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

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.

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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.”

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1986 Speech to the NPGRB Fort Collins

October 9, 1986

Kent Whealy · Speech to the National Plant Genetic Resources Board, Fort Collins, Colorado · October 9, 1986 My name is Kent Whealy and I am the Director of a grass-roots network of backyard vegetable gardeners known as the Seed Savers Exchange. I have been working for the last 12 years to build this network…

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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.

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1986 Harvest Introduction

November 11, 1986

The Seed Savers Exchange has just purchased its Heritage Farm! For three years we have been searching for the perfect property to showcase the organization’s preservation projects. During that time we have commuted to and gardened on rented land, and the Whealy family and SSE office has been shuffled between a succession of rental properties that has made us wonder at times if we could hold everything together. But now, thanks to a tremendous vote of confidence and generous loan from the C. S. Fund, the SSE is the proud owner of the most beautiful 57-acre farm that I have ever seen.

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1987 Harvest Introduction

October 20, 1987

It has been almost exactly a year since the Seed Savers Exchange purchased Heritage Farm to provide a permanent location for our genetic preservation projects. I knew that it was a gamble for our small but rapidly growing organization to attempt extensive projects at this stage of its growth. But so much genetic diversity is being lost right now that we really had no other choice. Some decisions are beyond reasoning, and you just have to jump in with both feet and give it your best shot. I always think of such episodes as “leaps of faith” and we have taken several together during the last 12 years, but this was by far the largest and most dangerous. Would we succeed in making Heritage Farm a reality, or would SSE be destroyed financially in the process? During this last year the necessary pieces have been falling into place so quickly and so perfectly that it’s spooky. This has definitely been a year of transition in many ways and I want to share with you the excitement of what has transpired.

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Heritage Farm – an Exemplary Model

November 8, 1987

This grant proposal will examine the following problems and their solutions:

1. Counteracting current trends that are destroying the genetic diversity of our food crops, and how gardeners and farmers working together can rescue and maintain what remains of these irreplaceable biological resources.
2. Developing an exemplary model farm project which will act as a catalyst to quickly effect the changes that are described in this proposal.
3. Demonstrating alternative crops, and workable organic techniques that will stop gardeners and farmers from using chemical sprays and fertilizers.

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A Letter to SSE’s Members

April 11, 1989

By Kent Whealy, Spring, 1989 Introduction Several years ago I met Wendell Berry for the first time when he spoke at Luther College. He mentioned being impressed by the energetic, fast pace of the folks around here. I told him, “Heck, Wendell, they’re just cold, that’s all.” Our long winters, where this corner of Iowa…

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Caretakers of Wonder

July 25, 1989

1989 Campout Speech by Kent Whealy Some of you have been to our past Campouts and were lucky enough to meet Jeff McCormack and Patty Wallens. They’re both very special people, wise and intuitive. Jeff has been on Seed Savers’ Board of Directors for several years now. Last Christmas Jeff and Patty sent my family…

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Giraffe Hero Award Given to Kent and Diane Whealy

October 13, 1989

Article from The Wichita Eagle, October 13, 1989 The Seed of Hope Kent Whealy, 43, also followed an idea all the way. A gardener extraordin­aire in Decorah, Iowa, Whealy’s passion is seeds – heirloom seeds, the ones that would become extinct unless someone kept them growing. He can’t put his finger on the reasons for…

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More documents will be added as they become available.