A Message to the Global Seed Savers Community

A Message to the Global Seed Savers Community

Every year of my life, I try to pick up a lesson that becomes a theme. Some of the more significant ones have been:

2019 – withhold judgment

2020 – let go of control to make room for miracles

2021 – travel inward

2022 was a very tricky year to navigate. I once joked to a friend that this year for me was like Murphy’s law having a love child with entropy. I have tried and tried to distill the lesson that I will carry with me into the future. It’s encapsulated in this phrase: seasons of grace. 

Our lives are marked by seasons and seasons bring changes. Some are easy and uplifting and some, well, some seasons just knock us off of our feet. When we are in the midst of life’s storms, the best thing to being armed with, I am learning, is grace. 

Grace can be understood in many ways. But the most akin to what I mean are these: the refinement of movement but also, the ability to forgive, withhold judgment, live and let live. 

As I close my last days with Global Seed Savers Philippines, I am reminded again of the beauty of the heart-centered relationships I have been given the grace to be part of. I am in a season of change but this change has been brought about by the movement of stories, people, and time through me. 

My life has genuinely become deeper, more meaningful, and more colorful because of my interactions with the farmers we work with, my teammates, my colleagues, and my friends. I look to the horizon and try to see all possibilities, and my heart is assured that this is not the last time our paths will cross. That’s the reassurance of knowing that our work is not yet done. There will be future projects, collaborations, and advocacies that will call us together again.

Thank you for every smile, every hug, every seed planted, lesson learned, story entrusted, confidence shared, and help given. I am stepping away from GSSP but I am not extricating myself from the warp and weft that bind us in this beautiful tapestry we have created together. 

I would like to close as I opened and leave everyone with this quote from Arundhati Roy:

The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget. 

Be well,

Karen
Karen Lee Hizola, Executive Director of Global Seed Savers Philippines is stepping away from the organization after 7 years of leadership.

Karen Lee Hizola, Executive Director of Global Seed Savers Philippines is stepping away from the organization after 7 years of leadership.

Karen joined GSSP in 2016 and has been instrumental in our growth, development, and success over the last seven years. Karen led the expansion of our programs from our founding community in Tublay, Benguet to regions throughout the Philippines, in particular, leading our strategic growth and partnership development into her home community of Cebu. Karen also adapted, designed, and implemented an improved curriculum of our signature training program, Seed School and Seed School Teacher Training, bringing cultural design, awareness, and improved teaching methods to our partners.

During her tenure with the organization, she had the opportunity to travel and represent GSSP around the globe: including a trip to our US headquarters in Denver, Colorado for Seed School and serving as the keynote at our Annual Nourish Celebration in 2018, speaking at the ECHO Asia Impact Center conference in Thailand in 2019, and most recently representing GSSP at the FAO ITPGRFA Treaty in New Delhi, India in September 2022. 

“Karen has been the ideal trusted partner and co-leader these last seven years. Her personal style and heart centered leadership has been a key to our success and growth during her tenure! Without her commitment, passion, and hard work, Global Seed Savers Philippines would not be the thriving organization it is today. Karen has left a permanent mark on the organization and while we are sad to see her go, we wish her well in all her future endeavors and hope she will remain a strong supporter of GSSP.” 

Shares, Sherry Manning, Founder and US Executive Director.  

Karen’s last day with the organization will be on January 31st. 

We will begin our search for our next Philippines Executive Director later this month. More details to follow with a job description. 

Successful Team Retreat Held in October in Pangasinan

Successful Team Retreat Held in October in Pangasinan

It was so wonderful to all be together in person as a team during my trip to the Philippines  in October and host a 3.5 day staff retreat. We have a renewed theory of change, more focused work plans to hone in on, and a restored commitment to our big audacious goals and mission and vision moving forward, more to come on this all!

We are excited to be expanding our advocacy into local seed policy formation work, deepening our partnerships across the Philippines and world, and continuing to invest in the growth and leadership development of our team. In the coming year we indeed support:

  • The creation of additional seed production sites
  • Ensure indigenous seed preservation policies are instituted at the local level
  •  Expand our network via launching a Seed Savers Membership model across the Philippines.

