If the world’s crops are ever decimated by war, agricultural disease, or a massive plague of locusts, the future of all humanity’s food supply could hinge on the current efforts of an unlikely culinary hero.
Martha Stewart has kicked off a charity campaign on Prizeo, a site that lets donors pledge money for the chance to win some major prize, in order to raise funds for Crop Trust, a group that funds and helps manage efforts to analyze, secure, and maintain reserve seed banks all over the world.
Crop Trust is an initiative from Bioversity International, an international research and development group that receives support from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research. It started in 2004 in order to ensure that if our current agricultural system ever gets wiped out there are backups of all the plants we currently use–and then backups to those backups, both in terms of duplicates located in multiple facilities, and a variety of different seeds capable of adapting to whatever scenario confronts us.
Befitting her reputation, Stewart’s Prizeo campaign is raffling off one elaborate and logistically complicated award: It’s a trip for two with her in February to the most secure part of Crop Trust’s operations, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Svalbard is a specialized, ultra-secure, repository located the Arctic, built into a mountain that’s located on a frigid island of Norway, just couple thousand miles from the North Pole. It houses copies of all the seeds scattered at other strongholds around the world.
For Crop Trust, this is part of a larger push to increase its $285 million endowment that’s currently backed by a series of grants and a concessional loan to the point that it can be self-sustainable, a key factor in ensuring the entire system truly remains resilient. The group hopes to eventually raise $850 million over the next several years. “The fund allows the Crop Trust to fulfill its purpose: to create a permanent legacy of support for the key international collections of critical importance to our food supply,” says Crop Trust, executive director Marie Haga in an email to Fast Company.
The campaign, which runs until late January, doesn’t have a target, in part because there’s a larger goal in mind. “The Prizeo campaign is a huge opportunity for us to raise awareness of the work of the Crop Trust and our partners in safeguarding the future of food,” adds Haga. “[Stewart] has long been a champion of food diversity, and her involvement in the campaign will help us connect our work with those who ultimately benefit from it–farmers, chefs, consumers, everyone.”
Stewart created a pitch video that accompanies the competition and keeps things light. “Always remember when providing a 24-hour bird buffet, separate, label and display each kind of seed in deliberate and defined ways,” she notes in the segment, which parodies her usual attention to detail by showing her plating an arrangement of seed-filled dishes around some birdhouses. This sets up a pun-driven sales pitch and punch line: Turns out, she’s acting “O-SEED-D!” because she’s excited about the trip.
The winner will get all-expenses paid, including dinner with Stewart and “leading food scientists and policymakers,” according to the campaign post. Plus, there’s the chance to see the Northern Lights (during a “champagne reception”), go snowmobiling, explore glacier caves, try dog sledding, and go on a tour to watch polar bears. Entry fees start at $10 with each dollar pledged equaling 10 chances to win, and there’s no cap on what can be contributed.
Any questions about whether all this sort of doomsday prepping is really needed are already being answered. As LiveScience reported, part of the Svalbard cache was needed to restore the supply of a facility in war-torn Syria that was damaged in 2015.