Year End Appeal 2020

November 18, 2020

I have a deep sense of place. I know I share this with many of you who grew up in the West. When I was 25 and trying to find my way in the modern world, I thought deeply about the principles that would guide the rest of my life. Clean air, clean water and a quiet place to sleep at night became my guiding stars one morning after sitting in front of a campfire all night long. I knew at that moment I could only be home in the mountains of the West. I knew if I wanted to live in a healthy and responsible manner, my chosen bioregion would need its own agriculture. The evidence for this was already clear. The industrial model feeding us at the time was destroying topsoil and making us sick. If agriculture was going to be resilient and have a chance to be around for coming generations, it needed more diversity. The question in my mind became, “who is going to find, grow and share enough new diversity to form the foundation for this new regional agriculture?”

42-years, 3 businesses, 3 non-profits and thousands of teammates later I am still working on much the same project. One has to remember that the idea of us saving our own seeds as an important foundation for our future started largely before farmer’s markets, organic certification programs or even the internet. Way before. The vast majority of our garden seed at the time came from industrialized sources located thousands of miles away. As I look back now to see what we have accomplished, I am grateful. We have had many teachers. We have much to be proud of.

I am amazed when I look at RMSA’s self-signup directories today which automatically catalog and connect those wanting to find or share seeds, stories and skills. I still don’t remember how or when 330 Seed Stewards joined RMSA. I would never have dreamed I would live to see listings for 87 Seed Libraries or 56 bioregional Seed Businesses. The fact that we all have lived into a future where small non-profits like RMSA can afford to host the software necessary to connect us like this is indeed hopeful. To me it is revolutionary. In fact, it actually makes somewhat realistic seemingly outlandish goals like RMSA’s Million Seed Savers campaign.

I cannot look forward today, however, without trepidation. The social, political, cultural and environmental storms we face seem daunting if not impossible. And yet, as crazy at it seems some days, when called to reflect upon how I really feel, I have to say I am hopeful.

I say this because we are the lucky ones. We are being influenced (taught if you will) by seeds. They show us over and over that this is not a zero-sum game. They teach us to believe in abundance. They teach us the true value of gifts. We get to experience the unbelievable, the magical and exponential every time we open a bean pod or corn husk. This can become our practice. Expectations can constantly change for us and for the world. We can generate a new sense of what is possible even at a time when much of the world is angry and losing hope.

Once this is understood, our job becomes simple. We need to share our seeds and our stories. Nothing is more important. Nothing is more powerful. Seeds are the foundation for the deep-seated sense of place we need. They provide for our dietary health. They knit together our communities with common purpose. We can do this without fighting.

The Principles of Seed Diversity #10 says: “Saving your own seeds is important. Joining forces with other seed savers is transformative.” Even Nobel nominated scientists like Gus Speth are realizing the time has come for cultural and spiritual transformation in order to solve our pressing environmental problems. I do believe that each and every one of us joining forces as a seed alliance is the start of this transformation.

At the end of every year Belle and I like to think we are helping our favorite non-profits by donating to their great work. Now I realize the opposite is true. Donating to year-end campaigns actually helps me more. I get the opportunity to join with something larger than myself, something that can actually transform me and my community. I need to know I am part of something larger. I need this now more than ever.

Truth is, COVID has seriously affected RMSA’s budget this year. We are down around $50,000 in income. The good news is that we trimmed where we could, applied for PPP funds, and managed to come pretty close to ending the year, cash-wise, where we began. Our budget for the year had the rather reasonable goal of raising $20,000 in our Year-end Campaign. This is something we have done before. The time has come. We are looking for heroes to jump start the process by throwing down a chunk up front as an incentive to match and stimulate the other year-end donations. Go big or go home. The times call for this.

How often do you get the chance to be the hero in a world that really needs one?

Bill McDorman, Executive Director


RMSA’s Impact

  • Built online web directories where Seed Stewards, Seed Teachers, Grain Trialists, Seed Librarians, and Seed Businesses can find seeds, resources and most importantly each other with the click of a mouse.
  • Recruited 330 Seed Stewards commited to save and share seed from at least one crop.
  • Inspired 152 Heritage Grain Trialists to grow, save and share seed for more than 200 varieties of ancient and heritage grains.
  • Graduated 872 Seed School students and 134 Seed Teacher graduates, many of whom have gone on to start seed exchanges, seed libraries, seed workshops and seed schools.
  • Sent representatives to Peliti Seed Festival in Greece, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome, and taught seed saving in the Philippines for the Global Seed Savers.
  • Visited dozens of communities across the Mountain West (and beyond) to educate, speak, inspire, network and advocate on behalf of saving seeds!
  • Presented workshops at many of the region’s organic farming conferences about organic seed patenting and heritage grain trials.

