Board of Directors

All our board members serve on the board of the Grassroots Seed Network on a voluntary basis.

Irena Hollowell, President
Mineral, VA

I am the President of the Grassroots Seed Network. Serving on a board is quite different from other work I’ve done, and in my experience, not as straightforward. Also, creating a website for peer to peer exchange is technically complicated. I think my reasons for sticking with it are best summarized in this “20 enormous collections of varieties” blog post that I wrote for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: http://www.southernexposure.com/blog/2018/12/20-enormous-collections-of-varieties/

I have been tasting plants since before I could walk. Mint and wood sorrel were among my early favorites.

I first found my calling towards varietal preservation in the highlands of Ecuador in 2004, at the age of 24, with the Red de Guardianes de Semillas. Later I visited seed collectors in Thailand and India, and when I returned to the US, I wanted to continue the work of varietal preservation.

At Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, (website: southernexposure.com) my work includes growing trial crops, growing seed crops, seed cleaning, product development for seed-saving tools, photography, website content, blogging, customer service, back order management, seed donations (including to seed libraries), and a wide range of short-term projects.

One of my current passions is for finding crops that are of non-European origin, well-suited to cultivation in the Southeast, and not currently widely known to Americans, and for making them more available.

I have a deep respect for many indigenous traditions. I recognize seeds and plants as beings and I want to work toward a culture of respect for the many beings we work with. Patents on life disgust me, and I would object to any patenting of any progeny of the seeds I offer here.

Since 2009 I have been a member of a commune (Acorn Community) and a worker cooperative (Southern Exposure) where we are all, in a sense, volunteer workers. I have come to love radical cooperation and horizontal structures of governance.

All the seeds I list are grown on Acorn Community property. I had a hand in choosing, tending, harvesting, and cleaning each of these seed crops. We hold our land and labor in common as a 501(d) corporation (the same tax status as a monastery), and many other hands have helped tend and harvest these seed crops.

Southern Exposure also sells seeds grown by over 50 small farmers, including many in the Southeast, and others nationwide. Many heirloom varieties that we carry were originally given to us by breeders, seed-savers, or their families.

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Will Bonsall, Vice President
Industry, ME

Two years of slashed funding have decimated most of my collections. I am trying to re-build them as funding allows, however many accessions are in desperate need of regeneration, some have lost viability and need to be retrieved from other sources when possible, some are simply lost. A group of us are hoping to establish a Curators’ Guild to provide backup, especially for those accessions which SSE is discarding for reasons we consider inadequate. Until then, I am doing what i can to curate those within my Scatterseed Project, which has become more urgent than ever.

I apologize for the woeful lack of descriptive notes with my listings; I have plenty, but simply haven’t time to enter it all yet. I will add them as budget and time allow. Meanwhile it may be helpful to some that most of my notes can be found in my listing in the 2011 SSE Yearbook, the last year that I participated in that organization. Until this year i have not listed any potatoes because of a report that some of my clones may be infested with a harmful nematode, which i absolutely don’t wish to spread (some vars. listed by others in SSE/WY are also reportedly infested). I am re-building the collection from known clean sources, maintained on newly-opened quarantine plots, so that all potatoes offered by me are completely free of virus or nematodes. ______________________________________________________________________________________

Chris Hardy, Secretary
Ashland, OR

I am inspired to connect people to nutrient dense foods they can grow from seeds they can save. Farming has been in my family for at least 5 generations and my travels abroad have kept my passion high for organic farming, farm consulting and education in seed saving and regenerative agriculture. I initiated the successful campaign in Southern Oregon to ban genetically engineered crops and helped bring farmers and citizens together to protect traditional seed saving practices.

For the past 16 years I have helped organize regional seed swaps, local farmers markets and have developed a relationship with Rogue Valley Farm to School program to connect kids to seeds and their food. I am founder of Hardy Seeds and currently oversee the production of more than 300 unique types of vegetable, grain, perennial and herb seeds. I am a founding board member of the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association and am actively engaged in building a network of seed growers to strengthen diversity in the food system.

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Alan Adesse, Board Member
Eugene, OR

I am a forester who worked with Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in 1970’s through early 1980’s. After this, I started Elderberry Herbs–focusing on collecting medicinal plants, native and ornamental seeds in the wild. I met Dr. Alan Kapuler in mid 1980’s, who inspired me to grow organic seeds. Between 1989-1993, I worked with Dr. Kapuler, growing out stock seed for Peace Seeds and Seeds of Change. I was a contract grower for Seeds of Change 1992 through 2008. Since 2004, I have been a contract seed grower for Botanical Interests, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Living Seed Company, Planting Seeds Company (Canada), and Kokopelli Seeds (France). Since 1982, I have been a wild collector of medicinal plants for many herbal extract companies and herb houses. After visiting Nepal in 2015 and experiencing large scale devastation of farms to natural disasters, I started Seeds for Nepal, a non-profit organization, to get open-pollinated seeds into the hands of farmers. In 2018, I grew my first organic crop of industrial hemp.

In my almost 40 years of work experience, I worked with many younger folks to inspire them for and teach them about seed growing as well as about independence through natural healing and natural farming methods. I am the owner of Hands In Organics, and I currently farm on 6 acres of land in Eugene, OR. ______________________________________________________________________________________

Nate Kleinman, Board Member
Elmer, NJ

I am an activist, organizer, plant breeder, and seed farmer originally from Philadelphia. After working as a political organizer for about a decade, I decided to move to the country and become a full-time farmer. I am the co-founder and co-director of the Experimental Farm Network (EFN), a non-profit cooperative that works to facilitate collaborative research in sustainable agriculture, plant breeding, and climate change mitigation, especially through the development of perennial staple crops.

EFN aims to become a massive citizen science project large enough to eventually shift agriculture from being a major driver of climate change to being part of the solution. EFN’s work has been featured by media outlets including The Guardian, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Organic Broadcaster. As a plant breeder and experimenter, I have a broad range of interests, but I am most excited at the moment by sorghum and Job’s tears. I currently farm two locations in Salem County, New Jersey (update?). ______________________________________________________________________________________

Mehmet Oztan, Board Member
Morgantown/Reedsville, WV

I began gardening when I was looking for a way to relieve stress related to finishing my Ph.D. dissertation as an engineer. Then I became a seed saver. In a few years, I happily quit my engineering career to become a full-time seed saver. In 2013, my wife, Amy Thompson, and I founded Two Seeds in a Pod Heirloom Seed Co, a small seed company that specializes in Turkish heirlooms, in Tampa, FL.

Our seed production scale expanded from a backyard garden to a 3-acre leased field in 2015 that was half an hour far from our house, and that I was commuting to every day. I gardened/farmed in the Tampa Bay Area for around 10 years until we moved to West Virginia in June 2018. Our 6-acre seed production and research farm is now located in Reedsville, WV, where I am exploring the Appalachian heirloom varieties in addition to our Turkish collection of seeds. My maternal grandfather was from Ottoman era Bulgaria so I am also interested in growing Bulgarian and other Balkan seed varieties.

I am the founder of the Morgantown Seed Preservation Library that will focus on protecting the agrobiodiversity of West Virginia. Our company is a social enterprise that will focus on producing and donating our regional seeds to the library to help build a sustainable seed collection with the help of our community. I also launched a speaker series namely Seedy Talks, in conjunction with the seed preservation library, where we host keynote speakers who are seed activists and savers, from all over the U.S.

I also am a Service Assistant Professor in the Department of Geology & Geography at WVU, working on projects related to seed preservation, seed sovereignty, seed/food security, regional foodways and farming traditions.