external facebook instagramlinkedin pinterest playsearch twitteryoutube

Leadership

Our directors, managers, and advisors are committed to saving America's heirloom seeds.

Garden with a red barn in the background.

Board of Directors

Man smiling in light blue and white checkered button down shirt.

Neil Hamilton, JD

Chair of the Board

Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of Agricultural Law Center at the Drake University Law School, Neil has taught agricultural law for 30 years and is the author of numerous books and articles for farmers and lawyers.

Woman smiling in glasses and a blue button-down shirt surrounded by flowers.

Diane Ott Whealy

Board Member

Diane co-founded Seed Savers Exchange with Kent Whealy in 1975. She has been a national leader in the heirloom seed movement and a strong advocate for the protection of the earth's rare genetic food stocks for over 36 years. Diane retired from SSE in 2015 and remains an advisor to the organization.

Man with long hair wearing a white chef's jacket.

Sean Sherman

Board Member

Sean is a successful chef, educator, and entrepreneur, who is very committed to his Native American community. Founder of the company The Sioux Chef, he has focused his culinary efforts on revitalizing Indigenous food systems in a modern culinary context. He also sponsors a food truck (Tatanka Truck) with the Little Earth Community of United Tribes in Minneapolis.

Woman standing in the middle of an aisle with shelves on both sides of her.

Denise E. Costich, PhD

Board Member

Denise is a passionate defender of maize genetic resources, devoting the past 18 years to research topics related to its taxonomy, evolution, and conservation. She is retired from CIMMYT, the international Wheat and Maize genebank near Mexico City, where she curated their maize collection and focused part of her research on community conservation of landrace varieties. Photograph by Teake Zuidema.

Man with a beard wearing a black quarter zip sweater smiling at the camera.

Jim Morrow

Board Member

Jim Morrow has 43 years of experience in banking and finance—he retired in 2022 from Decorah Bank and Trust, for which he is a current board member, as chief credit officer and executive vice president. He is a farm boy, a lifelong gardener, and a longtime Seed Savers Exchange supporter.

Man with a beard in a wide-brimmed hat and khaki button-down shirt smiling at the camera.

Jeff Dawson

Board Member

Jeff Dawson has farmed organically for more than 30 years. He has grown heirloom produce for San Francisco restaurants and designed/managed wine country demonstration gardens. He’s n saved seed from SSE and developed new tomato varieties for years. He manages a small farm and serves as a biodynamic vineyard consultant in the Napa Valley.

Woman with short white hair and glasses smiling into the camera.

Beth Schnieders

Board Member

Beth Schnieders and her husband, Rick, moved to the Twin Cities in 2022 to be closer to their daughters and their families. She grew up in Missouri but has also lived in Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, and New Mexico and found gardening (especially in the kitchen garden) was an important way to be grounded in every new location. Beth’s philanthropic interests center around striving for a healthy and equitable food system, which includes healthy soil and water.

Woman with blonde hair wearing a white button-down shirt smiling into camera.

Carina Cavagnaro

Board Member

Carina Cavagnaro is head chef/owner at La Rana Bistro, a small, seasonally driven restaurant in Decorah, Iowa. Raised alongside heirloom seeds and plants (and homegrown food), she developed a passion for gardening and growing that endures to this day. Carina is committed to her local community of farmers, food producers, service professionals, and diners, as well as to the value and importance of seed security, genetic food diversity, and the health of our future generations.

Woman with long hair smiling into camera.

Teresa Wiemerslage

Board Member

Teresa Wiemerslage lives on a four-generation family farm near Dorchester, Iowa, devoted to raising cattle, growing corn, and making hay. She has a strong academic background in plant science, including horticulture and agronomy. Teresa serves as a small farms specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, where she specializes in food-system development, food hubs, farm-to-school, and on-farm food safety.

Black and white photo of a woman smiling into camera.

Amy Goldman Fowler

Special Advisor to the Board

Amy is a gardener, author, artist, philanthropist and advocate for heirloom fruits and vegetables. She is the author of THE COMPLEAT SQUASH, MELONS FOR THE PASSIONATE GROWER, and THE HEIRLOOM TOMATO: From Garden to Table—all three books were recipients of the American Horticultural Society Book of the Year awards.

Directors

Man wearing a pale purple button-down shirt smiles into camera.

Mike Bollinger

Executive Director

Mike Bollinger has a long connection with Seed Savers Exchange. He has served as a member of SSE's garden crew and contracted as a seed producer. For more than a decade, he has collaborated as the primary producer of transplants for the SSE plant sales with his wife, Katie, through their certified organic farm, River Root Farm. As co-founder of an agricultural solutions company, Mike has also provided support to SSE on greenhouse design and organic production practices. Mike has not only gained a practical understanding of organic and sustainable growing practices but also dedicated years of service as an active member on the board of directors for organizations focusing on farmer education services and local and regional food systems. Contact Mike at [email protected].

Woman with blonde hair smiles into camera.

Lynne Rilling

Deputy Director - Administration

Lynne is a certified public accountant who was born and raised in the Decorah, Iowa, area. She earned her bachelor's degree from Upper Iowa University. Lynne joined SSE as the chief financial officer in 2011, serving both as corporate treasurer and chief accountant.

Meredith Burks

Director of Marketing & Communications

Meredith joined Seed Savers Exchange with more than 10 years of communications experience. Starting her career in New York City publishing, Meredith has a passion for storytelling and mission-driven work. With fond memories of visiting Seed Savers Exchange's Heritage Farm while growing up in Decorah, she enjoys cultivating connections with the land and community. Contact Meredith at [email protected].

Man wearing a floral print button-down shirt smiles into camera.

Gary Barness

Director of Sales & Business

Born and raised near Decorah, Iowa, Gary returned to the area in 2018 after spending 25 years in Colorado. He joined the Seed Savers Exchange team as Seed Rack program manager in 2019 and is now responsible for the business and sales operations of the Seed House and Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at Heritage Farm. Gary loves to cook and especially enjoys cooking with fresh ingredients from his garden in the summer and fall.

Woman with blonde hair wearing glasses smiles into camera.

Cindy Goodner

Director of Membership & Development

Cindy Goodner joined SSE as fundraising coordinator in 2014 and subsequently held the positions of development coordinator and development officer before assuming the position of development director. Her community leadership includes serving on the boards of the Decorah Community Schools and the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce. Cindy is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Upper Mississippi Valley Chapter.

Man with a beard wearing a baseball cap smiles into camera.

Michael Washburn

Director of Preservation

Michael Washburn has served as a member of the Blount County Soil Conservation Board since 2017. He also serves on the Good Food Awards Grain Committee (San Francisco) and has been a tasting judge for the organization since 2016. He joined Seed Savers Exchange after most recently serving as farm manager of Nature’s Way Montessori School in Knoxville, Tennessee. From 2014-21, he was culinary garden manager for the acclaimed Blackberry Farm in the Great Smoky Mountains, where he worked alongside longtime SSE member John Coykendall.

Advisors

Dan Beard

Clive Blazey

David Cavagnaro

Rosalind Creasy

David Ellis, PhD

Jim Henry

Lindsay Lee

Lee Zieke Lee

Craig LeHoullier, PhD

Rob Johnston, Jr.

Deborah Madison

Laura Merrick, PhD

Phil Sponnenberg, PhD

John Swenson