation. The knowledge of how to save seeds and how to practice good seed stewardship is also being lost as eaters get further disconnected from the land, and farmers get squeezed by the pressures and threats mentioned above.
The opening keynotes for EcoFarm this year will share two different approaches to achieving the goals of genetic diversity and resilient seed systems for ecological farming. On the one hand it is important and necessary to work through the systems of funding and regulation in order to preserve public plant-breeding programs, educate future plant breeders about organic production, and advocate for genetic preservation of our seed resources. It is equally critical to provide a sense of seed stewardship to the agricultural community, keeping the seeds of the ancestors and educating people about the tools of seed keeping.
Clif Bar & Company/Clif Bar Family Foundation, Emeryville, CA
Matthew serves as director of Agricultural Policy & Programs for Clif Bar & Company and is the cultivator for Seed Matters, an initiative of Clif Bar Family Foundation. His work with organic seed began in earnest more than a decade ago, as a farmer producing vegetable seed and then as executive director of Abundant Life Seed Foundation. From 2003 to 2010, Dillon served as founding director of Organic Seed Alliance (OSA)—the first organization to engage in seed education, research, and advocacy specifi- cally for the organic community. Working with the Clif Bar company and foundation, he has developed the nation’s first graduate fellowships and endowed chairs in organic plant breeding at land grant universities, and continues to pursue issues of seed ownership and intellectual property.
Sierra Seed Cooperative, Nevada City, CA
Rowen is a Seed Keeper from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and a passionate activist for seed sovereignty. She is the director and founder of Sierra Seeds, an innovative organic seed cooperative focusing on local seed production and education, based in Nevada City, CA. She is current chair of the board of Seed Savers Exchange. Rowen teaches creative seed stewardship immersions around the country within tribal and small farming communities in collaboration with organizations such as Native Seed SEARCH, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance. She is the author, with Bryan Connolly, of Breeding Organic Vegetables: A Step-by-Step Guide for Growers. She is currently writing another book on indigenous seeds of the Northeast. Rowen weaves stories of seeds, food, culture, and Sacred Earth stewardship on her blog, Seed Songs. Follow her seed journeys at www.sierraseeds.org