We are making an impact together – and our work has never been more important!

Please consider making a donation to RMSA for our Year End Campaign. Like a tiny seed, your contribution can make a powerful difference in the lives of generations to come.  So far we have raised $[therm_r] towards our $[therm_t] target! That’s [therm_%] of the total!

My path to saving seeds was not a direct one; it was born from a desire for something more than my many years spent in the corporate arena. I had the realization the work I directed my energy toward needed to honor a few, essential standards: quality food, stronger community, and a positive impact on the planet. I never would have thought something as ‘simple’ as seeds would hold the answers.
I arrived at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance in 2019 and at the time, I had never saved a seed. I was brought into a world I never knew, and began to realize this is a world that should be known to all. Seeds are so much more than simply our food source. They are miraculous living organisms, dormant until called upon, containing intuition and immeasurable potential for the future. Our future. I realize now how entwined seeds are with our human history. These once-wild seeds adapted alongside us as we moved to new climates, responding to varying environments under our careful scrutiny to create the fruits and vegetables we are familiar with today. This was no act of magic, yet I cannot deny there is a certain magic in seeds and their relationship with the humans who save those seeds.
With the rise of the COVID-19 virus, RMSA had to adapt and change from our traditional in-person classes. We just concluded our first live and online 10-week Seed School, bringing the total number of graduates to 936! With this great success, we are looking forward to breaking a thousand in 2021. Online versions of more Seed and Grain Schools are in development, but we are short $20k of our annual financial goals because of the extensive impact of the virus. Yet this work has become even more critical as COVID-19 has revealed: our food system is not secure. And like me, people are on the search for something more.
During this giving season, my request is that you take a day to support our mission of inspiring gardeners to become seed savers. Seed saving connects people at a deeper level to our food sources and allows us to play an active, positive role in the ecological cycles of the planet. Sharing those seeds is the ultimate ‘Pay It Forward’ scenario–once common in our culture. Let’s bring this back and Pay It Forward: share a seed, inspire someone to save seeds, or make a financial contribution to RMSA and affect positive, lasting change for our communities.
In deep appreciation,
Renee Fourie

Media Coordinator, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance

On May 25th, 2020, the neighborhood where George Floyd was murdered became a place of chaos and violence. Yet just a few, short months later, you would have found a changed scene. The site was an area of live music, pop-up health clinics, free food vending, and community gardens. The corner of 38th Street and Chicago Ave in Minneapolis transformed into a gathering place where a street shoulder served as a tomato, bean, and pepper bed. Hardware store bricks held in the soil and delineated where the blacktop ended and the harvest began. Four, brightly-painted raised beds full of marigolds and daisies stood at a place of honor around Floyd’s memorial, facing the scrawled words, “Respect One Another.” These are the pure actions of a healing community.
To those who put seeds into the ground, nurture them, and harvest them at the end of the season, it is no surprise that farming and gardening are healing acts. Research has come around to proving this in multiple ways. (For one study, see Mind’s 2007 publication, Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health.) Whether the reasons are clinical, mystical, spiritual, or all three, sticking your hands in the dirt and watching something grow from seed to seed feeds our souls. It is no small wonder I have never met a person who did not appreciate getting and giving seeds. Giving away the potential abundance that is a seed is the ultimate act of generosity. In fact, seed savers are the most generous people I know. I have heard many owners of seed enterprises say their goal is to work themselves out of business because they want all their customers saving and sharing seeds. Why? Because seeds—and planting them—can connect us, heal us, and offer hope for plentiful days ahead.
This year, like many other organizations, the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance has had to pivot our resources to address the current Covid-19 circumstances. All our educational offerings went virtual, as did our own interactions as staff and board. Like the seeds we cherish, we had to learn to adapt. We still found ways to inspire and teach creatively, even though we would have felt much more effective in person. Through it all, we have felt your support and encouragement. There have been other silver-linings too. For one, we have been able to reach more seed savers and potential seed savers with our online platforms. Since April, over 500 people have attended our free, monthly Seed Socials where, because of technology, we are able to hear from and honor Seed Elders around the country — live or later on our YouTube channel. In another example, seed savers who would not have been able to attend seed schools in person were able to join via Zoom. In fact, we have had record numbers of students sign up for courses. These are just some of the fruits we have seen since the trying times of the worldwide pandemic caused by Covid-19.
I know the pandemic has also impacted you, our RMSA family and friends. For that I am grieved. Some have suffered the loss of loved ones, others have experienced the decline of health, income, and various hardships. I am sorry if this is the case. I hope you find healing, as I know I have, through planting and saving seeds. And if you can in large or small ways, consider supporting us in our efforts to connect others to the healing joy of seed saving. We want to be around to watch the healing power of seeds ripple through new and upcoming seed savers. Because to me, there is no better gift than one with an incalculable ripple effect like that of seed sharing.
With Gratitude,
Jackee Alston

