Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance’s
Narrative of Change
Organizations are ecosystems. All too often, they are regarded as lifeless, a simple set of mechanisms that produce predictable outcomes. But like all living systems, organizations have natural rhythms and life cycles. There are moments of magical germination when the right conditions exist: seeds swell and sprout, cotyledons rise through the surface of the soil, and visions unfold. They take root and grow, sometimes fruiting abundantly and dropping countless seeds. And like all things, they eventually need to rest. To return inward for moments of silence, nourishment, and reflection. Sometimes they die and integrate themselves into the soil nurturing whatever is to come, and sometimes they re-emerge after a dedicated slumber, ready for another season of growth and expansion.
Like all organizations, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance finds itself moving with the wheel of life. It had a vigorous start, and under the dedicated leadership of co-founders Bill McDorman, Belle Starr, and John Caccia, 1000s of seed savers were educated, inspired, and supported. Programming and advocacy were delivered across the country and even internationally. With Lee-Ann Hill as Executive Director the growth continued, and the Heritage Grains Trials Program saw huge success, engaging trialists from coast to coast to develop seed stock for grain varieties that were scarce. RMSA has played an important role in protecting seeds and seed biodiversity nationally and globally and has worked hard to maintain a strong foothold in the movement against seed patenting and in the fight against the genetic modification of organisms. The organization grew, flourished, seeded heavily, and offered its fruits to many in the first 7 years of its life.
Eventually, a moment of rest and reflection was required. Organizations are woven into our humanness, and are reflections of the collective moments we find ourselves in. RMSA was being called upon both internally and externally to advance in ways that aligned strongly with the global movement for justice, in ways that dismantle systems of oppression, and the institutional and organizational behaviors that perpetuate them. Throughout 2020, with the direction of then Organizational Health and Justice Coordinator Joseluis Ortiz, RMSA began a process of training and development to create core organizational principles and values that aligned with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The resulting Organizational Health and Justice Statement and Guiding Principles articulated a foundation for RMSA to move unwaveringly in the direction set forth and catalyzed the engagement with a Paradigm Shift process to re-vision and re-imagine the organization. Even without fully knowing how those commitments might come to life, the seeds were sown into the fertile and receptive soil of the organization.
As 2022 unfolds, we find ourselves re-emerging as an organization for another season of life, as gardens and fields flourish throughout the Rocky Mountains. This trajectory, which is in line with the realities of organizational life cycles, and reflective of the collective calls for justice and equity within the nonprofit sector, has led us to become an almost entirely new organization. Since the beginning of the year we have expanded and diversified our board and staff. We are led by Women and People and Color and are motivated by a shared purpose, passion, and belief in the possibility of returning balance to all of our ecosystems. We share an understanding that we are at a critical moment in history to become fully cognizant of the systems we find ourselves in, and to act unwaveringly to counter oppressive and destructive realities to build new futures based on equity, balance, and truth.
As always within RMSA’s organizational ecosystem, the seeds lead the way. They show us, without a doubt, the importance of biodiversity, of mycelial networks to distribute resources, of the importance of remembering where we come from, whose land we stand on, what it takes to germinate, and what it means to know that we are never in total control but part of a much greater whole with a lifeforce all it’s own. With this re-emergence, we rise to face the challenges and beauty of growth daily. There is much work to do, and we are confident in the soil that has been prepared for this garden to flourish. We look forward to sharing more with you along this journey.
We give thanks to all those who have come before us, preparing this garden for our labor, and we work in honor of those who will come after us. We pray they will inherit a thriving and just reality. May the soil be rich and the seeds be abundant.