WHO WE ARE
My Daughter Alicia is one well-traveled young woman! She was a month old when she went on her “first” expedition… to Iceland, she was baptized in the Cathedral of Reykjavik by my late and dear friend Bishop Al Jolson. Ever since Alicia has been traveling. When she was a little over four years old she was walking with her mother in the streets of Addis Ababa and she encountered first hand the realities of extreme poverty; a young and destitute man had died on the sidewalk…it was an experience that would start to toughen her for things to come. Now a twenty two year old, she has been to more than 70 countries and has accompanied me on expeditions to places like New Guinea, Borneo, Chile, Namibia, Vietnam, Laos, Egypt, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, New Caledonia, Australia, China, Fiji, New Zealand, Latvia, Poland, Spain, Ethiopia, Morocco, Senegal, Mauritania, South Africa and Japan.
Alicia is the oldest of my five children. On one particular occasion Alicia and I were caught on a mountain in New Caledonia at dark with no flashlights, we stumbled onto a treacherous slope of boulders that trembled with each footstep. I was sure that we would start an avalanche and be minced, Alicia just kept resoundingly telling me to be calm. We emerged after several hundred meters safe and sound with Alicia admonishing me for my panicking! Alicia has eaten thousands of kinds of food with dog, llama and sphinx moth ranking at the top of her list. She speaks French, Spanish, Italian, English, Japanese and is on to more. She now lives in Italy and is working on her Masters in Philosophy. I hope that as soon as she is done she will once again be an active team member!
Last year at the Comstock Ferre & Co., spring festival I had the chance to meet Anthony. He came up to me after a talk I gave and said, “That was really sick!” (‘Sick’ by the way means really cool.) I chatted with him for a couple of minutes and then as a group was standing around invited them all into the Belden House at Comstock so that I could share with them rare heirloom seeds. After that I gave them all my email, and it was not long before I received an email from Anthony thanking me for entrusting such seeds to him. He had also shot video during the visit and posted it on his blog: “Revolution of Thought”.
Not long after that Anthony returned to Wethersfield and spent hours shooting photos of beans for an article that I wrote for the Heirloom Gardener Magazine. Anthony was delighted to have an opportunity to be in a magazine and his photos turned out awesome. I stayed in touch with him, always asking him if he was up to travel, I said “Don’t be surprised if I call you one day and offer you to go on an expedition the next!” That day finally came in February 2015, I called Anthony and said, “Do you want to film in the Peruvian Amazon?” He asked, “when” and I said “tomorrow!” He said, “Hell yeah!” and the next day we were on our way to Peru. Anthony worked 15 hour days during the Peru expedition, he impressed all the team with his adaptability and resilience. He is an extremely good cameraman and ‘sick’ good in the editing room. Because of this he is now our main cameraman and undoubtedly will make history with us!
I met Christine while she was on top of the squash mountain, the focal point of the vegetable displays at the 2013 National Heirloom Exposition. Christine had come to volunteer at the Expo and she was busy taking down the squash mountain which she has helped build since 2012. As the event was wrapping up, I asked her what brought her here. “Passion!” she said, “For all these amazing varieties!” I was impressed by her exuberant energy and dedication. After all, why would someone fly out from Missouri to work at a “Vegetable Expo” if she didn’t have it?
Her young life was influenced by spending time in the family garden growing ethnic vegetables. This evolved into a keen lifelong interest in unusual botanical edibles. She likes to share with others that “You can travel the world in your own garden.” Christine has many fortes beyond her professional graphic design talent. For Team Simcox she has become one of my newest “right” hands as my Chief of Staff. She manages areas of our media, strategic planning, and is my personal publicist, helping me organize talks and appearances around the world. Christine undoubtedly will find herself on the road before long and there is no doubt she will find the experience equally as invigorating to the behind the scenes work she has done so far!
Our brother-in-law Jake, has been a part of the family for most of his life. I first encountered Jake when he was at my house visiting. I had already started the life of being a traveler and was back home from college. Jake was super interested in my travels and he would ask questions. Years went by and he had his chance to join us.
One of the first trips that Jake took was a solo trip to Kenya. I bought him an airplane ticket, set him up with some equipment and wished him the best. Jake ended up living in a travelers camp on the outskirts of Nairobi. The place he stayed was famous among backpackers; the wonderful domain of Ma Roche. Ma Roche was beloved by all, she took Jake under her arm and helped him out just like she did with so many of her guests. Jake’s most vivid memory of Nairobi has nothing to do with a matronly polish woman, rather it has to do with him being chased with a madman wielding a machete. Jake has been on expeditions all over the world with Team Simcox and a trip with out Jake is like a trip without sunshine!
I thank the good lord for my parents. My father and mother deserve great credit for having raised us (me and my five siblings) with a most unique perspective on life. We all are non-conformist bohemians who value independence, free thought and the pursuit of knowledge. Looking back over my years I realize that what drives me is intricately linked to my parents. My mother instilled in me a great love for learning and my father a great love of nature and travel. Both taught us about hard work and perseverance.
Today even after hundreds of expeditions around the world the thrill of discovery never ceases. Each day that the god gives promises me to be another one of full of intrigue. I would not be who I am without the influence of hundreds of souls who have taught me, who have listened to me, who have criticized me and who have been generous with their time and friendship. If I succeed at carrying the torch and bringing my passion to others—so that they too stand in awe at the wonders of nature—I will feel that all the effort will have been worth it!
My little brother is one hell of a man. It is hard to explain why he is so unique, but I will try. Unlike me, Patrick has a heart of gold for all. The underdog homeless man and the rich man are equal in his eyes and he proves it. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times the rest of us sit and wait for Patty to finish a conversation with someone! Almost everyone he meets somehow becomes a friend. Patrick leaves such an impression on people that even people who have met him once remember him and ask about him. Patty pierces the hearts of people with his sincerity… he really cares. Top that with his audacious looks (girls swoon for him), and his “life force” and you have one unusual character indeed.
Patty started going on expeditions with me decades ago, but it has only been in the last 8 years that he has truly become a global explorer in his own right. After traveling to countries as diverse as Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Botswana, Australia, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Dominican Republic and Namibia Patty has really made a name for himself as an explorer. He has discovered species new to science (still waiting to be described and named) and he has made expeditions to some of the most dangerous jungles on earth. His favorite? An expedition into the deep treacherous jungles of the Darien Gap in search of an only recently described new palm; the magnificent and appropriately named, Sabinaria magnifica.
My little sister Susie started her “knowledge career” at the side of her brother. I have fond memories of holding my little baby sister on my hip and walking her down the beaches of Clearwater, Florida. Along with the rest of the family, while teaching her the scientific names of sea shells. By the time Susie was three years old she had memorized a couple of dozen species and she could easily roll out names like Melongena corona, Busycon contrarium and Oliva sayana. She went to the University of Chicago where she majored in French and biology. She has spent years living in Europe studying history, architecture and ancient culture.
Susie is now back in the states and she is the new Director of The Rare Vegetable Seed Consortium. For years the collection has been growing and about a month ago Susie decided to take matters into her own hands. She said, “Joe, we need to offer this material to a wider audience, otherwise all your work and the work of hundreds is well... worthless!”
It was then that the decision was made to launch the public face of The Rare Vegetable Seed Consortium. Susie has exploded into her typical lightening fast performance, within a week she had a functioning website (her first attempt). It is my expectation that she will be making waves everywhere with her extremely artistic and creative personality. Already she sees half of America getting excited and I think that she may not be far off… but I would say 75%!