Operations Coordinator, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance

As 2020 comes to an end the Board and Staff at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance has been wrapping up a year filled with personnel changes and organizational evaluations. For starters, next month Lee-Ann Hill, the RMSA Special Projects Coordinator, will become the new Executive Director! Lee-Ann has served as the RMSA Heritage Grain Trials and Seed Stewards coordinator for the past 5 years and will bring her special grace and 10 years of experience working with seeds and seed savers to her new position. Iconic seeds person and RMSA co-founder Bill McDorman will pass the executive reins to Lee-Ann, though will continue to support the RMSA team by teaching, managing the RMSA website and leading an international campaign to bring awareness to the ecological damage and the loss of genetic diversity caused by seed patenting laws.
RMSA has recently undertaken an inventory of our organization’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice profile. RMSA was founded by 4 white people and has remained dominantly white throughout our 6-year history. We understand the importance of diversity and are learning how to integrate more diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice into our organization. We are being led in this work by Joseluis Ortiz, a wise and compassionate, Indigenous Biodynamic farmer from Dixon, NM.
By creating conditions for more diversity and inclusion to occur, Joseluis has been helping us identify where we reinforce bias, exclusion, and racism within our organization. We recognize that diversity is essential to life on the planet and a critical component to the level of success we experience as an organization. We value and rely upon a diversity of people, cultural experiences, and perspectives to help our organization make good decisions and to enhance the many working relationships within the RMSA seed network.
In the past few months, we have discussed concepts such as “white fragility,” “human supremacy,” “earth justice” and “anti-racism.” This is important, soul-searching work and through this learning process RMSA is becoming a more diverse, inclusive, and socially just organization. In early 2021 RMSA will publish our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement to help inspire and guide our work! We are grateful for everyone in the “RMSA Family” and invite you to join us moving forward into 2021 with a deeper understanding of the privilege, blessings, and responsibilities that seeds have gifted us.
It’s a new day Jubilation.
“Take a knee” and kiss the Earth, oh what a sensation!
To plant and grow in celebration,
That Seeds will show the way to our Salvation.

May peace and loving-kindness prevail,

John Caccia

Co-Founder, Board Member, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance

The Walking Wall is a dry-stacked rock wall conceived by British artist, Andy Goldsworthy, and the Kansas City community in which it was created. The wall was originally 1500 feet, traversing various Kansas City sites, including a road where authorities blocked off traffic, and ending at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art where part of it would eventually reside. New sections of the wall were constructed from rocks pulled from the end of the installation as that section was dismantled. One local paper reported that what made the project exciting was the process “…on the way to experiencing, if not always understanding, what Goldsworthy was up to.”.
/more We have experienced some of our own surprise and curiosity watching the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA) evolve from its strong foundations, and redefining the ways it serves its mission. It has been a sobering process at times transforming past experiences into the building blocks of the future.
What an honor to be part of RMSA’s group of deep thinkers, spiritual seekers, and committed seed lovers. RMSA is an amazing expression of community, hard work, and dedication in the same way as the Walking Wall. We didn’t always know how we would overcome our challenges, but we had faith in our organization and its supporters. And look where we are now! I am so proud and thankful to you all.
RMSA not only stewards precious seeds but the resources needed to do the work. People who have supported RMSA know that we have always done a lot with a little. Please do what you can to assure this profound work continues.
I have walked this path with RMSA from the beginning in 2014 and am proud to be one of the co-founders along with John Caccia and my husband, Director Bill McDorman. Now it is time for me to step aside and pass the baton. I am taking my leave as of December 31st knowing that RMSA is in great hands (and hearts). I have so much gratitude to everyone who has helped along the way.
It will be humbling to watch and observe what RMSA “may be up to” in its next iteration and I will be happily watching from the sidelines.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love to you all,

Belle Starr

Co-Founder, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance