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I'm not a memeber of SSE, but I do order seeds from their online catalog. So I read that letter you posted. Sounds pretty terrible. I'm wondering what is the new agenda. To take a man's life's work is cruel.
Heres the latest reply concerning the SSE situation.
As an SSE employee who chose to work there because of its mission, and its status as a non-profit, I can with 100% honesty tell you that what was said in the Board's letter is true. If anything, we are working to return more of the focus to SSE's membership base, which as many of you who are members know has been somewhat neglected and declining in previous years.
SSE's Board Members are volunteers, they work with no compensation at all - so all these posts I've been reading on various forums about how money is the factor, or how the Board Members are going to reward themselves richly is simply not true.
I know it's impossible to convince everyone. If you have concerns, please address it in a civil manner. The staff at SSE has been on the receiving end of quite a lot this past week and there is not one among us that would do anything to hurt SSE.
I first heard of SSE a year ago last Christmas. Too late to join to get the regular catalog so I joined the flower exchange. I know no one involved in the current to-do. However I had decided a while ago not to join SSE because I just got a feeling there was a little too much self-promotion going on (not on the part of Kent Whealy. Until this week I didn't even know who he was although I vaguely recall hearing the name).
Also had a problem with the prices. I would have in 2007 and will this year,grow over 50 OP cultivars. Didn't understand from the start why, if preserving genetic diversity was the goal, SSE didn't put together packages of a wide assortment of seeds at a reduced cost. I'll pay $50 for 25 or 30 cultivars, ten seeds in a pack. Or 60 or 70 for $100. Won't even have to think of about. But I'm not about to order much (now none at all) for what SSE wants per package. I'll trade with others and deal with smaller outfits.
Don't you think it's the least bit funny that this open letter from this fellow does not mention any reason that he was canned AT ALL? What, someone just woke up in an angry mood and decided to get rid of him out of sheer spite? He talks about the way corporations are run. Well, that's not the way. And wake up, buddy, Amy Goldman does not need SSE to publish books. Geez. Talk about your inflated ego.
I notice he mentions the cattle several times in this letter and apparently they were a pet project of his. I have to say I could not understand what cattle have to do with seed saving, even if they are some heritage type. It seems he was pouring a lot of the SSE's money into the display farm and heirloom cattle instead of into the seed end of things.
This guy sounds like a kook to me, and frankly, he is doing plenty to muddy up the name of the SSE. Apparently that is his intention. So if his letter was meant to drum up sympathy for him, I have to say I don't have any for him.
I know that. Apparently, he came to the conclusion that all its money should be available to him to do with as he pleased. The co-founder of SSE disagreed with that. So did everyone else on the board. So he got canned, and now here he is crying about how he has been persecuted by these corporate types that apparently include the co-founder and how evil things are happening at SSE. What a lot of hogwash.
Sad as it may be I think there may be a ring of truth as to what paracelsus says. Maybe Kent did go astray with his new projects and was getting away from what SSE is all about, (SEED SAVING). Unfortunately we can only speculate at this point and that is all it is, SPECULATION. So we will have to sit back and wait for this thing to unfold. Till then I will continue to give my support to SSE untill I get a definitive answer as to what really happened. Ami
New update from GW.
Posted by gcdouglass z7 MD (My Page) on Sun, Jan 20, 08 at 7:54
I believe the board has provided some valuable information. I have asked the following questions and have receive responses for most:
(1) Response on why Kent was removed if possible.
This seems to go back several years and all the details may never be known. This could be a soap opera. I respect the fact that due to personal or personnel issues all these details may not be available to the public.
(2)A statement that the Board of Advisors will be retained with its current membership
The board has indicated that it intends to maintain the Board of Advisors
(3) Annual Report will continue to be available either through your web site, in a SSE publication or by request through SSE,
They will publish SSE's financial statements in the annual Summer Editions as always
(4) That the endowment to maintain SSE's seed collection be established
No specific mention on that yet, but since the mission of the organization has not changed hopefully this should continue to move forward.
(5) Statement that SSE's core mission will not change from preserving genetic diversity, seed exchanging and making these varieties available to its members.
They have several time reinforced that SSE’s mission and vision has not changed
(6) What is SSE’s governance structure?
