Seed School Teachers
Each Seed School, Grain School, and Seed Teacher program allows us to bring together the best mix of our own staff teachers, local experts, and invited guest presenters. Depending on the focus of each program, location, and the needs of those attending, we use our experience from more than 50 programs to reach out to our family of teachers listed below to construct the best curriculum possible. See individual course details for the list of teachers participating in your education program.
RMSA Community of Seed & Grain School Teachers
Wendy Achatz of Achatz Handmade Pies is the queen of baking delicious pies using ancient and heritage grains. Wendy and her company use ingredients that are free of toxic agro-chemicals, ingredients raised humanely and respectfully, grown in settings regenerating the soil, thus contributing to clean water and air for the long-term sustainability of the planet.
Jackee Alston holds degrees in range ecology and wildlife conservation, which have never been too distant from growing food and designing permaculture gardens. She is RMSA’s former Operations Coordinator, a Master Gardener, a botany instructor, co-editor of the AZ Daily Sun’s Gardening, Etc. column, and the founder of the Grow Flagstaff! Seed Library.
Dr. Steve Alston
Dr. Steve Alston, a self-proclaimed mad scientist, works by day as a Product Specialist at W.L. Gore and Associates in Flagstaff, AZ. After hours, he moonlights as a ‘breadgineer’ and puts his mad scientist skills to use in the garden and kitchen, cultivating unusual plants and baking Old World breads with wild yeasts and ancient grains. He also re-discovered a lost, local grain on the side of the road in Flagstaff that he is growing out and bringing back to the grain world: Kochfield Rye.
Emily Arasim was born and raised in Tesuque, NM and now resides in Alcalde in the Española Valley. She is dedicated to working alongside community to protect traditional seed, farming and water stewardship practices – and to participating in movements for environmental, economic and social justice for land-based peoples of New Mexico. For the past seven seasons, she has been farming and caring for seeds under the mentorship of elders and friends on their projects around Northern NM. She is a graduate of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance Seed Teacher Training program and has presented and participated in RMSA events over the years. Emily is now an RMSA Board Member.
Dr. Margo Bagley
Margo A. Bagley is an Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law. She rejoined the Emory faculty in 2016 after a decade at the University of Virginia, School of Law, where she was most recently the Hardy Cross Dillard Professor of Law. Bagley currently serves on the National Academies Committee on Advancing Commercialization from the Federal Laboratories, and previously served on the National Academies Committee on University Management of Intellectual Property: Lessons from a Generation of Experience, Research, and Dialogue. She is also an expert technical advisor to the African Union in several World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) matters and is the Friend of the Chair in the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. Bagley has served as a consultant to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Secretariat for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and as a US Department of Commerce CLDP advisor. In addition, she served as a member of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Digital Sequence Information on Genetic Resources for the CBD and Nagoya Protocol. Her scholarship focuses on comparative issues relating to patents and biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and access to medicines, technology transfer, and IP and social justice.
Brett Bakker grows and collects seed for Cuatro Puertas/Arid Crop Seed Cache. A founding board member of Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, he has worked at Native Seeds/SEARCH, Talavaya Seeds, and San Juan Pueblo Seed Project at Okay Owingeh. Brett has also consulted with High Desert Research Farm at Ghost Ranch.
Emigdio is Quechua, from Bolivia, a descendent of the Inca people. An expert in high altitude crops including quinoa, kaniwa, amaranth, and potatoes, he was also the agricultural director of the Pueblo of Tesuque and board president of Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute.
Will Bonsall, director of the Scatterseed Project, is best known for his work in preserving crop diversity. His past occupations are as varied as his seed collection and includes draftsman, prospector, hobo, gravedigger, logger, musician, language teacher, and artist, among others. In addition to farming and seed saving, Bonsall is currently an active author. His works include Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening and Through the Eyes of a Stranger.
