• Jennifer Jewell

SEED CHANGE: Seeds and Their People with Owen Smith Taylor and Chris Bolden-Newsome



Owen Smith Taylor and Chris Bolden-Newsome are culture keepers supporting the community food sovereignty and seed sovereignty and security movements through seed keeping and community building. The couple are co-founders of Truelove Seed and the Seeds and Their People podcast, and Chris is also co-founder of the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden, also in Philadelphia.

Chris and Owen joined me in conversation one evening earlier this summer to share more about their journey in seeds and people from their home ground in Philadelphia.


Owen "is a seed nerd and seed farmer who loves growing Southern Italian and Irish heirlooms and supporting the community food sovereignty movement through seed keeping."

Chris Bolden-Newsome, "originally from the Mississippi Delta, is the oldest son of farmers and justice workers Demalda Bolden Newsome and Rufus Newsome Sr., and a fourth generation free farmer since emancipation in 1865. Following Natural Agriculture practices, Chris focuses on cultivating healthy soil for life-giving crops while learning and teaching Pan-African practices in farming and foodways."

In 2012, Chris and Owen were married. Chris and Owen joined me in conversation one evening earlier this summer to share more about their journey in seeds and people.



"May all who hear this conversation be blessed by it and find a way to more connection."

Chris Bolden-Newsome & Owen Taylor



Throughout our conversation, the two men trace their history as a couple and as two humans whose work and lives are called to the restoration and celebration of seeds, of plants, and of people interrelated and interdependent on both.



You can follow along with Owen and Chris's work on line at bartramsgarden.org and Truelove Seeds and on Instagram at: @Seedkeeping


Join us again next week when we continue our Seed Change series with Naomi Fraga, research assistant professor of Botany at Claremont Graduate University and Director of Conservation Programs at the California Botanic Garden dedicated to the rich biodiversity of the native plants of California. Listen in next week!


RELATED EPISODES INCLUDE:



- Baker Creek, Organic Seed Alliance & Redwood Seeds


- Sierra Seeds: Rowen White


- Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange



THINKING OUT LOUD this week..

As I record these words to enter into your ears and heads and hearts, it is the day before election day here in the US. As I wrote to Owen and Chris, “We of course have no idea what any week is going to look like in advance of it happening, but this week seems particularly fraught with a foreboding sense of unknowing.” But, the conversation I enjoyed with Chris and Owen exploring the different aspects of their work and relationship to each other, to plants, seeds & community seemed like the strongest medicine I could think of to put out into the universe this particular week.

The passion and knowledge as well as the articulation of it by these two humans and their articulation of the importance of stitching it back together spirituality and plants and food and our daily lives – of integrating more truly our pasts with the present instead of ignoring it at all of our peril seems mighty.

I want to pull forward here, in case it went by too quickly, Chris’s reference to the name and origins and meaning of Sankofa, which he shared with us is a word of the Twi language from the Akan people of Ghana. The word is part of a longer saying which translates to something like, "Go back and get it," or “it is not wrong to go back and get something useful which was left behind”. We hear invoking of this in seed keeper Ira Wallace and the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange's motto “saving the past for the future.”

These are interesting existential questions for each of us and for us all collectively. Immigrant populations throughout time have had to ask these questions, oddly enough people who live in regions routinely threatened with famine, flood, hurricane or fire can face these same questions: if you have to leave in a hurry, what do you take with you? And what do you leave behind?


And with the wisdom of hindsight – of a year, a life, or several generations – what was left behind that would be of great use and service now and into the future?

As we move ever into our futures, what do you really want to take with you? What do you want to ensure is not left behind? And looking back – what might you consider going back to retrieve and bring forward once more?


In the tumult that has been 2020, Chris and Owen kicked off Seeds and their People with 5 episodes. The podcast has one of the most joyful theme songs/music I’ve had the pleasure of listening to – complete with the shaker sounds of seeds and seed people in generative motion. Enjoy these first conversations – the two have many more episodes in the works and coming soon. Stay tuned for these when capacity allows.

At the end of our conversation, as you will hear, Chris concludes by saying: may all who hear this conversation be blessed by it and find some way to be connected, and Owen replies Amen.

I enter into every interview conversation I have with a meditation to move us into the space – what I consider to be sacred space, much like the garden itself – with open hearts and minds. But this concluding prayer and blessing offered out by Chris was the most perfectly formed verbal seed encompassing my deepest and greatest hope for every conversation on Cultivating Place.


May we all be blessed for the listening and may the listening help us all find more and good ways to connect. So be it.



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