The National Heirloom Exposition is taking place this week in Santa Rosa at the Fairgrounds, but one of the festival's keynoters will be right here in Sonoma on Wednesday.
Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer and 'seed saver,' became a leader in the anti-genetic engineering movement though no doing of his own. The life-long Saskatchewan, Canada farmer (he is now 81) was sued by the Monsanto Corporation in 1998 for patent infringement when some of their genetically modified "Roundup Ready" canola was found in his fields.
Schmeiser claimed at the time that he never planted the seeds, that they were blown onto his lands by the wind and thus contaminated his hand-picked canola crops.
He will be speaking at the Heirloom Expo on Wednesday at 4 p.m. on “Control of the World Seed and Food Supply,” after which he will come to Sonoma's the from 7:00-9:00.
Schmeiser's suit with Monsanto was carried to the Canadian Supreme Court, and the two have engaged in additional legal conflict since then.
"I have always campaigned on the right of a farmer to save and re-use his own seed," Schmeiser said in 1999. "This is what I have been doing for the last 50 years. I will continue to support any efforts to strengthen the rights of a farmer to save and re-use his own seed."
Though Canada's Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Monsanto's patent, no punitive damages or the costs of the technology use fee were awarded.
"It will be very informal, and people can hear his update," said of the Epicurean Conection. "We will have a no-host bar & cafe menu. [There may be] a small talk, but really [it's] about community, conversation and leadership."
On the menu will be a farm fresh soup made with vegetables from Oakhill Farm, Paul's Produce & Lunita Farms, prepared by Davis. There will be no charge for admission.
The Heirloom Expo continues through Thursday, Sept. 13. Other keynoters include Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, Anna Lappe of the Small Planet Institute, Vandana Shiva of India's pure food movement, and others. Complete schedule and ticket information online at theheirloomexpo.com.