Visiting Kai Farms and Connecting with our Growing Seed Family

The thick humidity and warm air always fill me with a rush of excitement and intensity upon arrival to Metro Manila! My landing on Thursday afternoon was no different. It is a familiar intensity that I look forward to each time I return to my second home of the Philippines. After a quick night in Manila complete with a delicious veggie Kare-Kareng (Peanut Stew) at one of my “safe places” in Manila, Corner Tree Café and a lovely breakfast at Wildflour with our Program Manager Karen who met me in Manila on Thursday, we were off to our partners at Kai Farms.

Kai Farms is a 20-hectare farm in Silang, Cavite about two hours south of Manila. We connected with them last year and are so thankful for our partnership with these fellow seed savers and seed stewards. The farm is privately owned and they employ nearly 30 local community members and are actively organically farming, saving and selling seeds, and building our collective healed and whole earth! The vision of this sacred land is held and created by Karla and Amena the dynamic duo of soul earth sisters making Kai Farms a reality!


L-R- Karla of Kai Farms, Sherry GSS, Amena Kai Farms, and Karen GSS. Pose for a photo after a great tour of the farm on Friday.

This last June we held a one-day Seed School with their farmers and other community members. This was the first seed school that two of our core farmers from the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) facilitated and our meetings last weekend were to brainstorm and make plans for our collective work restoring seed saving, organic sustainable agriculture, and ensuring that all people have access to healthy and sustainably produced food and seeds!

On Friday we toured the farm and got to visit with the Earth Worker/Earth Leaders (what they call their farmers) and tour the beautiful grounds. Each Earth Worker tends their own garden at the farm complete with beautiful names such as Gratitude, Kapayapaan (Peace), and Freedom. Each garden has a multitude of crops and they are practicing permaculture and each garden is also saving seeds. In addition to the tour and a lovely farm lunch Karen ended up giving an impromptu germination test lesson to the farmers and staff!


On Saturday, Kai Farms was kind enough to organize a beautiful community lunch for members of the Silang community, friends from Metro Manila, local restaurant owners, University Professors, and even the Vice Mayor and Municipal Agriculture Officer from Silang joined. We shared delicious organic food, our seed stories, and held a community discussion about our work and how we might continue to partner with Kai Farms and the greater Silang Community to continue to share our knowledge of seed saving and work together to ensure all communities have access to affordable and locally sustainably produced food and seeds.

It was inspiring to be with so many like-minded people all committed to a similar vision. I was particularly impressed with the young and dynamic Vice Mayor of Silang. He is probably no older than 35 and shared a compelling message of the great work Silang is doing to preserve their agriculture traditions and ensure the next generation of farmers stays engaged in these practices. They have declared themselves an agricultural Municipality and have also opened the first Agricultural High School in the Philippines. In addition the Local Government Unit (LGU) offers scholarships to deserving students that want to attend college to study agriculture. Each of these steps are innovative and will ensure that the next generation of farmers see the value in farming as opposed to turning away from this critically important livelihood.




We are very excited to partner with the LGU of Silang and Kai Farms to bring another Seed School to this community in 2018. We are also continuing to brainstorm ways Kai and Global Seed Savers can raise awareness about our shared work in 2018, likely starting with hosting a screening of SEED: The Untold Story in Metro Manila to raise awareness and funds about this movement and engage the urban support of Manila. We are so thankful for our growing collaborations with Kai Farms and look forward to seeing how our paths and work continue to grow together.





Planting Local Seeds and Leadership is the Key to Our Success

Image above: Members of the Benguet Association of Seed Savers pose for a photo after a recent monthly meeting in Tublay, Benguet.

In less than 24 hours I leave for my annual trip to the Philippines. Each year these trips are filled with different objectives, momentum, and excitement and this year’s is full of all of these emotions and more. We have had a big year as an organization: raising more revenue to date then ever before, opening our first Seed Library with our partner farmers, expanding our Seed School Technical Training Programs to new partners, and more. We have also had a very busy and big last few weeks coming off of another successful Nourish Event and announcing our new name…Global Seed Savers to better reflect our expanded mission and impact as we move into our next phase of work as an organization.

A key to our success in the last few years and moving forward is the local ownership and management of our mission, vision, and programs in the Philippines. As many of you know two years ago we hired our first Filipino Staff member and Karen, our Program Manager has been a dynamic, hard working, creative, and essential partner to the growth, broader impact, and expanding mission we are undertaking in the Philippines. We have also formed a truly counterpart Philippine NGO, Global Seed Savers-Philippines to ensure that the local management, governance, fundraising, and ownership of our continued success is in the hands of our partners. We have identified and formed a dynamic Philippine Board of Directors and we were honored to have our Philippine Board President, Padma Perez join us in Denver two weeks ago for our 7th Annual Nourish Event.

Padma and I at Nourish

Pictured during Nourish with Padma (right) to view more Nourish Photos thanks to Callen Blackburn please click here.

Padma delivered a compelling and passionate keynote during Nourish about the reality of food security in the Philippines. She compassionately described a common practice by many called pag-pag when families dumpster dive and then shake off and re-heat food scraps that have been discarded and then sell these for around 20 cents to their neighbors and community. This is the reality of hunger in the Philippines and while there is a growing demand for healthy and organically produced food, this is still only accessible to a small upper class minority in the Philippines. Our vision is that all people have access to healthy and sustainably produced food and seeds. This is a big task but like Wes Jackson the Founder of the Land Institute says and Padma shared during her compelling talk:

“ If your life work can be accomplished in your lifetime, then you are not thinking big enough.” -Wes Jackson, The Land Institute 

The challenges we face our real and ever present; three major agri-chemical companies own the majority of the worlds seeds and input markets, land development and “modernization” continue to threaten farmers land rights, and the next generations desire to leave farming and move to the cities for “better” opportunities is ever present in our country and the Philippines. However, we know at Global Seed Savers we are slowly, one farmer, and community at a time building our own collective future one that is rooted in the land, in the soil, and in the seed! I am honored to get to work with such talented and passionate partners in the Philippines and together we are ensuring a more food and climate secure world by returning to the historical practice of saving and sharing regionally adapted and affordable organic seeds!

Please stay tuned for more updates from the field as I am hitting the ground running upon arrival in Manila on Thursday. We will be meeting with our new partners at Kai Farms where we held a Seed School earlier this year and brainstorming about our future collaborations and participating in a community lunch with other seed and food advocates near Metro Manila. Thank you for your support and passion for this work and I am looking forward to sharing this up-coming trip with you all!