Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sakaban-san Masami: The quite seed achiever

Masami has remain active in Japan since she worked with Seedsavers  in Australia at the Seed Savers Network HQ,  and during several of our tours of Japan. Masami-san was also part of a group of translators who help get the seeds savers handbook published in Japan. Masami-san now visits, assists and organise local seed collection and exchanges amongst isolated gardening elders who have kept traditional seeds and passed them on to others. They are mostly women who used to farm. Please send us more news Masami-san and congratulations for sticking with what you love to do and work with seeds the first link in the food chain. More than that you have loop the loop: you have reconcile the cultural aspect and the biological aspect of seeds. Different home save types of seeds are not just a commodity but a Japanese cultural expression. They dicate the type food that people grow and prepare for the table. Very often one type of daikon radish is suitable for one type of dish. Japanese are very sensitive to this aspects of culture. They love and respect their cultural food as much as we love Japanese traditional foods. Thank you Sakaban-san for your efforts and results.


Taiwan to Create Seed Network


After translating and fitting Our Seeds our one hour documentary with Chinese subtitles, a group of Taiwanese gardeners, public servants, farmers, teachers, city council planners visited the Seed gardens in Byron Bay. A real please to meet all these hard workers.We has a number of voyage in Taiwan in the last 10 years. We met many civil societies, and tribal groups as we show our documentary and presented our seed concept to them. Thanks to Earth Passengers the environmental organisation who organised our meetings in Taiwan. Thanks to Permaculure Education Robyn Francis had organisied their visit in Australia.


Bill Mollison & SeedSavers since 1986: Bill died peacefully in Hobart Tasmania

Bill Mollison a great observer of nature

Bill Mollison a great observer of nature


Permaculture’s founder Bill Mollison lived in Tasmania with his wife Lisa near the fishing village where he was born Stanley. He left us nine days after we spend two days with him in Hobart when he was in high care. Bill continued been curious about all things, writing,  gardening, reading new scientific books, and publishing with Tagari. Here Bill found something of interest in a tree nearby as a picture was been taken with Lisa, and seedsavver’s founders Michel and Jude Fanton. Bill was instrumental in founding a seed network for locally adapted useful Permaculture plants. One evening in 1985 before we registered seedsavers Bill wanted to be the settlor on our Trust so he put five dollars note in between two slices of bread, put that in a bag and hanged it to the fireplace. He famously said: “If the money devalue at least you have something to eat.” Bill spent countless evening in our garden shack that was our home telling of his amazing Permaculture travels and inspiring us to start seedsavers. We are very grateful to him for his inspiration and his Lisa to do what she does to spread the concept worldwide.


Walking with Satish Kumar

We had the pleasure of previously hosting Satish Kumar, at Seedsavers in Byron Bay, on one of his world tour. Satish has authored more than 10 books and is a great mentor to Michel and Jude. We met Satish again at Clapham Common in SW London this time for a walk through parklands. We could hardly keep up with his quite but giant foot steps…Satish encouraged us to continue organising Free Seed networks where home gardeners urban and rural can share their locally adapted vegetable and fruit seeds  and shared food and biocultural know-how. Photo taken sharing a pot of tea (indian!) in Clapham UK. We has previously showed our film doco Our Seeds and gave a talk at the Shumacher College in Devon, UK.Satish Kumar is born in India, now living in England, choose to become a Jain monk at 9 years old, and is the founder and editor of the magazine Resurgence, founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international centre for ecological studies and of The Small School. He was with Ghandi on his marches across India and has walked 8000 miles more than 10 000 km, to London via Moscow and Paris, and on muddy tracks throught many little villages in between.  That is how he was hosted by many peasants farmers of very numerous cultures and learnt of the value of local food from locally saved seeds.  Zeph Fanton took the shot.

Jude in a conversation sandwich between  Satish and Michel

Jude in a conversation sandwich between Satish and Michel


Muhammad Ali Discovers Seed Savers in Cuba

In 1996, Jude and me Michel happen to cross paths with a humanitarian mission led by Muhammad Ali and a team of Latino optometrists delivering 20 000 vision glasses and consultations in a Havana hospital.
Jude and Michel happened to be waiting for someone in the lobby of the famous Havana Libre Hotel next to Mohamed Ali sister in law Marilyn and family member Lonnie (or Leonie?), and his male chauffeur. Jude and I were one on our early seed mission/Solidarity Seed Tours, with the Cuban Department of Urban Agriculture and Cuba’s oldest  ecological foundation who hosted us. Muhammad was standing tall, nervous, looking at his feet and fiddling with his hands, just next to us but avoiding eye contact we talked to his minders. We heard from his proud sister about their humanitarian mission and we told them our reason to be in Cuba: Local seeds production for urban gardeners. Muhammad was relayed the information about Seed Savers, the issues he apparently knew about and our action across indigenous populations including Islam.
Muhammad Ali gave us a node of approval, we were invited to visit a Havana hospital with the optometrists team who were testing Cubans waiting in long lines as they do so often, to give appropriate vision glasses. We saw one person cry on testing glasses and reading for the first time in decades, to be able to see and read again.

