John Navazio
John Navazio
John Navazio
John Navazio
John Navazio

Green Burial @ Baldwin Hill Conservation Cemetery

11:00 am
Friday, June 7, 2024
Baldwin Hill Cemetery
Fayette Corner Rd
Fayette, Maine, United States

Obituary of John Navazio

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On June 1st, in the early morning hours, Dr. John Navazio left the field, and yet his legacy will live on season after season in the harvests of countless gardeners and farmers, and in the hearts of all those he inspired and loved. We are many.

John was born on February 5, 1955, to German and Italian immigrants Wilma Margaret Roth and Peter Navazio, in Landstuhl, Germany while his father Peter served as a Captain in the US Army. He was raised in Staten Island, New York, while his mother attended Columbia and then moved to Alexandira, Virginia his school age years.  He loved to lapse into east coast accents, and often give a little lecture on the nuances of accents from neighboring geographies. Let’s be honest, lecturing was one of John’s favorite pastimes, and he did it so well. His anecdotes, aphorisms, and theories were colorful, often comical, and always entertaining. A plant breeder by training, John was a born teacher and shared his knowledge and experience with generosity and passion. Curiosity was his measuring stick of a person’s character; if they didn’t have it, he tried to inspire it. 

John’s plant breeding career grew out of his love for farming and farmers. In 1981 he headed to Oregon to be a firefighter but took a tangent and stopped by River Brook Farm near Eugene, Oregon. He never made it to the forest and stayed in the field. After several seasons as a farmer his curiosity led him down the path of seed and headed back to school, first to teach sustainable agriculture at the College of the Atlantic, and then went on to get his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Farmers stayed in his heart, and his approach to breeding was always to understand what a farmer needed and work closely in a participatory process with the farmer to develop breeding projects. 

He worked at Garden City Seed in Missoula, Montana; Alf Christianson Seed in the Skagit Valley of Washington; Abundant Life Seed and Organic Seed Alliance in Port Townsend, Washington; and Johnny’s Selected Seed took him back to Maine, a place he deeply loved. Along the way John bred varieties like Purple Dragon Carrot, Astro Arugula, Shiraz Beet, Dark Star Zucchini, Cool Customer Cucumber, and so many more. And of course, dozens and dozens of breeding lines he shared with others to encourage them to develop new varieties. John was “open source” with his seed and knowledge before such a phrase was coined, and humbly gave credit to all others who he learned from and who had shared with him. 

Along the way, he made friends and fans. 

In addition to being big-hearted, he was also big-voiced, a booming sound that not only carried his musings on plant breeding but also his love of music. John played guitar, and was in several bands over the years, with the fan favorite being “The Pheromones” which played at organic farm conferences around the country. He had an encyclopedic memory for music, obsessively collected records and could tell you which studio musician played on which recording with shocking accuracy. 

Last, but not least, and above all of these accomplishments, John was a father and husband. He loved and talked about “the apple of his eye”, his girls Emilia and Zea with joy and tenderness at times playing make believe animal town and bonding with Emilia over batting averages and the Yankees, being a stickler while editing Zea’s collage papers. Terri Matson, his wife, was the deep love of his life, a partner in both farming and life's adventures, shared a journey that took them through marriage, divorce, and ultimately, a remarriage—a testament to the resilience and enduring bond they shared and when they landed together back in Maine he felt he was the luckiest man in the world and truly at home in heart and in place.

John will be buried in Maine with a green burial, giving back to the soil and land in death as he did in life. The family asks donations to be made in John’s name to Organic Seed Alliance, the nonprofit he co-founded.


Memories and condolences may be shared with the family at



Grave side Funeral Service at the Baldwin Hill Cemetery. 

Baldwin Hill Conservation Cemetery    
Fayette Corner Rd.  
Fayette, Maine 04349


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