Wandering around our local farmers’ market in Bellingham, WA last weekend, I stumbled on a food vendor called “Café Vavilov.” Their stand was small and their menu was inconspicuously written in black marker on a scroll of brown butcher paper, but the vibrant hues and varied textures displayed in their dishes instantly drew my attention. With fresh, local, non-GMO ingredients and unique flavor profiles, they need little else to set themselves apart.

Nikolai Vavilov, from whom Café Vavilov drew the inspiration for their name, is often seen as something like the founding father of the seed sovereignty movement. Vavilov devoted his life to traveling the world, speaking to traditional farmers, and collecting seeds to be used in the creation of the largest seed bank in human history. He worked tirelessly to preserve farmers’ rights to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds that could be saved, and were not patented, genetically modified, or controlled by emerging seed giants. His mission was very similar to our own, here at the Non-GMO Project.

Today, as seed giants like Monsanto and their genetically modified crops chip away at the seed diversity and genetic inheritance our planet has to offer, Vavilov’s message becomes more important than ever. Since the Green Revolution in the mid-1900s when farmers worldwide began abandoning their diverse local varieties in favor of genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties with longer shelf lives, we have lost approximately 75% of agricultural biodiversity.

What can we do to change this? Follow the examples set by people like Eric and Erica Budzynski, the duo behind the delicious and creative, Café Vavilov.

In the kitchen, Erica is a creative powerhouse. She says that “all of the communities [she has] been a part of are what informed and shaped [her] as a cook and baker.” Her curiosity around food has take\n her into vibrant kitchens across the country and world— most notably Lula Café in Chicago, IL and Sweedeedee and Milk Glass Market in Portland, OR. Her recipes are usually determined by what’s in season, but she also spent time living in Romania learning preservation and fermentation techniques from community grandmothers— techniques that now get her and Eric through the frostier months and provide delicious ingredients for Café Vavilov’s menu.

Outside of the kitchen, Eric is constantly working on breeding projects to develop new varieties that will be tested in recipes throughout the season. Through seed farming, he is adapting varieties to the unique climate of Western Washington and supporting the independence of our local food system. The high quality of the ingredients he produces is essential to Erica’s cooking and the integrity of the food they serve to the community.

Erica and Eric say “we want to share the vegetables that we are excited about with the rest of the community…support the other farmers and producers in the region, and…continue to grow through [our] collaboration with plant breeders, farmers, and chefs.”

The next time you’re in the Bellingham, WA area on a Saturday afternoon, we encourage you to stop by their farmer’s market stand for a delicious, nutritious, non-GMO bite to eat! And for those of you who aren’t from around the area, or who simply love to experiment in the kitchen, lend your support by testing out Erica’s yummy, non-GMO, gluten-free, Skillet Cornbread recipe and letting us know what you think!

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