Maya Shiroyama and Jim Ryugo run Kitazawa Seeds, a 100-year-old seed distributor based in California that specializes in Asian vegetables. The company was started by Gijiu Kitazawa in 1917, serving mostly Japanese-American gardeners on the West Coast. It closed for four years when the United States government sent Kitazawa and most of his customers to concentration camps during World War Two, and re-opened in 1945 shortly after their release. Maya and Jim had planted the company’s seeds in their home garden for years when a missing seed order led to them buying the company from Kitazawa’s granddaughter in 2000. In this episode, Maya and Jim talk with Devon about the 100-year history of the seed company, the global network of growers that supply their unique inventory of seeds, and the new and old varieties dear to Asian-American gardeners and farmers around the country.
Amy Franceschini is an artist and educator who creates formats for exchange and production that question and challenge the social, cultural and environmental systems that surround her. An overarching theme in her work is a perceived conflict between humans and nature, and her projects reveal the ways that local politics are affected by globalization. In 1995, Amy founded Futurefarmers and in 2004, she co-founded Free Soil, an international collective of artists, activists, researchers, and gardeners who work together to propose alternatives to the social, political and environmental organization of space. In 2008, Amy worked with the City of San Francisco to transform the plaza in front of City Hall into a modern victory garden, and to build gardens in people’s back yards. She is currently sailing from Oslo to Istanbul as part of Seed Journey, bringing seeds found in Norway and other points in the northern hemisphere to their center of origin in the Middle East and connecting with seed savers, farmers, bakers, activists and others along the way. Amy grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California. In this episode, Amy talks with Chelsea about her victory gardens project in San Francisco, a Seed Journey to the Middle East, and the importance of not finding a common language.
Photo: RS 10 Christiania by Martin Høy
Kristyn Leach runs Namu Farm at the Sunol AgPark east of the San Francisco Bay. She grows vegetables for San Francisco restaurant Namu Gaji and seeds for the Kitazawa Seed Company. Kristyn grows both traditional and whimsical produce, focusing on Korean varieties and using organic, biodynamic, and permaculture practices without any fossil fuels. She discovered the foods of her Korean heritage further on in her life, as she was adopted as an infant and grew up in New York, where she later became a part of the urban gardening movement. Her fascination with shiso led her back to her roots and connected her with her Korean roots. In this episode, Devon talks with Kristyn about finding roots and community through plants, adapting Korean vegetables to California, and figuring out farming without fossil fuels.
Liz Carlisle is the author of The Lentil Underground, a story of organic conversion and community organizing in the northern Great Plains. Her book follows a group of farmers from very different ideological backgrounds as they revolt against industrial agriculture, diversify their farms, build soil, and come together to form new markets for their products. Liz holds a Ph.D. in Geography from UC Berkeley, and lectures at Stanford and UC Berkeley. She is a Montana native, former country singer/songwriter and legislative aid to Senator Jon Tester of Montana. In this episode, Liz talks to Devon about The Lentil Underground, farmers as innovators and scientists, and the links between soils, markets, and vibrant rural communities.