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To fully acknowledge our 10 Year Anniversary we asked Casey to author an origin story of Snake River Seed Cooperative from her founder's perspective. Since she has passed the torch of the Co-Op to the hands of a new generation of impassioned seed freaks and caregivers, these words are her own and should not be considered representative of the Co-Op as a whole.

An Origin Story from Casey O'Leary

Snake River Seed Cooperative began as a prayer for sanity. The call whispered through the seeds themselves, beckoning, and through many, many other teachers who could see this unmet need in our community. 

The thing about seeds is, they grow. When you plant and tend one, it makes hundreds more, and each of those in turn becomes the house for even more. When I started saving seeds, without knowing, I was trying to link myself with something ancient, a genuine alternative to the horrors and misery of colonization and the ongoing aftermath that we are all currently enduring. I have witnessed this glimmer of remembering so often in others as well…. When they first make contact with seeds, when those miraculous bundles of infinity fall freshly-matured from a dry, brittle plant into dirty, outstretched palms, somewhere inside it is familiar, even if we can’t place it. We are a loop in a string that reaches far, far back into the distant past. 

Our bodies can remember, even when our minds cannot.

I think above all, I wanted this project to lick at our deep, deep wounds, both individual and collective. To balm them so they can heal without knowing what new topography the scars will bring, what new wonders will await us. 

It is terrifying to admit this. It’s a far bolder vision than we have cultural permission to imagine. We have not arrived. But I am grateful to have such wonderful company on the journey, walking the ridgeline between hope and despair, feeling heart-forward toward a world where the wisdoms of all the beings who have been silenced are at the center. We are students striving to learn their languages, to translate their natural counsel into something we can comprehend and guide our actions.    

Now SRSC is turning 10 years old. The daily heft this tiny labor of love undertakes to hold itself up under the weight of centuries of agony and disconnection while we try to stretch our imaginations toward something more sane is immense. But the seeds show us the way. They generously grow, and share, and grow, again and again. They help us learn the way back as we push ever forward into the unknown. 

It’s easy to get demoralized. The obstacles are great.

This writhing mass of greed and exploitation that we abstractly call the “economy” will absolutely destroy all of us in its rampant path of wreckage. We don’t bow down to it like a God, but we tiptoe through and around it like the vicious creature it is, scouting for possibilities of nurture and connection and belonging and, dare I say, healing, under its folds. 

It’s weird and scary and it often feels impossible. And yet, we plant and tend our seeds. We let their generosity wash over us and inoculate us with the possibility of abundance, love, respect, even while we navigate daily conversations about whether to raise our prices to survive amid the skyrocketing cost of money-dependent living in our region, or mourn as another one of our farmers quits because they can’t secure a long lease on a piece of “owned” land, or grapple with the hard truth that agriculture itself is directly implicated in the destruction of indigenous foodways in our area. 

But seeds also adapt. With each year, we become stronger and more resilient as we work together rooted in our unique place on earth. The seeds are feeding us and our neighbors as we lean together into imagining the unknown. We have many guides in addition to the seeds who allow us to become caretakers, both human and other-than-human. We are not alone, even though it can feel like it at times.

Like the seeds, one of us becomes many. Every year, more of us accept the invitation to re-engage with the vital skill of saving and replanting seeds to nourish ourselves, our communities, and the earth, and each of us contributes our own unique gifts to sustain and grow this project. In the humble present of this lofty imagined future, what is available to us is the opportunity to—for one precious moment in the day—step out of the throughline economy of extract, exploit, discard. Extract, exploit, discard. To come back into connection with a different way of being. To remember what it is to steward and nurture life, to support it on its own terms so that it can regenerate itself anew. To expand our minds to allow for the possibility of wholeness. 

One of the gifts of the seeds is that they make the alternative to business-as-usual as nourishing and delightful as possible. The seeds make it, in the words of Toni Cade Bambara via adrienne maree brown, so irresistible that we can’t help but join in. 

Thank you for everyone who helped to launch SRSC and to everyone who supports and guides us on this journey.