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Friday, December 2nd 6-8pm Denver Time
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Once again, it is that time of year, when I am off to the Philippines for my annual trip! It always feels like a big push to make this trip happen, but once I am sitting (as I am now) at the gate in Seattle, the rush to get here fades away and my excitement for the next 5 weeks begins to set in.
My departure always follows our Annual Nourish Celebration and this years’ event was one for the books! On Saturday, October 26th over 130 guests gathered at the Posner Center for International Development to celebrate all things seeds, Filipino Food, and community. Sharing a beautiful Kamayan Feats guests enjoyed this communal style of Filipino eating with bare hands, which made for a festive and visually stunning experience. (more…)
Image above: L-R: Karen Lee Hizola Philippines Country Manager and me at our 8th Annual Nourish Event.
This is always an exciting time of year for Global Seed Savers! Riding the wave of momentum from our 8th Annual Nourish Event held in October, me preparing to depart for my annual trip to the Philippines in less than 24 hours, and recent connections made on the ground including a TV interview with the Filipino Version of “Good Morning America” and sharing about our work with Former DENR Secretary and Environmental Activist Gina Lopez. These are each signs that we are on the right path and our community continues to grow!
For those of you that attended our 8th Annual Nourish Event on October 20th you can attest to the powerful, heartfelt, and touching day we shared! Karen our dynamic Philippines Country Manager shared her personal story of why Seed Saving is so important in her country and why she believes that little by little, what we are helping support farmers to do will keep families together, restore biodiversity, dramatically improve farmers economic realities, and build a more climate and food secure future. Karen’s passion for our work rang through and she received a well-deserved standing ovation after her keynote address. Thank you Karen for making the long journey to be with us and for sharing your story and passion for your country and for making our world a better place!
We were also honored to have our mentor, partner, and dear friend in this work, Bill McDroman, the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance share some wisdom and inspiration during the event. Bill has been saving seeds and teaching communities throughout the Rocky Mountain West to do the same for over 30 years. In 2016, he and his wife Belle along with Heather DeLong from DeLaney Community Farm joined us in the Philippines to lead and host a 3-Day Farmer Seed School and Capacity Building Seminar. This was a catalyst program for us and is what launched our now vibrant Seed School Program and grew our partnerships to include communities throughout the 7,000 islands of the Philippines. We are so grateful for our continued collaborations Bill and honored to be on this path with you to restore our diversity and food system with each seed sowed, saved, and re-planted Thank you for your mentorship and continued guidance and support!
In addition, local spoken word poet and hip-hop artist Meta Sarmiento brought down the house with his powerful performance describing his journey as a Filipino growing up in Guam struggling with identity and the social and environmental injustices he witnessed and experienced as a first-generation Asian Pacific Islander in America. We are honored to have you in our community Meta, and thankful for a skillful, passionate artists like yourself, that emboldens our work and movement from the ground up!
As I finish my final preparations to spend the next 5 weeks in the Philippines I always like to take time to reflect and think about how far we have come since we began this journey. For me, this started over 12 years ago in March of 2006 when I boarded an airplane for an island nation I knew very little about and began my two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. This is when the foundation of what is now Global Seed Savers began to germinate and my life became forever intertwined with the amazing beauty, heart, and passion of the Filipino People. While the mission, scope, and work of Global Seed Savers has rightfully evolved and expanded in the last four years. My connection and passion for this place and people will also be centered in the quiet Municipality of Tublay (where our founding Seed Library is) and with the Cosalan Family and my time spent at their little pocket of heaven ENCA Farm. In these seemingly uncertain times in our world reconnecting with our foundations, our origins, our traditions are essential and seeds help us all to do this!!
So, while I am excited and looking forward to the: Permaculture Convergence this weekend, the countless new partner meetings that will happen during this annual trip including flying to Cebu and continuing plans for expanding our work and creating a Southern Hub for seed saving there, and spending dedicated time with our Staff and Philippines Board visioning and planning out our next 3-5 years. I am most excited to reconnect with my Global Seed Savers origins, to spend time with the Cosalan Family, to see my dear friends and fellow activists in this work, and to be with the dedicated farmers at the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) sharing seeds, stories, and visions for the future that we will all continue to build together!
Thanks for following along on this journey and helping to embolden and support our work and mission at Global Seed Savers. Next update from the Philippines!
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 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!
This trip and program have been well over a year in the making. In August 2015, I had the pleasure of attending Seed School in a Day at the Denver Botanic Gardens, where I first met Bill and Belle. After the class we had coffee together and I shared about our soon-to-launch seed saving programs (that are now in full swing with our core seed savers in Benguet Province) and literally “planted the seed” about them coming to the Philippines with us someday. I am thrilled that this seed is soon to geminate by bringing together international expertise on seed saving and farmers’ sustainable development. And, perhaps most importantly, this program creates a space for farmers to gather, learn, interact, and share their collective challenges and successes. I firmly believe that there is nothing more powerful than bringing together farmers who are committed to building a more climate and food secure world. I am humbled and honored to build these experiences for our partner farmers and am looking forward to seeing the power of this collaboration in action.
Also, thanks to our incredibly successful 6th Annual Nourish Event held on Saturday, October 22nd, the excitement for this program is palpable. With over 125 guests, a silent auction, incredible food from our chefs at The Orange Crunch, and a poignant message from our Guest Speaker Dennis Apuan, this was our most successful event to date grossing over $16,000!! Dennis is a prominent figure in the Filipino-American Community in Colorado. He was the first Filipino-American to be elected to the Colorado State House where he served two terms. He is an activist, community organizer, and non-profit leader dedicated to building a more just and sustainable local and global community. Dennis shared powerful words about what justice means in the context of our work in increasing food security in the Philippines:
“ Food justice starts from the conviction that access to healthy food is a human rights issue and goes beyond advocacy and direct service….it calls for organized responses to food security problems, responses that are locally driven and owned.”
Friends of ENCA Farm is committed to supporting these solutions one farmer and one community at a time. It is an honor to work with dedicated Filipino farmers who seek to increase broad access to organic seed as a direct move to liberate themselves from the chokehold that biotechnology companies attempt to exert throughout global food and seed markets.
We know that our involvement and investment in this important, challenging, and often times thankless work is the right place for us to be right now as an organization. It is a sacred process of protecting our human sources of sustenance, cultural heritage, and future success… all found in each powerful little seed our farmers diligently sow, plant, and grow!
I look forward to sharing this trip with you all! Next update from the Philippines!