I am very happy to see Fidel again,” Muhammad said in comments barely audible because of the effects of Parkinson’s Disease had on him. Ali was on his second visit in two years to Cuba, where he delivered to a Havana hospital a donation of more than $1.2 million of medical aid from a U.S. humanitarian organisation, the Disarm Education Fund.

The U.S. boxing hero, began his career as Cassius Clay but later changed his name, also visited Cuba in 1996 and New Year 1998 to hand over another donation of medical aid worth $500,000. This is when we met him.

The education fund’s executive director, Bob Schwartz, commented that the medical aid was a way of opposing the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba and easing its economic crisis.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.

Jet magazine Vol. 58, (August 1992)


Stuart Owen Fox and Einstein

Stuart Owen Fox 1942-2009, was an influential photographer for over 40 years who took a shine at Seed Savers. In the early 1940s Stuart while being walked by his father in California, met with the personal approval of possibly the most influential human being of the 20th Century: Albert Einstein who patted Stuart on the head and passed the comment, “Nice boy,” to Stuart’s father and scurried off. He shot a range of pictures of us as a couple one of them is at the back of our Seed Savers Handbook. He also was our photographer for the general media. Along the years as he was a regular visitor of the Seed Gardens in Byron Bay. He produced a few posters for Seed Savers. Through visits to over 80 countries he produced over 1.5 million publishable images, 16,000 of which were commissioned to decorate the fleet of one Norwegian shipping company. Fox spent the equivalent of three normal lives throughout the world, as one of the leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement in Europe, Denmark Artist of the Year in 1970 for his contribution to photography and in 1980 was the only photographer chosen by Kodak to celebrate the company’s 100th year centenary. Over 1000 of his images were chosen for an unprecedented 144 page series of advertisements published throughout that year. Stuart created our first calling card in sepia and with a seed ingrained. It is now and still at the back of our Seed Savers Handbook.
We were shocked when he arrived circa 1999 with pictures and negatives/slides in hand to leave with us, the leftover of incinerating most of his photographic library on the Byron Bay tip. It was a brand new beginning for his art.

Bunngendore gallery has this to say about him: In 2000 Fox changed photographic direction. Forsaking the basic tools of his trade, the camera, film and processing chemistry, he began four years of research, development and experimentation with Direct Digital Imaging. The process involves placing compositions of natural objects on a flat bed digital scanner and the image is printed directly from the resultant computer file. Simple enough in principle but steeped in scientific theory. He even developed a method of scanning tropical fish under water.

The results illustrated here are visually and technically stunning. He presents many aspects of nature in a hyper-realistic scenario and has set a standard of artistic approach and accessibility that defines the beginnings of an explosion of digital imaging technology that is touching all of our lives.

It is with much regret that we mark the passing of Stuart in Amsterdam in late 2009 following the effects of a severe stroke.

Elk Anstey has this to say about him:  Successful internationally renowned professional photographer 20th centuary Stuart Owen Fox was my chosen principal judge and jury for the photography section of the exhibition.
Mr Fox alias ”Foxy” never ceased to amuse an audience with an opportunity to unleash his charming wit and enliven his uncanny sense humour appearing on opening night in a long black robe, court room wig and holding a gavel.
Blessed are we all who have shared in your life.

A 20th Century Fox
by Stan d’Argeavel

Stuart Owen Fox was not content with this brief encounter of the famous and influential kind  such as Einstein he went on to travel the world as one of its prolific professional photographers and ‘being there’ at times playing a direct role in some of the defining historical movements of the last 60 years of the 20th Century.

In the US he was the budding apprentice to New York’s best photographers, secondly as one of the primary leaders of the anti-Vietnam war movement based in Denmark, and finally in Australia becoming one of this countries leading professional photographers.

Fox was bowled over by the beauty of the work of such photographers as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Horn and Greiner and wildlife photographer Peter Beard. In a Greenwich Village cafe Fox spoke with his most revered photographic mentor, the late Henri Cartier-Bresson who told him of the discipline to be learnt from the sole use of the 50mm lens and of the intensity of purpose required to capture the essence of the moment.

Cartier-Bresson’s recommendation resulted in an invitation from Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck to travel to Japan with her to take the photos for her book The People of Japan. Buck was the only female ever to have won a Nobel Prize up until that time. This was an unprecedented credential for Fox and he instantly became an “almost famous” photographer.

