On the Passing of Tony Kleese

Word has likely reached you by now on the passing of Tony Kleese, founder and first executive director of The People’s Seed (TPS).  Always one to seek out and improve the weaker elements of any system, Tony saw TPS as a vessel for the development of resilient varieties of organic seed in the public domain, necessary and appropriate to varied regional farming and food systems in North Carolina and beyond.  To guide this effort, Tony recruited a Board of Directors in whom he placed his trust to help him build the organization.  With Tony’s health in decline, we all worked together to develop a financial foundation on which to continue Tony’s vision, knowing he might have to leave us.  As part of this transition, we brought on as interim Executive Director the earnest and capable Jacob Rutz to continue working on those necessary early tasks and investigations any new organization must work through.

To everyone who supported Tony’s vision while he was with us, and those of you just now learning of TPS and its mission, please know that Jacob and those of us on the Board continue our work of guiding and moving this project forward.  We will continue to engage the seed, farm and food communities to build partnerships and financial support to work toward that time when we fund that first seed trial.  We do so inspired by Tony’s commitment to farming and food systems, his brilliance and earnestness, and the love he shared with so many.

If you would like to post a story or memory of Tony, please do so on our Memories of Tony page, where other members of the community can see the impact he has had on us all.


Andrew Branan, Board President
Tobin Freid, Board Treasurer
Eric Cohen, Board Secretary
Jacob Rutz, Executive Director

Memorial for Tony this Sunday April 15th

We invite all of Tony’s friends, family and supporters to attend his Celebration of Life this Sunday April 15th,  at 11:00am in the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC. The event will be followed by a community potluck lunch. Please see Tony’s obituary page here for a map of parking as it is limited.

Also, we still welcome you to  post a special memory of Tony. All posts will be saved on our site for future reading. You can also find many loving memories of Tony posted on his CaringBridge site and the CFSA’s page honoring Tony with a Lifetime Achievement Award.