Mike Bollinger and Katie Prochaska have an incredible story of connection to Decorah, Luther College, and the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE). As Mike settles into his roll as Executive Director of SSE, the almost 50 year-old organization looks to set its course well into the future of sharing heirloom seeds with all.
From the SSE Website:
“In the last century or so, the world has lost 75% of its edible plant varieties. That might be hard to perceive when many of us have enough food on our plates, but consider this: According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, only five cereal grains make up 60% of our calories. A system that depends so heavily on so few crops is quite fragile.”
From growing up in South Dakota, to meeting his future wife (Katie) at Luther College, adventures in West Africa through the Peace Corps, and finding their way back to Decorah (and SSE – more than once!), Mike’s authentic connections and genuine care for “hands in the dirt” agriculture are the real deal. He and Katie still own River Root Farm, which they created to grow quality vegetables and food in our region, and was also key to helping grow SSE’s national plant sales business.
Seed Savers Exchange stewards Americaʼs culturally diverse and endangered garden and food crop legacy for present and future generations. We educate and connect people through collecting, regenerating, and sharing heirloom seeds, plants, and stories.
As co-founder of an agricultural solutions company, Mike has also provided support to SSE on greenhouse design and organic production practices. Mike not only has a practical understanding of organic and sustainable growing practices, but he has also dedicated years of service as an active member on the board of directors for organizations focusing on farmer education services and local and regional food systems. We are so appreciative that Mike took time to tell us his story on this episode.
Seed Savers Exchange was founded in Missouri in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, with seeds brought by Grandpa Ott’s parents from Bavaria when they immigrated to Iowa in 1884. Diane and Kent went on to form a network of gardeners interested in preserving heirloom varieties and sharing seeds. Today, with 13,000 members and 20,000 plant varieties, Seed Savers Exchange makes its home on 890 scenic acres in Winneshiek County, Iowa, at Heritage Farm.
Learn More about the Seed Savers Exchange here, including the return of SSE’s annual summer events, special offerings, and more.
“Rhymes With Decorah” is a companion project of Inspire(d) Media.
Original music heard in this podcast performed and recorded by Nick Zielinski of Decorah. Find him on Instagram, Patreon, TikTok and more @indicative_of_drumming