This has not changed even with the bylaw changes. We did not have governance before and do not have it now. Personally I feel even though adding governance would add expenses to membership that governance should be provided to members. Members established that valuable seed collection that exists and should have direct say on how it is used.
(7) What committees have been formed since March 2007?
SSE has six committees, in which SSE staff members, SSE Board of Advisors members, and SSE Board Members participate:
Seed Collection Committee
Publications Committee (SSE's publications include membership publications as well as books and a catalog)
Audit & Finance Committee
Board Development Committee
Executive Search Committee (ad hoc)
All seem legitimate to me.
(8)Why was the membership bylaw changed?
I believe the response to this is that Iowa non-profit law changed.
My brief research seems to indicate this language change although it seems dramatic, actually changed our member status very little, if at all.
To quote Iowa’s code: "Member" means a person who on more than one occasion, pursuant to the provisions of a corporation's articles or bylaws, has a right to vote for the election of a director or directors of a corporation, irrespective of how a member is defined in the articles or bylaws of the corporation.
We did not have governance before and do not have it now. This change may have the impression that our status or rights have been compromised when in fact they have not been. We never had governance. How that comes as a surprise to me even though I never received a voting form in the past give is alarming. I believe we always should have had governance and this issue just has opened my eyes to that.
Iowa code still allows SSE to have membership and refer to us as members even though we are not members in the by-laws. This was the essentially the case before since we did not have governance and is the case today.
(9) I also feel that an at-large member from a listed member that is not a major donor should be added to the board.
This has not yet been addressed. A board’s widespread support requires a diverse board, including representation from groups the organization directly serves. (http://www.sos.state.ia.us/pdfs/Nonprofits/IAPP4CNE.pdf) I believe this should be examined as "members" who actually do the seed sharing should have an at large board member to represent our concerns, needs and wants for the organization.
Hopefully the board will eventually fully answer my questions (4,8,9), but I feel they have answered many already.
Upon further research I believe SSE has always been a public benefit corporation even though members may of considered it more of a mutual benefit corporation when it concerned seed sharing.
The board has a Fiduciary Duty. Although its actions may be unpopular nothing in its responses has indicated to me that they are not fulfilling this fiduciary duty.
I too hope that this does not muck up the image of SSE. I have been a member on and off over the years and have always been inspired by their seed list and by the efforts of all the many, many people who have gone to great trouble to grow out and save seed and share them with total strangers for the sheer love of gardening and preserving our plant past. I have been champing at the bit to get the veggie seed list this year, even though I long ago chose all my veggie seeds for 2008. There is always room for a few more.
As I stated in another post, I've crossed paths with a few of the people who signed some of these letters. Their devotion to SSE is unquestioned by me. Until proven otherwise, I will continue to support SSE.
It's sad that things have come to this, and there's lots of hurt feelings on both sides.
Kent is not a kook. That's why this is so hard. He and Diane had a vision, and SSE grew to what it is today with their hard work, sweat and sacrifice. Let no one take that lightly.
There's obviously more to the story than we're getting from both sides, we will never have the entire thing. Sometimes things need to change, but I feel sad for all involved. Speculation will simply fuel rumors, and serves no purpose.
I have renewed my membership, and am eagerly awaiting my 2008 Yearbook. I will place an order from the retail catalog as I do every year. Don't be afraid to order from the catalog if you were going to do so. SSE retail seeds are great seeds. a wonderful way to get started with heirlooms.
melody...as I mentioned, I'm new to this and had never heard of Kent until last year. I agree, he is not a "kook". Nor is he one for self-aggrandizement (if he were, I would have heard of him). Detected a few whiffs that he is going to be depicted as one or the other. That tactic is so classic if it is used against him, I'll have no doubt who is wearing the black hats.
There are no black hats here. That is exactly what is wrong with Mr. Whealey's letter-that he tries to make out that there are. And that is what makes him sound like a kook, IMO.
The same sort of idiotic us/them stuff came up with the Heronswood thing, like George Ball was the devil incarnate for buying that company, like he held the owners at gunpoint and forced him to pay them millions of dollars. There was no black/white there either, and generally that is not how reality is. Look what happened here in response to this idiot letter--right away someone says "Let's boycott Johnny's," etc. Stop and think instead of acting like a mob.
