Seed Savers Exchange Management Bios

  • Diane Ott Whealy
    Diane Ott Whealy, Co-founder and Vice President

    Diane Ott Whealy 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. In 1986 she helped develop Heritage Farm, SSE's scenic 890-acre headquarters near Decorah, Iowa to maintain and display endangered varieties.

    Today she is a featured speaker at garden shows and botanical gardens throughout the country. In June 2011, she published "Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver", which tells the story of how SSE has grown from a small coterie of passionate gardeners to one of the most active and effective seed saving organizations in the world.

  • John Torgrimson
    John Torgrimson, President and Executive Director

    John Torgrimson is a gardener and seed saver. His first garden was in the Solomon Islands, where he and his wife Patricia served as Peace Corps Volunteers, setting up a cacao and coconut plantation in a resettlement scheme for earthquake victims on Guadalcanal. He has more than 30 years' experience working with and managing non-profit organizations in Asia and the United States, including his work as executive director of Oxfam Hong Kong, where he helped establish micro-credit agricultural schemes in Southwest China and Vietnam. He has been the executive director of Seed Savers Exchange since 2010. He and his wife live on a 20-acre farm in Minnesota. They have two adult children.

  • Lynne Rilling
    Lynne Rilling, Deputy Director - Administration

    Lynne Rilling is a Certified Public Accountant who was born and raised in the Decorah, Iowa area. She received her B.A. from Upper Iowa University and has since gained extensive business and management experience. Lynne joined Seed Savers Exchange as the chief financial officer in 2011, serving both as corporate treasurer and chief accountant. She now fills the recently-created position of Deputy Director - Administration. In her free time, Lynne enjoys fishing, gardening, archery, and spending time with her family.

  • Tom Wahlberg
    Tom Wahlberg, Seed Manager

    Tom Wahlberg came to SSE in 2007 following 17 years in the food service manufacturing industry, primarily serving as a manager of quality assurance. With a farming background and a master's degree in business, he is well positioned to coordinate SSE's seed department. When Tom is not working, you might find him riding one of his horses, jogging, hiking, home renovating, planting trees, or any number of outdoor activities. He and his wife Beth live with their two children Anders and Annika on a farm north of Decorah.

  • Jim Edrington
    Jim Edrington, Facilities Manager

    Jim Edrington started work at SSE in 2006. His responsibilities at Heritage Farm include supervising the maintenance and new construction of buildings and equipment, as well as the management of the 890 acre grounds. Before coming to SSE, Jim served in the military for 21 years. His responsibilities included facilities management, environmental compliance, physical security and training of personnel.

  • Grant Olson
    Grant Olson, Public Programs Manager

    Grant Olson came to Seed Savers Exchange in 2011 as the Display Gardener. Now in the role of Public Programs Manager, Grant guides interpretation and programming as well as education and outreach both on and off the farm. Prior to joining the SSE team, he completed programs in Environmental Studies and Anthropology for his B.S. at the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, and worked as an environmental educator and elementary school teacher. Constantly interested in learning new things, he enjoys wood-carving, basket-weaving, climbing, building, and many other hands-on activities. Grant is a listed member in the SSE Yearbook. He lives in rural Decorah with his wife Anna Marie.

  • Tim Johnson
    Tim Johnson, Seed Bank Manager

    Tim Johnson grew up canoeing in the Boundary Waters, fly-fishing Wisconsin’s cold-water creeks and daydreaming about working in conservation - just like his grandfather did. He joined the Seed Savers Exchange Preservation team in 2012 after earning his masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental Horticulture from the University of Florida. As an Alumni Fellow, he researched the seed physiology and breeding systems of threatened native orchid species and taught courses on plant conservation and plant micropropagation. He is also a runner, photographer and proud family man.

  • Tor Janson
    Tor Janson, Collection Curator

    Tor Janson has worked at Seed Savers since March 2011, previously serving as a Horticultural Technician and Assistant Curator. Tor worked in ecological restoration prior to joining SSE staff, with an educational background in Biology and Landscape Architecture. As Curator, Tor manages SSE's genebank Collection of over 20,000 varieties and oversees several related projects, including SSE's Evaluation Program and Collection Origins Research Effort (CORE).

  • Kelly Tagtow
    Kelly Tagtow, Marketing Manager

    Kelly Tagtow became of member of Seed Savers Exchange in 2004 and joined the team in 2011. He previously held various technical, analytic and marketing positions during his time at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines, IA. His work at Seed Savers includes promoting the organization, increasing awareness and interest in SSE’s mission, expanding tourism to Heritage Farm and Northeast Iowa, and various technical, web and analysis projects. Kelly and his wife Angie are very involved in local and sustainable food systems, and enjoy spending time studying and photographing their reconstructed tallgrass prairie.