Ron Boyd and his wife Deborah run Mer-Girl Gardens in La Villita, New Mexico—a small farm of six acres producing “beyond certified organic” fruit and seed crops. He is also a member of the Las Luceros Grain Team and Rio Grande Grain Team, where he has been researching and trialing heritage grains while inspiring others to go back to the old ways of farming, where diversity is encouraged and seeds are saved for the future. He focuses on small farm tool innovation and minimal fossil fuel dependency. Ron has a particular interest in growing crops traditional to this bioregion and educating others in skills for on-farm application, preservation, and preparation.
Jill Bishop believes seed security is key to food security. She works to build stronger local seed saving networks, teach seed saving skills, and inspire the confidence in others to get growing and saving heirloom seeds. She happily grows locally adapted seed on her urban seed farm, Urban Tomato, in Ontario, Canada.
Clayton Brascoupe is a Mohawk/Anishnabeg and lifelong gardener and farmer. Clayton has worked with Akwesasne, at the time the largest native newspaper with international distribution. He is currently farming at Pueblo of Tesuque, New Mexico. He is also program director of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association (TNAFA), a nonprofit inter-tribal association of Native farmers, gardeners, educators, and health professionals. Clayton develops educational programs to engage Native youth, women, current farmers, and those who wish to learn.
With a broad range of expertise and interests, Teri Chace has a taste for exploration and a talent for bringing back stories and information that resonate with insight and wonder—whether she’s examining flowers, pie, or small-town life. She has over 35 books in publication, including the 2016 AHS award-winner Seeing Seeds. She’s also written and edited for major consumer gardening/outdoor-living publications (Horticulture, North American Gardener, Backyard Living, Birds and Blooms) and is presently the garden-and-nature columnist for the award-winning “Bottom Line Personal” newsletter. Learn more about Teri.
Josselin Chun received a scholarship from The Garden’s Edge when she was still at High School in Guatemala, and later she moved to New Mexico to learn English and study at the University of New Mexico. The Garden’s Edge has helped to support Josselin while in the US and Josselin has reciprocated by lending her knowledge of Guatemalan seed saving practices and cooking techniques of traditional crops.
Julian Vasquez Chun
Julian Vasquez Chun is a farmer and lends his knowledge at Qachuu Aloom, teaching people how to work the land using a technique called “Campesino a Campesino”. This means that one farmer teaches another farmer agricultural skills through working together in the field. In the last several years, he has seen how families have re-learned ancestral techniques that were used a long time ago but disappeared due to the introduction of modern agriculture. He believes that when communities return to ancestral techniques like terracing, seed saving, composting, and, companion planting, these acts enrich people’s knowledge, skills, and even improved incomes.
Frances Craik is the Program Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. She is an enthusiastic farmer, grain grower, and seed saver in SE Michigan. While studying Sustainable Food Systems at ASU she was mentored by female farmers and advocates of justice. These experiences have inspired her to commit her life’s work to developing and supporting vibrant, diverse, and equitable food and seed systems.
Sylvia Davatz is a seed saver experimenting with different grains and vegetables with an eye to the tastiest, hardiest, season-extending varieties that can be grown in Upper Valley, Vermont home gardens. She is also moving toward a permaculture – plants such as asparagus, berries, kiwi, pawpaws, perennial rye, that will come back year after year. She grows over 200 varieties of plants: different beans, peas, greens, peanuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, rice, wheat, barley, rye, spelt, amaranth, beets, corn (both flint and popcorn), cabbages, carrots, herbs, etc., some for eating, and much is for the seeds. Sylvia sells her seeds through her Solstice Seed catalog and has begun offering a course on seed-saving.
Lee Dehaan Director of Crop Improvement/Lead Scientist, Kernza® Domestication Program for The Land Institute. A native of southern Minnesota, Lee currently lives near Salina, KS. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, with majors in Biology and Plant Science. Lee was awarded a Master of Science and a PhD in the areas of Agronomy and Applied Plant Science from the University of Minnesota. Lee provides leadership for the effort to develop intermediate wheatgrass into a perennial grain crop, which is marketed as Kernza®. The program now has collaborators working at institutions around the United States, as well as in Canada and Europe.
