Beti Minkin and the Anatolia Foundation in Turkey
OWA Finalist 2010

In 2006, Beti Minkin founded the Anatolia Foundation in the USA. The principle goals of the Foundation are to preserve and support the rich biological diversity of the rural Anatolian region of Turkey with sustainable village projects.

Born and raised in Turkey, Beti Minkin has spent most of her adult life in the USA, but always displayed a passion for her native land. Since the 1990s, she pioneered holistic sustainability projects in regions where biodiversity is prolific but greatly endangered. Her vision and enthusiasm are truly inspirational.

Her “Tohum” (“Seed” in Turkish) ventures raised local awareness of the importance of heirloom seeds, traditional foods and natural lifestyles. The Tohum® Natural Foods brand she created still exports organic artisan foods from Anatolian villages to the benefit of community health and economy.

Most recently, under the auspices of the Anatolia Foundation, Beti Minkin initiated an extensive agro-biodiversity sustainability program in the remote Kars Province of Eastern Turkey. The project links bio-conservation with organic food production and ecologically viable livelihood. It focuses on a full-scale organic certification program with over 200 farmers and the revival of the ancient grain “Kavilca” or emmer (Triticum dicoccum), amongst other important traditional crops such as flaxseed and red wheat.

"Ökologische Experimente mit der Wahrheit"

The project includes the full production cycle, from sowing seeds on organic farms to selling the products on global markets. The heirloom seeds rescued from the brink of extinction now provide raw materials to the local community for developing marketable organic products. In this context, a bakery in Kars will soon start marketing the traditional “pide bread” (flat bread) made with the project’s organic whole red wheat flour. Whole grain emmer and barley products are also in the works.

The project also promotes traditional wildflower honey with new colonies of the endangered Caucasian queen bee. Other programs include a scientific survey of local medicinal plants and botanical product formulation workshops for village women.

The whole community is enthusiastically engaged, initiating village NGOs and a Farmer’s Cooperative. Activities bring people of different skills together: from students cataloging wild flora and grandmothers sharing traditional recipes to young adults returning from big cities to farm organically on their native land. Women participate in all aspects and Beti Minkin has become an important role model for them.

The project positively impacts the ecological, social and economic conditions of the villages. Its success is a result of the holistic approach to development. This further adds value to behaviours that protect local ecology and promote social equity, in accordance with the three pillars of sustainability.