Here is the press release from Jacob Rutz, Executive Director of The People’s Seed:

Dear People’s Seed Community of Friends,

This year is turning out to be a crazy challenge beyond any of our imaginations.  With the ongoing school and business closures, general uncertainty and negative news around COVID-19, and political unrest, it is tough to stay positive and move forward with the best laid plans.

We are so grateful that we have supporters like you, who have helped make our project come to light even as we have been and are struggling with a number of seasons of hardship. With the passing of our dear friend and founder, Tony Kleese, many of you stepped up to ensure we had funding and encouragement. We continue to be driven by Tony’s vision to support an open, fair and sustainable seed system.  For that we are sincerely grateful.

Now we want to share some exciting and forward-looking news in the midst of and despite the many challenges.  The People’s Seed (TPS) Board and Executive Director have voted unanimously to merge with our brother organization, The Utopian Seed Project (TUSP). Chris Smith, a former Board member, leads TUSP; his vision is to develop “a regional seed hub that can support, encourage and celebrate a diverse food system of regionally adapted crops.  The Utopian Seed Project is a visionary organization to explore a different model for our food system but is also grounded in real hands-in-the-earth research to support that vision.”

We are very excited and honored that this organization has agreed to integrate our vision as part of its daily projects and passion for a new food system.  Chris is a strong and dynamic leader, whom we have admired for a long time; he clearly embodies the creativity and spirit of TPS.  Under his leadership, TPS’s core beliefs will continue to be carried out through its vision and projects, such as the ongoing work with Okra that has garnered national attention.

Logistically, we want you to understand what this means for TPS and your generous contributions to us.  Our physical and financial assets will be transferred to TUSP to continue to support its work.  Chris and his Board have also agreed to continue the Tony Kleese Award to recognize an outstanding plant breeder whose work upholds and integrates Tony’s values for organic, sustainable, and regionally-adapted plant varieties.  Two members from TPS’s Board will join TUSP’s Board in order to contribute to the continued growth of TUSP with the additional responsibility to uphold TPS’s mission and values. The People’s Seed’s online presence, featuring information about the plant breeders with whom we work, will be transferred to the TUSP website.

We invite you to become more involved in our ongoing work under the auspices of TUSP.  Follow Chris and his collaborators through his very colorful Instagram and Facebook pages.  The Utopian Seed Project also has a number of volunteer opportunities if you are in the Asheville area—all with healthy social distancing policies, of course!  Additionally, like many organizations right now, TUSP is in great need of continued funding as future non-profit funding opportunities are highly uncertain.  Please consider making a donation to TUSP or watch for a number of creative and engaging fundraising opportunities.

We know we will all come out of this crisis more united, deeply thoughtful, and better connected.  So let’s get out there, plant a garden or two, try some new Southern crops, and stay engaged with us on our journey.

All our best,
Your friends at The People’s Seed/The Utopian Seed Project Boards
Jacob Rutz, Executive Director
Eric Cohen, President