We are especially grateful to Aimee Santos-Lyons, our wonderful retreat facilitator for designing and executing the retreat for us. Aimee was a skillful facilitator with decades of organizing and team development experience, and incorporated wonderful movement exercises along with deep dives into theory of change revision processes and internal team accountability discussions.

 

The team is energized with renewed focus for the work that lays ahead for us in 2023 and beyond!

Wonderful Reconnections and Meetings in Cebu and Now onto the FAO in New Delhi, India.

Wonderful Reconnections and Meetings in Cebu and Now onto the FAO in New Delhi, India.

I arrived safely to New Delhi early this morning after a wonderful first five days in the Philippines in Cebu. I really hit the ground running when I arrived last Saturday and despite some unfortunate changes to our plans (due to illness of a colleague) my time in Cebu while short, was oh so sweet and productive! First stop was the Saturday and Sunday Cebu Farmers Markets. What a joy to connect in person with the entire CAFEi Team (our partner NGO) and many of our dedicated Cebu partner farmers! We shared laughs, stories of their on-going recovery from Typhoon Odette, and some talks of future plans! More to come on this all!

A warm welcome on Saturday at the Cebu Farmers Market

We also had a wonderful planning meeting with CAFEi on Monday. Teresa and her team have a bold vision for Cebu food and seed sovereignty, and we continue to be honored to collaborate with them on these cross-cutting issues. Collaboration in this work is not easy, it takes deep time and care to foster healthy working and personal relationships amongst partners, and I am so grateful that we have found a partner that is equally committed to these values and work ethic, as all at CAFEi are. It was particularly special to get such wonderful quality 1-1 time with Teresa. She is a dear friend and sounding board as a fellow organizational founder/leader and I will always treasure how the universe opened the door for more of this space during my short stay in Cebu! All roads lead to more GSS Team members to charge our vision for Cebu forward!

Planning meeting with Team CAFEi and GSS

I also traveled north on the island to Arapal to visit GSS team member Harry at our seed production site. It was very special to get 1-1 time with Harry also and discuss his plans and visions for the future with local seed production and more. I had shared with the team before I left the US that having quality 1-1 time with each team member during this trip was a key priority for me and I am so happy to have kicked this off with Harry in Arapal.

I loved seeing our seed production site in action and am very excited for our yearend report about the planting cycles and which crops did best! Larger dedicated spaces for these types of seed trials are an essential step in responding to the climate realities our partner farmers face. Not only growing seeds but studying and learning what seeds survive these changes will supply the food of the future for our partner communities and indeed the world! Thank you for leading these efforts at Arapal Harry and more seed production sites in new regions of the country to come soon!

Now, on to the FAO 9th Session of the Governing Body for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (say that 10 times fast 😉 here in New Delhi, India! Wow, what an incredible opportunity this is going to be for us this next week. Not only to reconnect in person with our mentor and dear friend Bill McDorman who connected us to this all. Bill and I have already spent the day talking for hours about our work the importance of our presence here and more, but to be an active participant in this complex international gathering that sets the policy and practices that govern our food and seed systems is truly amazing! The official session begins in a few days and walking into the main hall as they were setting up earlier today gave me chills!

The main hall for the sessions

Our world is an ever-growing complex place and now more than ever we must be able to come together to collectively solve the greatest challenges of our time. What could be more important to undertake and change for the better than the ability for ALL communities to grow, protect, and preserve their diverse food and seed systems that feed and sustain us all. That is what this treaty and the many parallel treaties and declarations of the United Nations are meant to be protecting and Global Seed Savers is humbled and honored to get to be in the room for these deliberations and play a hand in shaping their future. Most importantly as the theme for the session states, “Celebrating the Guardians of Crop Diversity.” For us, these guardians are our dedicated partner farmers at GSS and the millions of others around the globe. Ensuring their rights and perspective remain core to these treaties continued evolution will be a tremendous responsibility and honor. I am also thrilled to share that we have been accepted to host a side event on Thursday to share more about our work. This will be a wonderful opportunity for our model and efforts across the Philippines to be highlighted and to hopefully build pathways to deeper collaborations in the future.

