Our Leadership

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

Neil Hamilton, JD

Chair of the Board

Waukee, IA

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.

Beth Lynch, PhD

Board Member

Decorah, IA

Dr. Lynch is an Associate Professor of Biology at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She holds a Doctorate in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior from the University of Minnesota. Prior to coming to Luther in 2001, she worked as a botanist at Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and later taught at Loras College and Northland College. Her research over the years has been in plant ecology, with a focus on the conservation of native plant communities in the upper Midwest.

Diane Ott Whealy

Board Member

Decorah, IA

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.

Sean Sherman

Board Member

Minneapolis, MN

Sean is a successful chef, educator and entrepreneur, who is very committed to his Native American community. Founder of the company The Sioux Chef, Sherman’s main culinary focus has been 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.

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 recently 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.

Jim Morrow

Board Member

Jim Morrow has 43 years of experience in banking and finance—currently Chief Credit Officer and EVP at Decorah Bank and Trust. He is a farmboy, a lifelong gardener, and a longtime Seed Savers Exchange supporter.

Jeff Dawson

Board Member

Jeff Dawson has farmed organically for 32 years. He has grown heirloom produce for San Francisco restaurants and designed/managed wine country demonstration gardens. He’s been saving seed from SSE and developing new tomato varieties. He manages a small farm and is a biodynamic vineyard consultant in the Napa Valley.

Amy Goldman Fowler, PhD

Special Advisor to the Board

Rhinebeck, NY

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.

Rowen White

Special Advisor to the Board

North San Juan, CA

Rowen is a seed saver, farmer and educator. She is from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and curates an extensive collection of rare northeast native seeds. Rowen is co-founder of the Sierra Seeds Cooperative.

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 not only has a practical understanding of organic and sustainable growing practices, but he has 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.

Lynne Rilling

Deputy Director - Administration

Lynne is a Certified Public Accountant who was born and raised in the Decorah, Iowa area. She received her B.A. from Upper Iowa University. Lynne joined SSE as the chief financial officer in 2011, serving both as corporate treasurer and chief accountant.

Gary Barness

Director of Sales and 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.

Meredith Burks

Director of Marketing and Communications

Meredith joins 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 Heritage Farm while growing up in Decorah, she is excited to cultivate a new connection with the land and community.

Cindy Goodner

Director of Membership and 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 American Fundraising Professionals, Upper Mississippi Valley Chapter.

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 SSE 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.

Micah Merrifield

Farm Director

Micah Merrifield previously served as a member of the SSE facilities team. He has also worked as a terrain park “ranger” at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, as facilities crew lead for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (where he performed a variety of construction and conservation tasks in the caretaking of Gothic, Colorado), and as a crew leader/field coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. His professional experience also includes serving as co-owner-operator of the Dug Road Inn in Decorah, as well as an independent organic production gardener. Micah is passionate about biodynamic gardening, natural building, and conservation work.


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