Hey Guys; For the record I have never ordered from Johnny's Seeds. However now that he is on the board at SSE, I am now receiving Johnny's catalog. This tells me they are using my information from SSE.They won't be getting an order from me.
Hey Amideutch; I have no idea who you are? Also all of the websites that I have ever posted on I am still a member of, just don't post. You obviously post with different names on different sites. I don't.
I stated that I have never ordered from them so they got my address from somewhere.And being they are now on the board at SSE, its pretty obvious. Your vitriolic response clearly states you cannot handle someone having a different opinion than yours.( In the future I would suggest that you not read my posts.) This is a NO Brainer!
I have spoken to quite a lot of fellow listed SSE members via email and it seems that I won't be the only person boycotting Johnny's Selected Seeds.
"And being they are now on the board at SSE, its pretty obvious."
Uh, no, it's not obvious at all. It's in fact a logical fallacy to conclude that two events that happen one after the other are in fact cause and effect. This is what I mean about not thinking.
I've been gardening from 25 years and I get all kinds of catalogs and mailings I never signed up for. It doesn't mean anything at all. If you personally don't like something you get in the mail, you can compost it. It's mail, not a conspiracy.
It looks to me like you are determined to trash Johnny's and SSE. Well, I can tell you that what you are saying here doesn't make them look bad. Quite the contrary.
Personally, I don't think it's cool to come here and suggest boycotting anyone. Not from what I've read. This seems like it's a family squabble and while you cringe at what's going on, you don't want to take sides because, well you like all the parties involved.
I have done business with Johnny's and they have been nothing but an excellent supplier. Same with SSE.
And the telling thing about Mr Wheatley's letter was that he was very adamant about continuing to support SSE and not to withhold any financial support. Nor did he say to boycott any of the Board members.
I look at this just like a nasty divorce in which I like both the husband and the wife. So I'll let it run it's course but continue to support the kids. :-)
It's just a sad situation that SSE is in at the moment, and like Bronx Boy said, the problems are personal. I see no reason to drag speculation and rumor into this when none of us have access to the true facts.
SSE will continue. It had two founders, and one is still there. I believe in Diane's vision, and Kent does too, as he pleads for folks not to pull their support.
I get a Johnny's catalog every year, and have never ordered from them. Been getting a Johnny's catalog longer than I've been an SSE member. They're a good company, I've just not had the need for their services.
Hey Tir_Na_Nog ; Amy Goldman and Rob Johnston (Johnny's Seeds are on the board at Seed Savers Exchange that recently fired Kent Whealy from the SSE. I have never received a catalog from this company (Johnny's Select Seeds, until now.) I have spoken to quite a few listed members who have also stated that they received catalogs from Johnny's but also didn't order and didn't request said catalog.To me this says Johnny's is taking advantage of mailing lists from SSE. And that is why I won't be buying from them.
I don't so much mind the mailing lists. I manage to get on everyone else's :0!!!! But yes, realizing you DIDN'T request a catalog and are getting them can be annoying. Not to mention not good for the garden! Imagine how much cheaper products could be if people didn't just send out all the mailers/catalogs/offers announcing their product? Then again, perhaps enough business generated it must pay for it and then some!
So far I've actually enjoyed their goods, timely shipping and continually growing product line.
zman, does "IDig" ring a bell. You are absolutely correct about being a no brainer, especially when you are the subject of the conversation. Johnny's seed is a fine company with an excellent reputation and we don't need your irresponsible comments towards that end. I'm sure they won't miss your order.
I am not an SSE member nor have I ever ordered anything from them or Johnny's Seeds. I maintain a positively neutral position on this issue and have been following it only as a casual observer.
So I only wish to make the observation that, although it is the documented policy of SSE to protect the membership information, that does not necessarily stop an unscrupulous person within SSE (or a hacker) from stealing that information and making it available through other sources.
I'm not saying that's what happened, but only that it is a possibility.
That situation is always a possibility, regardless if you belong to a seed saving organization or a class reunion site...or whatever. But SSE didn't purposefully share or sell information.
You raise a valid point, that in this day and age, it's not out of the realm of reason. But as Mischka pointed out so well, member's personal info is something that SSE takes seriously. That there is some underhanded conspiracy to use our info to the benefit of Johnny's isn't hardly feasible.
