Kent Arthur Whealy

April 27, 1946 – March 23, 2018

Ceres Trust regrets to announce the passing of Kent Whealy on March 23. Kent was well known for his groundbreaking work in preserving the genetic variability of our food crops; turning curiosity, vision, and hard work into the celebrated Seed Savers Exchange (SSE). Beloved by gardeners, lauded by scientists, the SSE became the country’s largest non-governmental seed bank, growing into a collection of 26,000 varieties of vegetables. Besides maintaining the collection on 23 acres of organic gardens, Kent also made the best of them available again to gardeners and greatly expanded the trade in open–pollinated seed through his inventories.

As a trustee of Ceres Trust, which he joined in 2009, Kent was able to further his work in the genetic preservation of food crops and reinforce his opposition to the genetic modification of plants and the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture.

Kent was a strong believer in the idea that any one person could make a meaningful change in the world and he felt it his responsibility to do so. His dedication, vision, and exemplary leadership were an inspiration to countless people. Let us join hands and remember Kent with our own hard work and devotion.

Kent Whealy
Kent Whealy

Writing by Kent Whealy

The Bean Men

April 7, 1981

By Kent Whealy I was finally going to meet John Withee. We were both in Tucson to speak at the Seed Banks Serving People workshop. I’d had a display case built so John could display his collection at the workshop. I was going to send it to him to fill in Massachusetts, but time had…

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1981 Harvest Tucson Intro

April 7, 1981

I recently had the pleasure of being part of a unique workshop that was held in Tucson on October 13 and 14. I would be surprised if there is ever another that even closely resembles it. I came away riding a warm wave of friendship and enthusiasm like I have never felt before. It was so incredible that I was even a little down just because it was over.

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Fall Harvest Introduction

October 1, 1981

I first estimated that this “Fall Harvest Edition” would reach you during October. I figured it would be nice to receive it about the time when many of you were harvesting and working with your seeds. But I decided that I wanted to write most of it after I had attended the Seed Banks Serving People Workshop which was held in Tucson in mid-October. Many of the people that you have read about in the Seed Savers Exchange were speaking at the Workshop and I wanted to bring you their words so that we could all learn from them.

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Kent Whealy

Whatever Happened to the Vegetable Variety Inventory? or The “Apple” of my Bloodshot Eye

October 1, 1981

To get right to the point, the Vegetable Variety Inventory is only about one quarter complete. I still need almost 60 16-hour days to complete it and it is unrealistic to think that I will have time to get it done before Christmas, I have spread myself too thin. I always think that I can just knock things out in no time at all, but I’ve never taken on anything this big before. I really had no idea what a massive task it would be.

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Seed Savers Exchange Grant Proposal

October 3, 1981

There is a world-wide crisis that few people know about, but that may very well determine how hungry the world is in the future. The scientific community and laymen around the world are voicing increasing alarm about the genetic wipe-out of our food crops and their ancestors. Two specific areas of this crisis which have received almost no consideration are the extinction of both “heirloom” vegetable varieties and also the vegetable varieties currently being dropped from seed catalogs.

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1981 Harvest Tucson

October 7, 1981

“I’m Kent Whealy and I direct an organization of vegetable gardeners known as the Seed Savers Exchange that maintains and also exchanges heirloom vegetable varieties. I’ll be telling you more about the organization tomorrow, but what I really want to talk to you about today is some work that I have become very interested in recently.”

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Kent Whealy with completed Yearbook

Introduction to The Garden Seed Inventory

October 1, 1984

The Garden Seed Inventory represents your heritage as a vegetable gardener. The diversity and quality and number of garden varieties now being offered commercially is almost beyond belief. Gardeners in the United States and Canada are truly blessed. But it is quite possible that half of everything listed in this book could be extinct within the next few years! The major forces threatening this diversity include: plant patenting legislation; takeovers of seed companies by multinational corporations; plant breeding for machines instead of gardeners; the profit-motivated hybrid bias of most seed companies; and increasing bankruptcies of small businesses.

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Harvest Campout Introduction 1985

July 22, 1985

The fifth Annual Campout Convention of the Seed Savers Exchange was held on July 20-21, 1985 at the Pine Bluff 4-H Camp. The Camp is located six miles northeast of Decorah, Iowa and includes 115 acres of pine-covered bluffs, beautiful trails and a suspension bridge over the Upper Iowa River. This year attendance almost tripled because many of our members wanted a chance to look at the five-acre Preservation Garden containing 2,000 rare varieties which was just over the back fence. The magic of the Campout is that it brings together a diverse group of people who share the common bond of working to preserve our seed heritage. This year’s gathering was so high-powered that it’s going to be really hard to top it next year.

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Keynote Speech at Common Ground County Fair

September 21, 1985

Kent Whealy, Keynote Speaker · Common Ground County Fair · Windsor, Maine · September 21, 1985 My name is Kent Whealy and I’m the director of a non-profit organization of vegetable gardeners known as the Seed Savers Exchange. The Seed Savers Exchange is actually a preservation project which is trying to save what remains of…

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Aaron Whealy and Kent Whealy with corn

The Preservation Garden

October 5, 1985

From 1985 Harvest Edition, Seed Savers Exchange · What in the world would ever cause two men and a boy to try to grow out over 2,000 varieties of garden plants on five acres? The main reasons were two seed collections totaling nearly 5,000 varieties, and the result was that most fantastic display of heirloom vegetable varieties that anyone has ever seen. We learned a tremendous amount from that garden this last summer. And we also used it to create more interest about heirloom varieties — through national publicity and locally with garden tours — than anything else we could have possibly done.

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More documents will be added as they become available.