Southern Living’s Steve Bender to be a featured speaker

Media Contact: Lisa Stites, 434-984-7529

The gardens of Monticello served as a laboratory for the exchange of new and unusual plants with family members, neighbors, and a national and international network of plant explorers and plantsmen. Thomas Jefferson himself served as a missionary of seeds for his novel collection of fruits, flowers, vegetables, and ornamental plants. He once wrote to André Thoüin of the Jardin de Plantes in Paris that his seeds “came safely to hand and were committed to our best seedsmen, in order that they might be preserved and distributed so as to become general.”

Each year a “seed swap” is held at the annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello to celebrate this pioneering spirit of seed sharing and cultivation. This year’s featured speaker is an expert on the worldwide effort to save seeds. Cary Fowler, American agriculturalist and the former executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust and current senior advisor to the Trust, will speak at the 7th annual festival, September 6-7, 2013.

Fowler’s international career in the conservation and use of crop diversity spans almost 40 years. In the 1990s, he headed the International Conference and Programme on Plant Genetic Resources at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which produced the UN’s first-ever global assessment of the state of the world’s plant genetic resources. He drafted and supervised negotiations of FAO’s Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources, adopted by 150 countries in 1996. That same year he served as special assistant to the Secretary General of the World Food Summit.

Currently he is a member of the boards of the New York Botanical Garden Corporation and Rhodes College, and he chairs the International Advisory Council of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Vault provides a secure safety backup for the world’s seed collection and is the single largest collection of crop diversity worldwide. Inside the Seed Vault, Fowler and his team work to ensure that the world’s food supply has the diversity needed to address the omnipresent threats of pests, diseases, and climate change.

Fowler has been profiled by CBS’ 60 Minutes, The New Yorker, and the New Scientist, and is the author of several books on the subject of crop diversity and more than 100 articles on the topic in agriculture, law, and development journals.

Steve Bender will be a featured speaker with Cary Fowler during the Festival’s Grand Preview Dinner on September 6.  As Senior Writer at Southern Living Magazine, he has been writing about gardening for nearly 30 years.  Bender is the editor and writer of the best-selling Southern Living Garden Book, the Southern Living Landscape Book, the Southern Living Garden Problem Solver, and Callaway Gardens—Legacy of a Dream. He also co-authored Passalong Plants, named the best written garden book of 1994 by the Garden Writers Association (GWA). Mr. Bender was presented the Horticultural Communication Award by the American Horticultural Society in 2006, and in 2007 won the GWA's Gold Award for Best Magazine Writing. He won GWA’s  Silver Award in 2012. Well-known for his running personality as “The Grumpy Gardener,” a blog popular on Southern Living Magazine’s web page for Southern Culture The Daily South, this month Bender celebrates his 30th anniversary with Southern Living. The blog series - authored by Mr. Bender himself - provides garden humor and wisdom through anecdotal commentary on personal garden endeavors around Mr. Bender’s home. It receives more than one million page views per year. He has made frequent appearances on radio and TV and continues to be popular amongst garden and outdoor enthusiasts.

Visitors will taste a bounty of heirloom fruits and vegetables and learn about organic gardening and seed-saving during this fun, affordable, family-friendly festival unlike any other—held on the breathtaking West Lawn of Jefferson’s Monticello.

The Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello is presented by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. General admission tickets are $10 in advance for adults and $8 for children 6-11 (children under 6 are free). Tickets purchased at the gate will be $15 for adults and $8 for children (children 6 and under will be admitted free).

Premium workshops start at $10 and will be held Friday, September 6, at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Monticello gardens, 9 a.m.– 5:30 p.m. Friday premium workshops do not require a general admission ticket; however, attendance to Saturday Premium Workshops will require purchase of a general admission ticket.

This year’s festival features a Grand Preview Dinner & Festival VIP Pass. The Festival VIP pass includes admission to the Grand Preview Dinner with Steve Bender and Dr. Cary Fowler, general admission to the festival, preferred parking at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center, and admission to the Harvest Picnic at the Garden Terrace Tent, with $40 of the ticket representing a tax deductible gift to support Monticello. VIP passes are $129 per individual or $240 per couple.

A $24 combination ticket will be available for those interested in attending the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello and taking a guided tour of Monticello.


About Monticello

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation was incorporated in 1923 to preserve Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Today the Foundation seeks to engage a global audience in a dialogue with Jefferson’s ideas. Monticello is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark and a United Nations World Heritage Site. As a private, nonprofit organization, the Foundation is not supported by federal or state budgets to fund its twofold mission of preservation and education.  About 450,000 people visit Monticello each year. For information, visit

About Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) located  in Central Virginia, started in 1982 in a small family garden and a kitchen co-opted for seed processing. The kitchen garden has since expanded to numerous growing areas supplemented by a nationwide seed grower network. Now the seed company has its own office, germination testing facility, and environmentally controlled seed storage areas. SESE emphasizes seed varieties adapted to the Mid-Atlantic region, it serves gardeners throughout the United States and Canada.