Sylvia Rains Dennis
After graduating from college in 1984, Glenn Drowns assisted SSE co-founders, Kent Whealy and Diane Ott-Whealy, with the first preservation garden in Decorah. He later settled near Calamus, Iowa on the farm that’s been his home and the headquarters of his seed and heritage poultry company, Sand Hill Preservation Center, for over 30 years. He regenerated cucurbits and corn for the Seed Saver’s Exchange collection from his Calamus, Iowa farm, has given lectures and written articles, and been on the SSE Board of Advisors. In all, Glenn has donated nearly 600 varieties to Seed Savers Exchange.
Benjamin Fahrer is a 20-year veteran organic farmer, seed saver, permaculture instructor, and educator. He has a keen ability to read the landscape and recognize natural patterns to help build ecological landscapes and farms and has gained international recognition in facilitating educational trainings around the world. He is now translating these land and life lessons into the urban environment in California with Top Leaf Farms, a licensed contracting company that designs, builds, and operates urban farms with a focus on innovative rooftop farming and ecological services. Benjamin attended the first Seed School and has since been a key collaborator with RMSA as a facilitator for Seed School Teacher Training courses and the Mountain West Seed Summit.
Flordemayo was born in the highlands of Nicaguara under the sign for the seed in Mayan astrology. In 2012 she had a vision that inspired her to develop the Seed Temple in Estancia, New Mexico with the nonprofit organization The Path. Flordemayo is one of the founding members of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.
Renée Fourie (she/hers) loves the planet and strives to be a good steward of Earth. She is the Education Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance with the goal to inspire seed savers and deliver understandable seed-saving education. Her academic career focused on anthropology, geology, and adult training, but there was a missing component in her life’s education. She never anticipated that seeds would be the missing link. Once introduced to the world of seeds, her passion for food security, community connection, and social equity through seeds was awakened. When not tending to her small but growing garden or letting her plants go to seed, she is likely opting outside and exploring the outdoors somewhere in Arizona.
Gretchen Groenke (she/hers) is a mother, a poet, a birthworker, and a student of the plants and the Earth. She was raised in the vast industrial agricultural landscape of Washington State where she learned to love rich soil, fresh food, plants, people, and language. It was also in this place that she came to know injustice and exploitation of land and people as inherent to a corporate globalized food system. These formative experiences set her life’s course to tend to the seeds of healing and justice wherever she has reach. Gretchen has spent her life working with plants, agriculture, and community.
Don Guerra is a self-described artisan baker, passionate about European bread making techniques and local grain. He has successfully developed the Community Supported Baker (CSB) model in Tucson, Arizona and has become known as a baker, educator, and forward thinking entrepreneur. His business, Barrio Bread, has helped propel him in the bread baking world where he promotes the local food movement and local heritage grains, leading to his nomination as a 2022 James Beard finalist.
Lee-Ann Hill is a former Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. She holds a MA in Cultural Ecology from Prescott College where she studied traditional land management with an eye on food systems. After conducting research in New Mexico and working on organic farms in Costa Rica, Lee-Ann currently resides in southwest Colorado where she runs a CSA (community supported agriculture) program at Laughing Wolf Farm integrating seed adaptation, water conservation, and landscape regeneration. Lee-Ann is also a graduate of RMSA’s Seed School Teacher Training and Grain School programs. She produced the Mountain West Seed Summit, oversaw the Seed Stewards and Heritage Grain Trials programs, and performs research for RMSA.
Dr. Andrew Kimbrell
Andrew Kimbrell is an internationally recognized public interest attorney, public speaker, and author. He is the founder and Executive Director of Center for Food Safety. He also is Director of the San Francisco based Center for Technology Assessment, co-founder of Foundation Earth, and President of the Board of Humane Farm Animal Care (that administers the Certified Humane label).
