The Seed Savers Exchange Board of Directors has named Mike Bollinger of Decorah, as executive director of Seed Savers Exchange.
“As Seed Savers Exchange takes on new opportunities ahead, Mike brings a commitment to SSE’s mission for seed preservation, sharing, and education, as well as a proven track record as a service-oriented leader,” said Neil Hamilton, SSE board chair. “We look forward to the next chapter of SSE’s legacy under his leadership.”
Bollinger has a long connection with Seed Savers Exchange. He has served as a member of SSE’s garden crew and has contracted as a seed producer for the organization. For more than a decade, he has collaborated as the primary producer of transplants for the SSE annual plant sale with his wife, Katie Prochaska, through River Root Farm, the certified organic farm they founded in 2009 in Decorah. He has also provided support to SSE on greenhouse design and organic production practices.
“I look forward to working with SSE staff to continue the good work of educating, supporting, and empowering diverse communities of gardeners; advocating for organic and sustainable practices; and bringing people together to address the pressing issues we currently face,” Bollinger said. “I believe that agriculture has the single biggest impact on the global environment and holds the greatest promise for addressing important issues such as climate change and feeding a growing population.”
Bollinger’s work history includes co-founding (in 2008) Four Season Tools in Kansas City, Missouri, an agriculture solutions and greenhouse-manufacturing company for which he served as agricultural specialist until 2015. He has also held positions as farm designer and general manager of Heritage Prairie Farm in Illinois, farm manager of Chicago Botanic Garden Green Youth Farm, farm manager of Four Season Farm in Maine, and resident steward of Good Life Center in Maine. He has provided agricultural consultation to the Chicago Botanic Garden and several other organizations and farms working to meet the growing demand for organic food and products.
It was while serving as a volunteer in the Republic of Mali in Africa in 2003 that he witnessed the devastation of food insecurity firsthand.
“I was in an area of Mali where the majority of people were subsistence farmers growing their own food,” he recalled. “Their main staples for corn and millet, with seasonal access to peanuts and dried fish—food access and the lack of diverse calories was a real concern.”
Joining the SSE garden crew at its Heritage Farm headquarters upon his return to the United States provided a different perspective.
“There was such true abundance here—the genetic diversity that was here and the preservation efforts that were taking place were outstanding,” he said. “Seed Savers Exchange helped me learn not only about gardening but also about health and the importance of genetic preservation.”
Bollinger has served on the board of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES, now known as Marbleseed) since 2013. He previously served as a board member of the Oneota Community Food Co-op and Iowa Food Hub. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology and a minor in philosophy from Luther College and certification in health counseling from Columbia University Teachers College.
“I feel honored to have the opportunity to speak to a broader community about the work that Seed Savers Exchange does, the numerous reasons this work is so necessary, and the organization’s vision for the future of agriculture,” he said. “I hope to use the knowledge, skill set, and network I have developed to help Seed Savers Exchange engage with and uplift our local, regional, and national communities.”