While in Hiroshima, Fox was confronted by several loud, obnoxious young US military men. He was astonished to read their comments in the Hiroshima War Memorial visitors’ book such as “a bigger one next time you yellow bastards” and “wait till you taste our hydrogen bomb.”

“What’s going on with this,” outside Fox enquired. “Haven’t you heard,” they said, “ the North Vietnamese have attacked us in the Gulf on Tonkin.” Fox, trained to interpret information as a journalist, reasoned that there could be more too this. “These guys were told to say something, told to respond to an event which many years later proved to be fictitious.”

This was graphically illustrated in Errol Morris’ Academy Award nominated documentary the Fog of War in which Robert MacNamara, the then US Secretary of Defense, set the public record straight as part of an amazing confessional.

“That event more than anything catapulted me into the forefront of the Vietnam ant-war movement.” He couldn’t tell you why or how, but after Korea, whether because of his journalist background or intuition, he knew in 1964 that Vietnam was going to be an American nemesis, a disaster that would impact on American society for a very long time.

“I returned to the US and linked up with like minded people until the situation became too difficult for me. After being called up for Vietnam, I had to leave.”

So he went to Europe, to Scandinavia in general and Denmark in particular, and figured out how to stay there. In fact he was there for twelve years. “I did an Einstein, gave up my citizenship, like he did when he was called up for the military. Albert was stateless for six years, I managed seven.”

“I had been lucky enough to have worked for a Nobel Prize winner and Nobel Prizes come from Scandinavia. I was treated marginally better than someone just off the boat on Ashmore Reef or somewhere like that.”

Stuart Owen Fox became a subtly active leader of the Vietnam anti-war movement in Europe. The Danish Government eventually gave him citizenship and Fox became fluent in the Danish language in just three months, but not in the linguistic protocol. When he was introduced to the King of Denmark he was told his effort at greetings translated as “how are you, Mr. King,” much to the King’s amusement.

In Europe he pursued his photographic career based in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum as artist-in-residence where he photographed the Museum’s vast collection of works of art and objects of antiquity dating back to the Egyptians. In one instance, by photographic means he discovered that one of the Museum’s Gaugin’s had been over-painted, a fact they had not previously known.

He was named Danish “Artist of the Year” for his contribution to photography and went on to represent Denmark, and eventually Australia, at World Expos in Japan, Canada, the US, Spain and Brisbane.

In Denmark Fox played the dual role as artist and anti-war activist, fitting in with the necessarily covert nature of Danish protest. “Nixon had stopped trade with Sweden in retaliation for its criticism of America’s involvement in Vietnam.”

Denmark was supportive of Fox’s activities. He worked in theatre productions that were steeped in metaphoric criticism of the US involvement in Vietnam. And he had a small role in the Danish film of Henry Miller’s 5 days in cliché that was about making love, not war, and went on to win the Palme D’or at Cannes.

He was also the liaison person for people escaping the war, getting them jobs, permits to help them stay in the country and homes to take them in. He saw his role as saving souls opposed to war. Thirty-five years later Fox still maintains almost daily contact with a number of those he helped. “One US ‘grunt’ from Vietnam rolled up at my door in Copenhagen complete with the thousand-yard-stare that was so often to be found on war weary Vietnam soldiers.”

“This ex-marine told me he was leading a long range patrol and he saw some pretty horrible things, people thrown out of helicopters, five prisoners, throw the first three out, the fourth was ready to talk but couldn’t, so out. The fifth one talked.”

“I said, ‘come in, you must be hungry, I can give you a place to stay.’ And he was flabbergasted. He said ‘I thought you would hate me.’ I said there’s a huge difference between guys like you doing what they felt was the right thing and the people who sent you there.”

“I felt a little like a minor Schindler. But we did it behind the scenes because it was a very delicate situation,” he says calmly.

When Richard Nixon met his waterloo at Watergate, the Danish diplomatic community gave Fox the chance to return to the US on a special humanitarian visa. He stayed as a special guest of the Danish Embassy in Washington. This was the first time in twelve years he had been able to see family members, one of whom lives in Texas and ironically now works for the Bush administration.


Christian Watts – Web Developer

Christian came aboard in late 2013 to create the new Seed Savers website, complete with a social network system to facilitate the Local Seed Networks, Forums, Shop and new layout.
Chris’ background is in photography, design, web development and tech consultancy.
contact chris via


Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad

We met Vanaja at a seed meeting with Vandana in Inida and we became friends. She invited us to be leading a course on establishing community seed banks in Karnataka State and Tamil Nadu. She come to visit us in Byron Bay. Dr Vanaja RamprasadVanaja founded the GREEN Foundation in the 1980s in Bangalore to work with marginal and tribal farmers on conserving traditional dryland cereals and pulses. They have many projects and collaborations with other organisations and have attracted international attention to their work.

For more information on GREEN Foundation see