(Decorah, Iowa, May 19, 2017) — The Seed Savers Exchange Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Lee Buttala as its new executive director, effective July 10, 2017. Buttala succeeds John Torgrimson, who announced in July 2016 he would step down from the position after seven years of service.
The Seed Savers Exchange board of directors engaged Ballinger Leafblad of St. Paul, Minn., to conduct a nationwide search. Buttala was selected from 160 potential prospects.
“After an extensive interview process, the search committee unanimously selected Lee,” said Rowan White, board chair. “His vast experience in media and horticulture, deep passion for Seed Savers Exchange, immediate connection with staff, and clear vision for the organization’s future made him the ideal choice to lead us to the next level, and we are thrilled to have him at the helm.”
A Midwest native, Buttala is currently overseeing a strategic plan for Bedrock Garden in Lee, NH after a stint as director of marketing communications for the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA. He also writes a regular column, “The Self-Taught Gardener,” for the Berkshire Edge. Buttala served as co-editor of the award-winning book The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving, published by Seed Savers Exchange in 2015, and preservation program manager for the Garden Conservancy in Cold Spring, N.Y., from 2010–12.
His media work includes serving as executive producer and director of PBS’s Cultivating Life, broadcast producer of From Martha’s Garden/From Martha’s Kitchen, producer for Martha Stewart Living (for which he won an Emmy Award in 2003), garden editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and as an associate editor at Alfred A. Knopf Publications. Having majored in economics and English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he has done additional study in landscape design at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London and the New York Botanical Garden and in Japanese garden design and history at Kyoto University of Art and Design.
“I am looking forward to working with the Seed Savers Exchange staff and board, who are so clearly passionate about what they do,” said Buttala. “Seed Savers Exchange has done so much over the past 40 years to preserve heirloom seeds and communicate the importance of saving and sharing seeds. I believe the next step is engaging and connecting people with our mission even further—sharing what we have and what we know—and I am excited to be a part of that important work.”