On April 13, the organic seed community lost a philosopher king. Jonathan Spero was an avidly curious and thoughtful farmer who committed his life to plant breeding, growing seed, and feeding his community. He was collaborative and kind, and incredibly generous with his knowledge, seeds, and time.
Organic Seed Alliance has had the pleasure of knowing Jonathan for more than a decade. He was one of the most passionate farmer breeders our team had the good fortune to learn from and work alongside. We will remember his enormous contribution to the organic seed and farming community. And we will remember his warm smile and colorful hats, which always seemed to match his vibrant personality.
Jonathan’s farm-bred varieties have become quite popular over the years and are sold by more than 20 seed companies across the U.S. Some of these varieties include ‘Emerald Fan’ lettuce; ‘Siber Frill’ kale; ‘Solstice’ broccoli; and ‘Aloha #9’, ‘Festivity’, ‘Top Hat’, ‘Tuxana’, and ‘Zanadoo’ sweet corn varieties.
His breeding work focused on delivering new and improved organic seed varieties that were novel and resilient, and that had characteristics in demand by organic growers and their customers. He fed his local community and beyond from Lupine Knoll Farm, and he fed the curiosity of farmers, plant breeders, and plant breeding students, including OSA’s Laurie McKenzie during her graduate work at Oregon State University.
Jonathan was also a talented musician and peaceful activist. From opposing the Vietnam War to advocating for GMO-free county initiatives in Oregon, he often served as a spokesman, educator, and presenter on issues ranging from policy to practical breeding and seed advice. He was a founding board member of the Open Source Seed Initiative and always promoted fair and open access to seed – one of many fiercely held principles.
Jonathan will be sorely missed. Please join us in honoring his memory by sharing your own accolades and tributes in the comments below.
A celebration of life is being planned for later this summer. The family is asking for help caring for Jonathan’s land, gardens, and his legacy of seeds and written works. If you’d like to help, please contact Karen Rae Ferreira at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read Jonathan’s full obituary here.
And read an interview with Jonathan published by Eco Farming Daily here.