You Can Be A Hero!
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
- 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!