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

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.

Read More
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.

Read More

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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
Kent Whealy, April 1985

Seed Conference Speech

October 6, 1985

This speech was given at the 1985 Seed Conference held on October 4-6 at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, Missouri. It was co-sponsored by the National Gardening Association ( formerly “Gardens for All” ) and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Funding for the Conference was provided by the Wallace Genetic Foundation, a branch of Pioneer Hi-Bred. The conference brought together the owners and directors of small alternative seed companies and preservation projects with representatives from the major seed companies.

Read More

Closing from the Intro to the 1986 Winter Yearbook

February 11, 1986

“I’d just like to thank all of our members for the tremendous amount of work that each of you puts into this inspirational project. Whether you realize it or not, this has turned into the largest search for endangered and unique plant material in the history of the United States. We are being praised from all quarters as an exemplary organization that other groups and projects are trying to emulate. We have every reason to be quite proud of our efforts.”

Read More

Heritage Farm Excerpts

October 16, 1986

From SSE 1986 Harvest Edition. No wonder people question whether there is hope for the world. I deeply believe that there is hope, but it bothers me greatly when I see vast numbers of people giving up the struggle and becoming apathetic. That is as great a danger as any of the problems we face, because nothing is going to change without strong and deliberate action on a massive scale. I have thought long and hard about how individuals can make the greatest impact with their lives. There are a thousand good causes. But if you break your energy into a thousand pieces, you have nothing. Decide instead what one area holds the greatest interest for you, or where you feel you can do the most good with your life. And then focus all of the energy that you can muster on that one area and devote to it this short lifetime that we have been given. Become totally one-pointed, pace yourself so that you don’t burn out, and be careful not to spread yourself so thin that your efforts become ineffective. Believe me, you will be amazed at what you will accomplish.

Read More

More documents will be added as they become available.