Daughter of Iowa farmers, Missouri homesteader, and mother of five, Diane Ott Whealy never anticipated that one day she would become a leader in a grass-roots movement to preserve our agricultural biodiversity. The love for the land and the respect for heirloom seeds that Diane shared with her husband, Kent Whealy, led to their starting Seed Savers Exchange in 1975.
Seed Savers Exchange, the United States's premier nonprofit seed-saving organization, began humbly as a simple exchange of seeds among passionate gardeners who sought to preserve the rich gardening heritage their ancestors had brought to this country. Seeds that Ott Whealy herself inherited from her paternal grandparents were the impetus for the formation of Seed Savers Exchange, whose membership has grown from a small coterie to more than thirteen thousand. Its influence has been felt in gardens across America.
Ott Whealy's down-to-earth narrative traces her fascinating journey from Oregon to Kansas to Missouri then back home to Iowa where, in 1986, Heritage Farm became the permanent home of Seed Savers Exchange. Her heartwarming story captures what is best in the American spirit: the ability to dream and, through hard work and perseverance, inspire others to contribute their efforts to a cause. Thus was created one of the nation's most admired nonprofits in the field of genetic preservation.
Diane Ott Whealy is the co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange and presently serves as Vice President of Education. For more than 35 years, Diane has been a national leader in the heirloom seed movement and a strong advocate for the protection of the earth's rare genetic food stocksFounded in 1975 as a non-profit organization, Seed Savers Exchange has more than 13 000 members, made up of gardeners, orchardist, chefs and plant collectors, dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits, grains, flowers and herbs. With thousands of varieties in its collection, Seed Savers is one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.
In 1986 Diane helped to develop Heritage Farm, Seed Saver's scenic 890-acre headquarters near Decorah Iowa. Heritage Farm is a unique educational center designed to maintain and display collections of endangered food crops. Diane also founded the Flower and Herb Exchange where members offer over 2 000 heirloom flowers and herbs for exchange each year.
"Recollecting the origins and growth of the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) from a mom-and-pop operation in 1975 to a dynamic, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving seeds and preserving horticultural diversity, Ott Whealy (SSE cofounder and vice president for education) demonstrates that individuals can indeed have a positive impact on the world. She and her former husband, Kent Whealy, generously shared their home, life, and enthusiasm for gathering and saving seeds with friends, family, and like-minded acquaintances, many of whom became collaborators in the mission. Ott Whealy intertwines the organizational history of the exchange with the personal stories of individuals whose contributions – seeds, recipes, horticultural expertise, financial support, labor, and/or friendship – allowed the exchange to thrive.
VERDICT: This bountifully illustrated and beautifully designed book, highlighting the dedication of its members to the vital work of preserving the genetic diversity of the earth's plants one seed at a time, is an enjoyable and inspiring story. Recommended for gardeners and environmentalists."
– Donna L. Davey, New York Univ. Lib., Library Journal (11/15/2011)