Moments from the 3rd Annual Seed festival

of the sito seed network in athens

By Anastasia Vasileiadou

SITO Seed is a network of seed savers aiming to revive and enrich our common seed heritage, by producing traditional seeds, giving them away and sharing the knowledge associated with their preservation and cultivation.

In 2024, SITO Seed and Seeds4All engaged in a partnership focusing on exploring Greece's main challenges and opportunities regarding the development of cultivated biodiversity. Following a week of visits to farmers and seed savers, they ended up together in Athens to participate in the third annual seed festival of the local Sito Seed network.

An ideal time to share the initial results of their field observations, meet other committed players and enthusiastic citizens and, above all, celebrate their love for seed diversity. Anastasia Vasileiadou from the SITO Seed network, reports.

© Anastasia Vasileiadou

The venue that hosted this year's SITO seed festival in Athens subtly but firmly expresses the value of mutual support: a social café-restaurant, Café Myrtillo - where people from vulnerable social groups are employed - located in a park that hosted the educational center for disabled people from World War II and the civil war.


Among the machines used to teach carpentry, watchmaking or shoemaking, we met and listened to people who have been inspiring us for decades with their dedication to cultivating land and relationships, to service and social change, starting locally and traversing the borders of many countries.


"Let's start changing reality by changing ourselves, by giving practical answers," said Panagiotis Manikis, an agronomist, disciple of Masanobu Fukuoka who continues to work towards the regeneration of the land through natural farming. For the last few years he has been in Alagonia, Peloponese, a "village in transition", where he supports the effort of the inhabitants to create a self-sufficient community, with a vegetable garden, vineyard and grain cultivation for the needs of residents and visitors.

Elder Theodecti, abbess of the Holy Monastery of Timios Prodromos in Anatoli, Agia Kissavos, shared the difficulties still faced by the inhabitants of the villages of Thessaly, 9 months after the September floods.


Through their own words, she conveyed to us the anguish, the daily obstacles, but also the hope that disaster can be an opportunity for change, if we allow it, by learning and supporting each other. Something the Monastery of Trimios Prodromos does continuously, acting both horizontally - connecting and caring for people from all over the world - and vertically - reminding us with discernment and consistency that every personal choice is also political.

Vasso Kanellopoulou, a keen researcher who has been following the issue of genetically modified organisms for decades, presented the problems created by the current EU legislative initiative on New Genome Techniques (NGTs).


She explained that the absence of risk assessment, consumer labelling and traceability and the linking of NGTs to patents holds many risks for consumers and farmers, such as loss of markets, possibility of contamination, price increases.


With calm and reasonable arguments, common positions of the European network in which SITO participates for the monitoring of legislative developments, she stressed that it is necessary to maintain the strict provisions of the current European legislation on " GMOs ", against the pressure of big companies. At the moment, unfortunately, the balance is tipping in the wrong direction, but the process is underway and we hope that the tide will turn.

Hannes Lorenzen, president of the ARC2020 association presented SITO's collaboration with Seeds4All, an initiative that gives a voice to agroecological projects that contribute to the transition to an agri-food system with traditional seeds at its core.

Left, Elder Theodecti, Abbess of the Holy Monastery and right, Hannes Lorenzen, President of ARC2020, discussing with seed enthousiasts © Anastasia Vasileiadou

Shortly afterwards, outside the café in the park, a line of people wait patiently to pick seeds and seedlings, next to the chain of those who begin dancing round the trees. Hands holding pots with seedlings join the dance, amidst hugs, laughter, glances.

People who have come from afar to ask for seeds to start their gardens or to plant a few tomatoes and peppers on their balconies, ask for our telephone numbers in case they have questions. They look into our eyes and soak up as much information as we manage to share while the music and celebration unfolds.

The nuns prepare the dishes for the tasting of their produce: sauces made from their garden where they grow traditional varieties, cheese from the goats and sheep of the convent. The staff at the Myrtillo café are bustling with activity, and everywhere you can see groups of friends who have met after a long-time-no-see, as well as people who just met and were looking for a place to be.

The volunteers - we are all volunteers - get along by sight. Everything seems to be as it should be and nothing is perfect.

People chanting and dancing © Anastasia Vasileiadou

That's probably exactly what SITO is. We don't aim for perfection, for the absolute, but for simplicity, for the everyday, for the art of the possible that blossoms through collaboration, for what each of us can do as a practical response to common problems.

Cultivating traditional, authentic seeds is possible. It is what people have always done to feed themselves. Whether we have a pot of peppers on the balcony, or support the farmer who grows local varieties, it's the small steps that lead to big changes.

The questions we were asked about farming, the conversations we had about food in cities, the requests we received to work with groups caring for the elderly and people with disabilities became a compass. They show our orientation, our common needs. They allow us to evolve as true seeds evolve, fascinating us with their mystery and attracting us to follow them on their journey, as if we were in love.

We seem to be searching for something we have lost, or something we never had, yet we know it exists. And we search for it together and through others, sharing knowledge, experience and seeds from the ones that first sprout in hearts. Creating small "islands" of freedom, connection, caring and joy that unite through our love for life, for the land that we cultivate and that cultivates us.

Seedlings given at the SITO Seed festival / Traditional music band / The booklet of short stories about Greek seeds published and distributed by Seeds4All © Anastasia Vasileiadou