Jack Kloppenburg is a professor of Community & Environmental Sociology, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Jack is author of First the Seed, The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology and is a force behind the Open Source Seed Initiative. He focuses on social studies of science and technology and on environmental sociology. He explores the means by which those who “own” biological diversity in developing countries can claim ownership and maintain genetic “property rights” and systems of reward for the production, reproduction and maintenance of biological diversity. He specifically focuses on the problems of establishing rights to genetic information on behalf of peasant communities and indigenous peoples. In addition, he is undertaking a study to address the distinctions between “local/indigenous” and “scientific” knowledge production.
Paul Labeau is the Managing Director of Mockmill, and rightfully so as he is a grain milling enthusiast. Paul’s mission is to reinvigorate the home grain-milling movement and has been inspiring others by visiting growers, millers, bakers, and chefs across the world. In his own words: “We can all live well throughout our old age, if we take care of our bodies. That starts with caring about what we eat. Whole grains, milled just-in-time, can contribute to that care in a big way!”.
Joseph Lofthouse has taught landrace gardening in classes and at conferences hosted by the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, National Heirloom Expo, Organic Seed Alliance, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-NY), and Utah Farm & Food Conference. He is World Tomato Society ambassador. He is the author of Landrace Gardening: Food Security through Biodiversity and Promiscuous Pollination, available his website. Joseph is a playful plant breeder, growing seed for nearly 100 species of plants in Paradise, UT. He has been a sustenance market farmer and landrace seed developer, and wrote the Landrace Gardening Blog for Mother Earth News. He is working to convert every species that he grows into adaptive landraces.
Joseluis Ortiz y Muniz
Joseluis is an indigenous Genizaro, land based, native New Mexican from the Genizaro land grant (La Merced de Santo Tomas el Apostol de Rio de Las Trampas) village of Rodarte and currently lives in his maternal village of San Antonio Del Rio Embudo (or modern day “Dixon”) in the high desert of Northern New Mexico. He is a proud father and partner to an incredible daughter and powerful, beautiful, and creative woman, an active community member and the Community Liaison for the Greenroots Institute at the Northern New Mexico College, the coordinator of the NM Land Based Justice Collective, a board member of the BioDynamic Association(BDA), and the Mayordomo and Deputy for the Acequia Del Llano del Rio Embudo. He is also a Board Member of Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.
Jeff McCormack, is founder and previous owner of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Garden Medicinals and Culinaries, co-founder of Virginia Plant Savers, and founder and owner of McCormack’s Botanicals. In addition to his work on seed breeding, Jeff has published a number of articles on heirloom seeds, sustainable agriculture, integrated pest management, and has edited several books on topics which include seed saving and culinary herbs. He has authored 7 organic seed production manuals for the USDA. He has a life-long interest in medicinal plants and ethnobotany.
Bill McDorman is a co-founder and former Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. He is a seed saver, writer, and educator based in Cornville, Arizona. In his nearly 30 years of seed experience, he has co-founded a number of nonprofit projects and seed companies including the Down Home Project, Garden City Seeds, Seeds Trust, High Altitude Gardens, the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens, Seed School, and the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. He is author of the book Basic Seed Saving Bill and his wife Belle Starr were formerly directors of Native Seeds/SEARCH, a seed conservation organization serving the Greater Southwest. You can still connect with Bill at Cornville Seeds.
François Meienberg is currently working for the Swiss NGO ‘Public Eye’ as a program coordinator with the focus on agriculture, intellectual property rights and biodiversity. He helped organize Europe’s No Patents On Seeds Campaign and is a representative of the Swiss biodiversity conservation organization, ProSpecieRara.
