KEITHA THUY YOUNG
mother, farmer, seedkeeper, folk herbalist and advocate for seed freedom, food sovereignty, mental health & disability justice and the current mama bear of Seed Medicine Garden.
As the daughter of a refugee, trauma survivor and ostomate, themes of Survival, Resilience and Joy permeate my work through art, writing, gardening, intersectional healing justice work and a deep relationship with plants.
My heart lies in the intertwining practices of growing food, saving seeds and working with plants for medicine which for me are all political acts and inextricably linked to social justice. I'm continually questioning the systems that do not allow equal access to land, to organic food and to plant medicines for all folks, while dreaming up new systems/ways of being, preserving crucial biodiversity and building local food security + community resilience. I think all the time about what our collective food future will look like.
I've been farming for 10 years now, learning from many great human and more-than-human teachers along the way, but in 2013 I was honoured to study Organic Farming & Agroecology with Dr. Vandana Shiva at Bija Vidjapeeth/Earth University in India. She was the first one to really connect the dots for me about how integral healthy food systems (and thus seeds) are to our collective liberation. Amongst many other things, she taught me that we need to recreate a culture of good food and good farming; and that the seed is the greatest tool we have to contribute to local food security in the face of climate change.
This led to founding Seed Freedom Food Festival from 2014 to 2016. Held in Tarndanya/Adelaide, with dozens of free workshops, speakers, stalls and a giant seed swap + food swap, this event aimed to inform, inspire and celebrate the importance of growing and supporting organic, local food and saving seeds. Thousands attended over the years and the festival was due to evolve and continue in a different form but in 2017, I faced a sudden, extreme health crisis which would alter my life path forever...
I had been working for 4 years as a primary school garden specialist, when one day while building compost with the kids I inhaled a lot of spores from the peastraw and became severely ill overnight. I also happened to be 13 weeks pregnant at the time, which set off a catalyst of unfortunate events, a diagnosis of the autoimmune condition - Crohn's Disease and lead to my entire large intestine having to be removed in emergency surgery just a couple weeks later with an ileostomy bag installed. It was an extremely difficult and scary pregnancy with multiple complications and readmissions but gratefully, despite this immense ordeal, our daughter was born in 2018 - healthy and beautiful, a magical garden fairy and my lifesaving earth angel all in one.
Becoming disabled has been so far from easy but it has connected me to one of the most resilient, strong, generous, compassionate and funny communities I could ever wish to be part of and it's shaped my mind and spirit in ways that I would never want to change. It's blown my heart open a thousand fold in my empathy for others' suffering and my advocacy for marginalised communities has thus been strengthened. Being disabled isn't a weakness, it makes me a better mother, better farmer, better herbalist, a better member of the community and of our world.
Since recovering from near death/giving birth, it's been the greatest blessing to be able to grow Seed Medicine Garden as a working veggie/herb/seed farm. And I've continued practicing as an educator, doing knowledge shares and workshops on seedkeeping, gardening and folk herbalism in USA/Turtle Island, as well as in my local councils and community. I've had the honour of presenting on multiple film festival panels, consulted on plants + herbs with artists, gardeners and teachers and had my photography and writing published in numerous publications, including Loam magazine. In 2020, I was also asked to present a TEDx talk for PermaQueer on Seed Saving and Food Sovereignty which you can still watch here.
After studying folk herbalism for 10 years (and forever learning!) it's also been a dream to build the Seed Medicine Apothecary and supply seasonal, local, organically grown herbal products to hundreds of folks these last years - through parcel subscriptions on Patreon as well as through many mutual aid projects and donations to Indigenous, Disabled, homeless and other communities in need.
This work, collaborating with the plants and seeds for healing - is ongoing and growing with many more projects being intentionally cultivated, ready to bloom in good time... Watch this space.
I appreciate you taking the time getting to know a little more about me and why I do what I do.
On any given day, if I'm not taking needed rest or at medical appointments, you'll usually find me in the garden or at the farm, tending seeds, plant babies (or my human baby!), gathering herbs or crafting plant medicines, preserving biodiversity and adapting seeds to our bioregion, with our daughter dancing around us as the bees pollinate the fields of flowers we've planted. And for these opportunities and this life, I am eternally grateful.