Remembering Esiah Levy.

It is with great sadness that I share the news of my friend Esiah Levy’s sudden passing on January 22nd 2019. He leaves behind his wife Kealy Levy and two very young sons. 

I’ve only known Esiah since the summer of 2016, we met to collaborate on the brilliantly successful pop-up: Croydon’s Only Rooftop Community Garden with Lend and Tend It was an ambitious space to garden. The roof of a derelict car-park being was being transformed into a rooftop cinema, but it also had acres of grey concrete space that was just begging to be gardened and I knew just the person to enlist the advice of: Esiah Levy Rooftop Gardener extraordinaire.

Having just learned about his work creating a growing space on the rooftop of Croydon Council’s office building. I knew he was going to be a great partner-in-crime on this project.

Esiah was integral to the build of the Community Rooftop Garden. He was incredibly resourceful and driven;  helping me sustainably source waste to grow with for the incredibly successful no-dig method he specialised in. 

I knew I’d found a kindred spirit when I discovered he too, was obsessive about collecting spent coffee beans, hops and cocoa shells; preventing them going to landfill by transforming them into useful materials to use in garden designs. 

We went on to attend many other ‘green’ community and civic meetings together; for Croydon Council, The Queen’s Gardens and Croydon Transition Town. His opinion and ideas were highly regarded, however Esiah who was talented and passionate, was frustrated by the challenges associated with gardening projects that came with the boundaries of hierarchy and red tape associated with them. So, being the maverick that was Esiah Levy, he founded an incredibly special project of his own volition and empowered individuals and communities, not just in Croydon but as far away as Crewe all the way to The Caribbean and we formed a firm friendship based on encouraging others to share gardens, and Esiah encouraging others to share seeds. 

With Seeds Share, saving and connecting people with free seeds Esiah had to Share, he cultivated heirloom varieties and sent on the seeds- FOR FREE and encouraged people to do the same. He taught people about seed sovereignty, how to start saving seeds and offered advice on sharing them across the world. He encouraged us to try new and exciting vegetable varieties, saved countless people lots of money and Esiah on his own, the founder of a successful non-for-profit, became known, not just locally but globally.  I’m sure Esiah’s tragic sudden passing will be felt by hundreds if not thousands of people.  

To honour the work and success he achieved with Seeds Share, I have nominated Esiah for a posthumous award to raise awareness of his selfless work, how he strived to help people with little means of growing their own food. I feel I need to share the story of his quiet personal activism, despite being a busy father of two young children with a full-time job at TFL, he went out of his way to help others in his own time, passing on vital gardening skills. He connected people from Japan, Canada, Peru,  Indonesia,  France, America, The Netherlands; and more all from his humble backyard in Croydon, London. 

I’m sure his family do not need any affirmations of what a wonderful person he was, but perhaps you can help cement the legacy of Seeds Sharing that Esiah leaves behind, with your nomination. If you, too would also like to nominate Esiah and his Seeds Share project you can find out more about the award on the BBC site

Esiah gently, kindly and compassionately took a stand for what he believed in; took practical action and helped mobilise people, not just individual growers, but whole community groups to have sustainable healthier happier lives. 

I’m not sure if Esiah would have wanted any sadness or fuss, but his life and presence on this Earth is too important to go by quietly. So please, for those that knew him. Let us take Esiah’s lead, continue his work however we can, sow the seeds of his inspiration and memory in our own circles and communities so that our friends and families and their friends and families can pass on the ethos of Seeds Share, it’s something Esiah started by himself and I’m sure it’s something he would have wanted us to continue. We can’t let this stop now.

 I want to offer my pledge to continue helping others as Esiah did and I hope that in your own little way you can be inspired by Esiah’s legacy, too. Just the act of mindfully saving your seeds and passing them on is all it takes.

Above all else, Esiah’s focus and all he set out to be, was not just to build something great for other people far and wide, but the most important thing for him was care for and nurture his two young children and build a stable future for his family. 

So at this time, my thoughts are with them and I can only offer my truest most deepest condolences Esiah’s family.

I hope in time, with the help of all of the people that knew Esiah via his Seeds Share project, I promise we will galvanise and in our own way continue his good work greening and feeding the world around us. 

Some of Esiah’s friends, myself and the communities he recently worked with have come together via our grief and have been thinking of other ways to commemorate his life and work. Ideas so far have been to paint a mural, plant a garden or tree in his memory, but if you can think of a way you'd like to remember him please comment or get in touch, but most immediately there is a Go Fund Me page where you can make a donation to help support his family at this incredibly difficult time.

Joyce Veheary