Andrew Mushita, Director, Community Technology Development Organization (CTDO), Zimbabwe. An agronomist, he founded CTDO in 1993 to support networks of smallholder farmers, who organize community seed banks and participatory plant breeding across Southern Africa. He often serves as a resource expert in international fora, working to advance farmers’ rights and food sovereignty. With Carol Thompson, he is the author of BIOPIRACY OF BIODIVERSITY: Global Exchange as Enclosure.
Joseph Mushonga, Deputy Director, Community Technology Development Organization, Zimbabwe. With a PhD in plant breeding (Purdue and University of Zimbabwe), he worked for two decades in government agricultural research. Specializing in small grains research (sorghum, millet), he has bred new varieties, now preferred by farmers.
Dr. Gary Nabhan
Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan is an internationally-celebrated nature writer, agrarian activist and ethnobiologist who tangibly works on conserving the links between biodiversity and cultural diversity. He is an Agricultural Ecologist, Ethnobotanist, Ecumenical Franciscan Brother, and author or co-author of more than 30 books focused primarily on the interaction of biodiversity and cultural diversity of the arid binational Southwest. He is considered a pioneer in the local food movement and the heirloom seed saving movement.
Dr. John Navazio
Dr. John Navazio holds a PhD in plant breeding from the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of The Organic Seed Grower, A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production. John is a cofounder of the Organic Seed Alliance and has gone on to breed genetically resilient, open-pollinated leafy greens and root crops for regenerative farming practices at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine. His crops include carrots, onions, radicchio, purple-sprouting broccoli, and Swiss chard. John’s work focuses on developing varieties with robust, vigorous growth, broad resistance to disease and environmental stress, and superior culinary quality. He also concentrates on increasing the reproductive vitality of his varieties and their ability to produce good seed yields.
Rebecca Newburn is the co-founder of Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library. She attended the very first Seed School. The “create a library” template she designed for the Richmond Seed Library website has helped hundreds of seed libraries launch around the world. She was a partner on the National Save Seed Sharing Campaign. She is the editor of Cool Beans! Seed Libraries Newsletter and creator of SeedLibraries.net.
Casey O’Leary is a self-proclaimed “seed freak” who runs Earthly Delights Farm in Boise and co-founded the Snake River Seed Cooperative. Her Snake River Seed project includes a seed producer’s co-op and seed library, organizes seed-related art projects and events, and teaches classes and workshops on seed saving. Casey is a former board member of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.
Chrissie Orr, born in Scotland, is an artist, animateur, and a beautiful trouble-maker who has spearheaded innovative community projects internationally. She is the co-founder of the Institute for Living Story and faculty of the Academy for the Love of Learning in New Mexico, and co-founder of SeedBroadcast. In her spare time, she grows ancient varieties of corn to learn new ways of being in this world.
Penn Parmenter is a high altitude gardener, seedswoman and student of the earth. She is married to Cord Parmenter – an awesome gardener, gorgeous man and a master blacksmith. Together they own and run a sustainable greenhouse design company, Smart Greenhouses LLC and Penn grows seed for her seed business, Miss Penn’s Mountain Seeds. She is a mother of three sons and an outdoorswoman. Penn forages wild food, hunts big game, fishes, preserves, maintains a huge organic forest garden and occasionally makes dinner. At home you can find her in her greenhouses as well as in the wilderness – nose to the ground, butt in the air, trying to identify Colorado natives.
Rich Pecoraro helped launch the nation’s first 100% organic non-hybrid seed company, Seeds of Change, where he worked as co-director of seed production, harvest, cleaning and processing. Rich then founded Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce, a regional seeds and produce organization that at its peak cultivated 50 acres, had 400 CSA members, and provided regionally adapted seeds to the community. Rich is founder of the MASA Seed Foundation which supports traditional Mexican corn farmers through his local tortilla company in Boulder, Colorado.
Steve Peters has decades of organic agricultural experience under his belt. He spent nine years as a Research Agronomist at the Rodale Institute Research Center, 15 years as Seed Production Manager at Seeds of Change, and many more working independently as a farmer, seed advocate, consultant, and educator. He works as an independent contractor for the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), as well as running Seed rEvolution Now!
