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  • Seedy Talks with Kristyn Leach, Aileen Suzara and Mehmet Öztan: Our Fields, Our Seeds, Our Meals

Seedy Talks with Kristyn Leach, Aileen Suzara and Mehmet Öztan: Our Fields, Our Seeds, Our Meals

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Kristyn Leach, Korean American seed keeper (she/her); Aileen Suzara Filipino American educator, food activist, and chef (she/her/siya): and Mehmet Öztan, Turkish seed keeper (he/him/o) will present Seedy Talks: Our Fields, Our Seeds, Our Meals. This virtual lecture will take place on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. EST. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session. 

Seedy Talks is organized by Mehmet Öztan, Service Assistant Professor, and sponsored by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

Seedy Talks was initiated in 2019, by Mehmet Öztan as the educational programming component of the Morgantown Seed Preservation Library with a focus on the topics related to environmental and food justice, seed sovereignty, story-telling, and food and farm traditions of Underrepresented Minoritized Communities.


About the talk

Crops of our cultural lineages have the power to connect us to our people and homes, no matter how far we are from our beloved ones. We re-live our childhood memories through the meals we prepare in our kitchens where we also meet our communities to share our stories, food traditions, and recipes.

In the seventh installment of Seedy Talks, Kristyn Leach, Aileen Suzara, and Mehmet Öztan will take the audience to their personal and professional spaces where growing, preparing and sharing food are deeply rooted in building their respective communities and connecting with the cultures of their homelands. The interactive lecture will explore the cultural appropriation and abuse of traditional crops of Underrepresented Marginalized Communities by the American seed and food industry, using the examples of soybean, ube and wheat, and talk about the importance of reclaiming community-centered narratives of these crops.

About the speakers

Person standing in field with arms crossed

Born in Daegu, South Korea, in 1982, Kristyn Leach grew up in New York. Upon eating Korean food for the first time at age 19, she became curious about growing Korean crops and began reading cookbooks, investigating culturally important and appropriate vegetables and herbs.

After moving to California, she managed a lettuce farm where she also grew 깻잎 (kkaennip) for Namu Gaji, a Korean-owned restaurant in San Francisco. This partnership inspired her to start her own farm, Namu Farm, in Sunol Ag Park of Alameda County, CA, in 2011. Two years later, she visited Heuksalim, an organic seed research institute in Korea, to observe the diversity of the seeds kept in the institute’s vault, which inspired her to be a seed keeper and storyteller.

Now located in Winters, CA, Namu Farm quickly became a center of agrobiodiversity where Leach grows traditional Korean and Asian vegetables and seeds. She continuously works with Asian American communities on the West Coast to further her efforts in environmental justice, food justice, and sustainable agriculture projects which are inspired by more than 4,000 years of Asian teachings of farming.  

Kristyn Leach received the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) Ecological Farmer award in 2021.


Woman holding a sign that says "bitter melon"

Aileen Suzara, MPH, is a first-generation Filipino American educator, food activist, and chef, who, while growing up in California and Hawai’i, re-forged connections to her family’s migration stories through nearly-lost recipes. She weaves a love of food with a background in sustainable farming, environmental justice, and health advocacy. 

Sparked by the rise of chronic disease among Filipino American Communities and kindred Communities of Color, and Eurocentric narratives of nutrition, Suzara pursued a master’s degree in public health nutrition at University of California, Berkeley, with a focus on reclaiming her community’s cultural foodways for wellness. She launched Sariwa (or "Fresh") food project to lift up the healing strengths of heritage, using cuisine as a tool for public health, offering community workshops and meals, and engaging students of all ages at schools, universities, organizations and hospitals.

A 2019 Castanea fellow, Suzara received Bon Appetit’s Superpowered award in 2018, Yamashita prize in 2016 and Big Ideas Food Systems Innovation prize in 2015. She is a teaching member of Sama Sama Cooperative, an intergenerational space that collaborates with scholars like Kristyn Leach.



Man placing seed in container

Mehmet Öztan, Ph.D., is a Turkish seed keeper, farmer and public scholar who focuses on seed restoration and preservation work on his 6-acre farm located in Reedsville, West Virginia. The farm is an experimental learning space and a gateway to exploring more than 50 food crops for their cultural significance, culinary uses, climate adaptability and significance related to food justice and food security. The farm houses one of the largest independently-managed seed collections in the Appalachian region.

Öztan holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Michigan State University and is currently a Service Assistant Professor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University.


Registration

This is a free event. Attendees are required to fill the registration form below to receive the Zoom link and the password to join. Questions may be sent to mehmet.oztan@mail.wvu.edu.


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Resources

Attendees are encouraged to view the resources below prior to the event.

Castanea Fellowship Rooted Wisdom

Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia

Seeds are Our Future but We Need a New System

The Seed Saver

Tikim: Essays in Philippine Food and Culture

We Are La Cocina