These very beliefs and understanding of the humanity that connects us all, is what Eleanor Roosevelt brought to her visionary idea and key leadership role in the forming of the United Nations in 1945 (the FAO is agriculture arm of the UN). A deep belief that by coming together across our geographic borders, our differences in culture, identities, and belief systems we can build a better world that is committed to shared values of justice and peace. Time and time again, we have seen in our work that seeds are an essential bridge to breaking down these barriers. Nothing more fundamentally connects us all than food and the cultural connections and stories food resonates and facilitates and seeds are small, but oh so powerful common thread to this all!

Looking forward to sharing more updates and reflections as the Governing Body Sessions begins in the coming days!

Departures, Reflections, and the Familiar Yet Unknown Ahead

Departures, Reflections, and the Familiar Yet Unknown Ahead

As many of you know, I leave very early tomorrow morning (Friday) at 1:30am PST for 6 weeks of work travel in the Philippines and India. I am en-route at the Seattle Airport right now, phew… here I go!!  Preparing for this trip has been filled with many emotions as I have not been to the Philippines since December 2019. The world has changed so much in this seemingly short period of time and so much has expanded, deepened, and grown for the entire Global Seed Savers Community and me, during these challenging and beautiful years for our world.  

For me, the foundation of our work at Global Seed Savers has always been about deep personal relationships. These relationships began to germinate and take root when I sat at this very Seattle airport, 16 years ago preparing to leave for another big unknown, my Peace Corps service in the Philippines. This experience living, learning, and working side by side the Cosalan Family at ENCA Farm, and immersing myself in the culture and realities of the Philippines for 2.5 years was incredibly transformative and will always be my origin story of our evolving work and my love of the Philippines.

These last two years have opened space for lots of reflection for me personally and for us as an evolving organization. This process has not always been easy, most good things are not, it has been so challenging to watch the suffering across the world, it has been difficult to feel isolated and physically cut off from each other, and it has also been two of the largest years of growth and deepening our commitment to our mission at Global Seed Savers in our history!  

In the last two years we have: more than doubled our revenue year over year, enabling us to grow our team from 3 staff to a team of 7, and despite the many challenges our farmers and community partners continue to face, there is one thing that has remained consistent, our deep commitment to our simple but frankly very profound mission. Restoring communities’ abilities to grow their own food and preserve cultural traditions and values through saving their own seeds. Often in our sector, people want to talk about innovation and doing the “next big thing.” However, we are Global Seed Savers have always been deeply rooted in the firm belief that our work is about restoring a tradition and practice that has always worked. We are helping communities and even more so, they are helping us, remember our interconnectedness through the simple act of saving a seed and replanting them time and time again.  

I can share our impact numbers and metrics and you can visit our website to see these and learn more, but more than that, our work is about slow, steady change for communities. It is about restoring relationships to the land, to the seed, to culture, to each other. It is about remembering our interconnectedness! And for me, this is what this trip is also going to be about. Reconnecting to a land, people and place that I love!

This will also be the first time we are all gathering in person as a team! While Zoom has certainty made our global work not require travel, you really cannot replace the in person and I am so looking forward to our four day staff retreat next month and time face to face with the dedicated and wonderful people that make GSS tick and operate on the ground! We are not just colleagues, but we really are a family that genuinely cares for each other.

This trip will also be about a big new adventure and opportunity for growth for Global Seed Savers. Thanks to our mentor and dear friend Bill McDorman, we have been accepted to attend the FAO 9th Governing Body Session on the Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi, India in mid-September. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this exciting FAO gathering and learn, contribute, and ensure that the voices of the true heroes in agriculture are represented, our dedicated partner farmers. At this critical moment in history there has never been a more important time to advocate for the restoration of local food and seed systems. We will also be spending three days at Navdanya, Vandana Shiva’s farm in outside of Dehradun.  

My wonderful colleague and dear friend Karen often says, “When you hold a seed, you are holding the past, present and future.”  This is a fitting statement for all I am feeling as I begin this journey. Just like the seeds our farmers grow, I am holding all of these things’ memories of my past trips and times in the Philippines, the current realities facing our world and our work, and also holding immense gratitude and hope for all that will unfold during these next 6 weeks.

Thank you for being part of our ever-growing community and Global Seed Savers and thank you for being a strong support to me!

Next update from the ground in Cebu!

Ingat/Amping!

Sherry