Diane Pratt is a “do-it-yourselfer” at heart and in practice. Her quest for the freshest and tastiest ingredients led her to grow her own vegetables at home, saving her own seeds; to become a chicken and goat “mommie” and backyard beekeeper; and most recently to grow her own grains. She has gardened in Washington DC, coastal Oregon, tropical Palau and Santa Fe for four decades. As a community food activist, she joined with others in a project to trial ancient and heritage grains at the historic Los Luceros Farm in hopes of rekindling a “Grain Chain” in northern New Mexico.
Christine Salem is a former graduate of several seed and grain schools at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. She has been a gardener most of her life and a Master Gardener since 2010, but It was in 2018 when the Rio Grain Grande Team came into existence. This impressive team in Santa Fe work together to trial diverse grains in the Heritage Grain Trials and offer regional citizen science of findings.
Greg Schoen has carried a lifetime attraction to the natural environment, along with the pursuit of spiritual and personal understanding. He intendsto help others live a balanced life in a changing world. Through the course of working with heritage landrace seeds, Greg has found that the medium of the seeds and the mystery of the intelligence they contain can re-align us to our true equilibrium, bridge our differences, and help us find peace in these unusual times.
Evan Sofro served as Farm Manager of Native Seeds/SEARCH in Patagonia, Arizona where he also conducted agricultural research on drought resistance and environmental adaptations in seeds and grains. Evan has experience conducting crop assessments, evaluations, variety trials, phytosanitary crop inspection, and managing complex research fields, and grows grains for RMSA’s Heritage Grain Trials Project at the River Farm in Buhl, Idaho.
Samba Sow is a successful grower of fonio, an alternative but well-known grain of West Africa. In his home country of Senegal, Fonio is a highly nutritious grain and gluten-free, often used in salads, stews, porridges, or ground into flour. This important grain – comparable to millet or a merger between quinoa – is drought tolerant but takes certain skills to grow. Learn more about Sama at Where There Be Dragons.
Monica Spiller is dedicated to spreading the vital importance of growing and consuming whole grains since the 1970s. Monica helped revive the fervor for this nutritional powerhouse on the west coast and has spent much of her life studying the science, environmental, and health impacts. She maintains Whole Grain Connection and challenges people to make the hard but necessary change to whole grains through her 14 Day Challenge.
Don Tipping is a dynamic and inspiring instructor with 20 years of experience in organic and biodynamic farming, seed saving, permaculture, eco-forestry and enthusiastic on-farm education. Don is the owner of Siskiyou Seeds and Seven Seeds Farm, where he teaches the Seed Academy. He helped to found the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative which manages a 300 share CSA, commercial seed growing, an equipment co-op and internship curriculum among 12 cooperating farms. Don is also co-founder of the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative, a seed grower, marketing and distribution cooperative comprised of 10 western organic farms.
Dr. Bradley Tonnesen
Dr. Bradley Tonnesen holds a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Colorado State University where his specialisation was in Molecular Biology and Genetics. He is leading a USDA-funded project to create an on-farm vegetable breeding network of small farmers known as the “New Mexico Participatory Vegetable Breeding Program” which involves teaching farmers breeding selection strategies, isolation methods, and basic genetic concepts to empower them to be their own breeders and seed producers. He teaches about how to adapt vegetables to local conditions using epigenetics and participatory plant breeding.
Beata is from Santa Clara Pueblo and El Rito, NM. She is a mother, poet, advocate, seed saver, and is certified in Infant Massage, as a Developmental Specialist I-Advanced, an Educator, and in Indigenous Sustainable Design (permaculture). She is also a Green For All Fellow and has served on several local community boards over the years. Beata is on the steering committee for the Traditional Native American Farmers Association, a board member for Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, and Health and Justice Coordinator with Tewa Women United for 13 years. She is now the Organizational Director of Breath of My Heart Birthplace.