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Semilla Nueva’s Boise Roots

While Semilla Nueva is based in Guatemala, it was really born in Boise, Idaho, rooted in co-founder Curt Bowen’s upbringing on a small organic farm. Its launch in 2010 and its subsequent evolution owe much to the involvement of numerous Boise community members, many of whom remain involved today. Kathleen and Ben Simko are a case in point.

The couple’s journey with Semilla Nueva began in 2011, while Kathleen served as a District Governor for Rotary and helped secure one of Semilla Nueva’s first project grants. Curt quickly recognized Kathleen’s energy and skills, inviting her to join the organization as one of its first board members, focused on identifying new funding opportunities to fuel its mission.

A year later, husband Ben, an entomologist with a passion for sustainable agriculture, joined the Technical Advisory Board to share his expertise with the organization’s small staff. He explains, “Semilla Nueva was in its infancy when we first became involved, but Curt’s enthusiasm and vision inspired us. We could sense the organization’s tremendous potential.”

Jack and Kathleen Simko (Center) join Don Zacharias Bautista and his family in Comapa, Jutiapa for a meal during their recent trip. Don Zacharias is an enthusiastic user of our biofortified hybrids.

Semilla Nueva’s mission resonates deeply with Kathleen’s and Ben’s values of supporting communities in need. Over the years, they developed strong bonds with Guatemala and its farming families, on trips during which Ben worked closely with staff and farmers on improved agricultural practices. 

Earlier this year, Kathleen introduced her grandson Jack to Semilla Nueva and the complex challenges facing rural communities in Guatemala. “We wanted Jack to experience daily life in a place like Guatemala, and to understand the importance of giving back through an organization like Semilla Nueva in the future.””This trip allowed me to reflect on how far Semilla Nueva has progressed over the past decade,” Kathleen continued. “Curt has formed an exceptional team committed to doing one thing—biofortified maize seeds—exceptionally well. Ben and I are excited to see where the organization is in another ten years!”