Johnny's offers some OP and heirloom seeds, but there's a huge selection of hybrids. They are of no use to dedicated seed savers. Listed SSE members are not casual growers, and don't shop commercial sources in great numbers. Sending them Johnny's catalogs would result in a small amount of business, but the cost to do so would be far greater...as Johnny's well knows.
From a business standpoint, I would target some other group of gardeners with unsolicited catalogs. The pay off would be better.
I think that eveyone has had ample opportunity to express themselves on this subject and it's time to put it to rest. Most of what I have read in these posts is based primarliy on what that person choose's to believe as the truth but it appears that there is little unbiased 1st hand knowledge of the true facts. In other words it is inference based on incomplete or inconclusive evidence and it's time to let the legal community sort this out in a venue that does not include Dave's Garden.
Hey Amideutch; I am still a member at Idig and I just checked in the "Members" and there is No listing for Amideutch. So my point about you hiding who you are online at different sites is true. If Johnny's hadn't wanted my business they wouldn't have sent a catalog.
Oh and I still boycott seed companies that sell Siminis seeds.
This thread has digressed into personal opinions, and old wars not started on DG.
Personal opinions are fine as long as they are kept civil, but there are feuds started on other websites that are of no use to the members of DG.
Everyone is welcome here regardless of their reputation, as long as they behave themselves, and leave old baggage at the door. But they must respect our members who have no idea what the problem is, or where it started.
Let's keep it civil, and leave the personal stuff personal. If you can't, take it someplace else.
Hey Melody; above you stated ..."but there's a huge selection of hybrids. They are of no use to dedicated seed savers. Listed SSE members are not casual growers, and don't shop commercial sources in great numbers."
In the 2007 Yearbook there are quite a lot of SSE listed members offering de-hybridized hybrids. And also SSE members here are just as into hybrids as non,especially in the Tomato boards.
I did call Johnny's Seeds and asked to be removed from their mailing list as I never buy from companies that send unsolicited offers.
This thread was started to discuss the known facts about a specific topic. There is to be no more rumor-mongering or mudslinging any other company or individuals. Personal disputes should remain just that - personal (offline) disputes.
If that isn't a clear enough directive for anyone, you're welcome to use the Contact Us link at the bottom of any page of our site for more clarification.
Please, people, leave this one alone...we'll never know the whole story. And guess what, ITS NOT OUR BUSINESS, that's why they aren't telling us anymore details. SSE has aired their views, and Kent has aired his. Done Deal. If you like SSE, their seeds, and business practices-- support them. If you disagree, go elsewhere. We are all entitled to our views, but others don't have to share them.
It is indeed difficult to make any judgment without facts, and unfortunately neither Kent Whealy's letter, nor the responses from the board, give enough information to form a final judgment. A few things are clear, however:
First, Mr Whealy's diversion about the changes in SSE's bylaws are misleading at best. SSE "members" have never had voting rights in the non-profit's governance. SSE management could, and occasionally did, ask members their thoughts on things like prices in the yearbook, but at no time in the organization's history did "members" vote for the SSE board, or on changes to the mission statement, or on major initiatives. The fact that the board is not elected means that under Iowa law they are not "members" and that's what the bylaw changes clarify.
Second, Mr. Whealy's dismissal was the unanimous decision of the SSE board of directors, and has been endorsed by a majority of its board of advisers. That's 5 highly successful entrepreneurs, professionals and philanthropists with in-depth knowledge or the organization, plus 10 or so dedicated volunteer experts who agree that Mr. Whealy had to go. As someone who lives just down the road from the SSE farm in Iowa, and who personally knows many of those who work there, I can vouch that all of the senior staff, and a likely majority of the other 30 or so people who work there also consider the move necessary. That's an enormously convincing collective judgment to my way of thinking.
Third, neither the mission, nor programs of Seed Savers are changed by Mr. Whealy's departure. The mission is part of the non-profit status grant by the IRS, and has been re-affirmed by the board. Furthermore, the senior managers at SSE, who are responsible for the horticultural activities, the seed catalog, and the public outreach programs, all remain. Functionally and philosophical, SSE retains a high degree of continuity through his departure.
