Starting in Autumn 2020 with an introductory Seed Saving webinar and series of videos, we put together a programme which would both deliver training in growing and saving seed, but would bring together the people doing this to create a group ethos, and incorporate peer-to-peer learning
There would also be a distributed risk in growing, with usually 2 different sites growing a variety, so one failed crop wouldn’t risk us losing the variety. We wanted to see which varieties would suit the tastes of people here as well as suit the growing conditions, which varied from coastal (and island!) gardens, to high in the Sperrin mountains, as well as numerous urban gardens.
Open Pollinated Seed was sourced from Real Seeds in Wales, before the introduction of new trade restrictions made this impossible. We put out a call for gardens willing to take part in a guided seed saving programme which would connect them with their peers across their area and further afield. The cross-border element was important to us and we received a good response from the Donegal gardens with 8 registering to take part. Tyrone and Derry together provided a further 9 with the remaining 6 coming from Antrim and Down.
We held 10 zoom sessions/webinars over the duration of the course and managed a real life visit to the inspiring True Harvest Seeds in August.
We achieved many successes during the first year – over 20 000 individual seeds saved, of 39 varieties- of French Bean, Peas, Tomato and Cucumber
A really lively and actively Whats App group has been bubbling along right from February 2021 with fantastic discussions and exchanges
Our real life seed Gathering-In was a lovely occasion, and the feeling of meeting up in real life, bringing the seeds we had saved to share with our new seed community was really special
We spent time Germination Testing and making sure seeds were properly dried
Packing up happened both on an individual and group basis
Seeds were distributed out in time for Christmas!
We have made links with other Seed Libraries and seed sovereignty organisations – Gaia Seed Sovereignty Programme, Irish Seed Savers Association, True Harvest Seeds, the London Freedom Seed Bank, Incredible Seed Library in Wales.
The ‘Seed It Union’ has also emerged from the group – developing an identity beyond the course and programme, and looking to keep the mission and momentum going well into the future.
Now in our second year we are expanding the FSSSE for graduates of the first year – moving onto new crops, continue to grow and bulk up old crops and build our expertise and data.
We have starting working with new groups as well and are delivering workshops to other organisations that wish to incorporate a seed saving element into their work
We are so grateful to Necessity for their funding which has enabled us to create this transformative project. Thank you!