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Life and Work with Sherry Manning

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sherry Manning.

Sherry, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Thirteen years ago, I boarded an airplane and left for the adventure of a lifetime as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. During my two-plus years there, I lived and worked side by side with Filipino farming communities listening and learning from them. These relationships and community are what inspired the creation of Global Seed Savers the NGO I run. What started with one family farm and my Peace Corps experience has now grown into a nationwide movement of Filipino Farmers actively restoring sovereignty over their food system.

I hold a Masters Degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Law from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Bachelor’s in Government from the University of Redlands in Southern California. I am a proud graduate of Seed School in a Day and the weeklong Seed School Teacher Training program of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance and I have facilitated multiple Seed Saving courses in the US and the Philippines. When not working for Global Seed Savers, I can be found playing in the beautiful Colorado Mountains and enjoying delicious craft beers.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not always been smooth founding and running a small but growing international development organization.

There are many sacrifices required…proper compensation, the work never ends, often feeling like you are alone in championing the cause and mainly the fundraising!

However, the best advice I can give is to always surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you, and most importantly have your back! We all need mentors, friends, shoulders to cry on, and people we can count on to help us keep fighting the good fight.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Global Seed Savers – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The seeds of what are now the international NGO I Founded and run, Global Seed Savers began when she served as US Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines from 2006-2008. She was fortunate enough to be assigned to the town of Tublay in Benguet Province and the loving Cosalan Family as her host family. I dedicated her service to helping the Cosalan’s develop their ancestral land ENCA Farm (our founding partner), into an organic farming training center, youth environmental education facility, and leading sustainable eco-tourism destination.

This critical work continued when I founded Friends of ENCA Farm (now Global Seed Savers) in 2010 to support ENCA Farm’s programs in the Philippines and build advocacy in the U.S. through her role as Executive Director. In 2015, under Sherry’s strategic leadership Friends of ENCA Farm began to expand their work beyond their founding farm and in light of this growth and success, in October 2017 they announced their new name Global Seed Savers at the 7th Annual Nourish Event.

Global Seed Savers works on a grassroots level to help return farmers to the collective indigenous knowledge and practice of seed saving. Through encouraging smallholder farmers in the Philippines to return to the practice of growing and saving their own seeds, we are providing farmers with the tools and support needed to be independent, self-sustainable, and to restore sovereignty over their food system and their lives. We do this through our comprehensive programs – technical and educational training on seed saving and permaculture design, and by establishing seed libraries.

What started with a core group of seven farmers in 2015 has grown into an official farmers association, the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) now with 20 active members and growing. Our model is also spreading to Cebu (in the southern Philippines) as we launch the Cebu Seed Savers and build this nationwide and world connected movement to restore food sovereignty and ensure farmers access to locally produced seeds.

Since 2015, Global Seed Savers in collaboration with our partner farmers has:
• Conducted over 5,000 hours of technical training programs.
• Trained over 2,000 farmers in seed saving and agroecology practices, across eight regions of the Philippines.
• Directly founded two seed libraries and influenced the creation of two others that are being locally-led.

Seeds are the foundation of our food system and up until 30-40 years ago we had a great abundance of diversity and varieties. Farmers in all pockets of the world planted and observed and saved the best of their crop in seeds from season to season. This practice ensures that seeds can do what they are meant to do… adapt and become more vigorous over time. Seeds are the most beautiful self-replicating system we have and when farmers can select and save seeds after each planting amazing adaptation occur like resistance to pests, diseases, better taste, etc. In essence, they are carrying the best from one growing season to the next!

As the industrialization and corporate ownership of our food system has expanded and three major companies now own our food in the form of seed and fertilizers, it is essential that we return to the collective practice of saving seeds! This is the movement we are honored to help build in the Philippines.

The Philippines was recently listed as one of the most climate-vulnerable nations in the world and Southeast Asia’s largest producer of GMO crops with 70% of the country dedicated to agricultural land. Because of this, we believe the work and models being developed in the Philippines are of the utmost importance. The ability to impact the agricultural system and relinquish smallholder farmers’ dependence on large bio-chemical agricultural companies and helping farmers to prevent further catastrophic damage from our changing climate is paramount.

At Global Seed Savers, we are honored to work with countless dedicated Filipino Farmers, who against all the odds and challenges facing them are actively building community and returning to their roots by saving and sharing seeds! This is an audacious act in the face of our current industrial food system and it is these dedicated farmers who each day with each seed they plant, sow, and share are building a more sustainable future.

Were there people and/or experiences you had in your childhood that you feel laid the foundation for your success?
I have always had a very supportive family who helped instill in me that being kind to others and working hard are very important values. I also grew up playing competitive sports and I know that the many lessons I learned during this time have fueled my work ethic and passion today. Through sports, I learned to work hard, be a team player, and build relationships and friendships off and on the court and field. These are values and skills I bring into my daily life now: whether it is leading a team meeting, or learning to recognize when it is others turn to lead and for me to step back sports helped teach me these lessons.

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