I'm pretty sure we can safely withhold final judgment, while we wait to see how the SSE board guides the organization from here.
Mr. Whealy's letter had a "ring of truth" until I got to the end. Isn't publishing his rivals' home addresses and phones, etc. and asking people to almost harass them kind of a turn-off ? On the other hand, I have worked for many non-profits and the tension between the original "mission" and becoming a large, monied operation is tremendous and ongoing - so I can perhaps understand the conflict in which he was embroiled.
When I received their annual report (and, honestly, I can't remember the exact content) I disagreed with the direction of the articles which I found off-point, strange, and misguided. But, the seed exchange catalog is wonderful and their mission of saving heirloom seeds is important. It's a little suspicious to me that their seed ordering catalog is so slick. You'd think a non-profit would have a humbler look. But, it's that pressure to be a big fancy organization I guess.
Unfortunately, I have also ordered several times from their seed ordering catalog but not one seed ever sprouted !
I've ordered from their catalog for several years and haven't had any problems with their seed sprouting. I think their catalog is quite beautiful. Their seeds are relatively high priced. I believe those prices support that catalog.
I just want to thank everyone for their civil contribution in this matter. Seed Savers is so important to gardeners. In the future this thread will stand as one sane discussion of our concern and the ability of people to have a discussion without turning into a mob! And thanks to Melody and Dave for not deleting the thread.
There seem to be way to many inner politics in non-profits (I say that as an employee of a non-profit). That being said I have seen some hostile take overs in my time where dozens of employees were fired because they didn't "get along" with management - of course on paper their termination states other reasons which are quite silly. Sounds like what might have been in play here. Gives a bad name to all parties involved. :(
Fifty years ago the powers that be in Chicago literally took over the Boy Scouts of America in strong arm Chicago organization. Talk about tramping on the apple pie. It got horrible and caused me to leave the profession clear down country in Va. Beach.
The followup posts seem to be "I don't know anything about SSE, but I've seen other non-profits go down the drain when management changed so that must be what's happening here". This is the equivalent of saying "I don't trust any charities" because they look at a few that are corrupt or eat up 40% of the donations on administrative costs and salaries. Let's not draw comparisons without actual fact.
While I found Kent's first 2 letters to be stirring and emotionally powerful, his third letter seemed both ill timed and lacking in value -- in short I was not nearly as impressed. It had a lot of alarmist supposition about the Svalbard seed bank which have been more than adequately addressed and debunked by Svalbard and outside observers as well. Do I think Mr. Whealy should get his papers and computer back? Probably, at least in some form. It is his 20 year legacy after all.
But as for the SSE itself, so far I am satisfied with the changes I've seen so far. In some ways, which I have commented about elsewhere, it is obvious to me that the organization has been held back and prevented from moving forward with opportunities to meet its charter -- preserving and distributing seeds and genetic heritage. The impression I got is that Kent lost interest in the yearbook years ago and that is why it has not kept up with the times.
Quoted: feldon30. Why are we dredging up a year+ old thread?
Answer: I did a Google search for Kent Whealy/Seed Savers and found this thread as a result. Did not know K.W. was not still with Seed Savers. Very often on DG these threads that "discuss" are deleted. Im glad this one was not since it contains important information - important information no matter how much time has elapsed since the thread was originally posted.
I just read this thread several days ago and was glad it came back to the top of this forum. I was a member of SSE when it first started and so were my parents. At the time we enjoyed growing some veggies that were old, lost or just forgotten.
Because my wife is a Native America we took an interest in some of early beans and corn/maize. SSE was the only place where we could get those seeds.
I've been away from garden for 10 or so years until this year. It was good to learn a little about what is and has gone on over their with that organization.
I for one am glad this thread has not been deleted.
If we're in agreement that this subject is important enough to be kept, but an old issue to which there really isn't anything new to add (that would be beneficial or helpful), then how about we close it to any more comments? (Kinda like picking at a scab...the longer we pick, the more likely it is we will eventually draw blood.)
It wouldn't be. That's the downside of locking it. But it does prevent us from running it off into a ditch, where the only remedy is to pull the whole thread. (We don't go through and perform surgery on a thread very often...it's a tedious, manual process and often leaves a bad aftertaste of censorship.