‘Sowing Seeds Of Love’: One West Virginian’s Project To Combat Hunger

Apr 10, 2020

When Brady Walker first learned that some people go hungry, without a meal, he was four years old. And unlike most kids his age, he decided to take action.

Brady lives in Mercer County, W.Va., but he had a family friend named Ursula Candasamy, who has since passed away, in South Africa. So Brady began by collecting produce seed packets — some donated, some with his own savings — and he sent 910 packets to Ursula who distributed them to those in need. 

Brady, who is now eight years old, said he is motivated to keep sending seeds because, “people won’t be hungry, and I’m helping other people, and I like helping people.”

And so began his “Sowing Seeds of Love” project. For the last four years, Brady has sent hundreds of seeds to South Africa. 

He has also passed out a couple hundred seed packets to his neighbors in his own community in southern West Virginia.  According to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S., one in seven West Virginians struggle with hunger.

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown, more West Virginians are trying to grow a garden than in past years. According to the West Virginia University Extension Office, they have seen well over 25,000 participants in their virtual gardening program that includes a free packet of seeds. Typically, they see a few hundred.

So, with the help of his grandmother Debra Williby-Walker, this year, Brady has sent out almost 4,000 seed packets to West Virginians. As a more effective way to distribute the seeds, they sent a decorated shoe box, which Brady and his friends worked on prior to the pandemic, filled with seeds to different counties, which are then set out near places like soup kitchens and food pantries for people to pick out what they want. 

“So it’s a pretty massive project,” Debra said. “He started out with just a few seeds in a shoe box and then he just kept sending them, and it started growing from there.”

Brady said he has had a lot of help from people across West Virginia who have donated seeds to his project. Others have even gotten word and donated a few seed packs from places including New York, Florida, California, Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Canada. 

Brady chose seed packets for his project over other things such as canned goods, because not only are the seeds replenishable, but he said growing one’s own garden is an important skill to learn.

He learned to garden from grandpa, or pawpee,and is growing potatoes and corn this year. 

Brady added that he likes to “put my hands in the dirt” and find worms. 

He said he plans to continue sending seeds for as long as his supply lasts this year and also in the years to come. 

This story is part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Project. Subscribe to the podcast to hear more stories of Appalachian folklife, arts, and culture.