Why did we start?
Back in 2013 on a Sunday afternoon, pondering the natural beauty of our native wild flowers, we wondered where Ireland’s Seed Bank is. We didn’t find one. Several individual organisations, both private and public have great seed facilities already, but that work is primarily for food and agricultural crops. Crop wild relatives and some endangered species have also benefited from conservation work with various organisations across the island. But until True Harvest Seeds there has been no dedicated ex-situ seed bank for all our wild flowers, shrubs and trees. We also have some varieties of vegetables and herbs that do well here.
Ireland’s flora is generally regarded as being a subset of European flora. We at True Harvest Seeds question this and suggest that this is a broadly sweeping assumption.
It is for this reason we have set up a dedicated Centre for the research into and preservation of flora from the island of Ireland. Our ecosystems work as a whole which includes humans, we disregard any part of it, even the smallest and especially those we don’t understand, at our peril. The computer won’t work if even the tiniest diode is missing.
Getting set up
In December 2013 we took professional business advice and set up as a limited company with charitable aims and in April 2014 were awarded charitable status. Along with prior knowledge on seed technology, farming naturally without chemicals, horticulture and business we approached Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and in November 2014, two of their experts generously came here to stay with us for three days. They gave us training in making the high quality seed collections and much much more. So many methods and much thinking – necessary for a successful seed bank. In 2016 Debbie undertook a three week live in course on Seed Conservation Techniques at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, tough stuff to learn so much so fast.
One of our members bought a field, in Kilclief, Co Down which enabled True Harvest Seeds to have a long and secure lease on two acres and this is where the Seed Centre is today. As a result of this plus the generous funding, we can accommodate visitors, pass on our learning by teaching, sharing and developing the Seed Centre and Seed Bank. At the Seed Centre we have an office, a polytunnel, a laboratory, community space and outdoor growing areas and beds. If you or your group want to learn more you can book a tour to learn more.
Ultimately – what we are aiming to achieve – to create:
- A Seed Centre of excellence; an indigenous plant resource centre on the island of Ireland.
- A gene bank containing a high quality scientific collection of each native species from each habitat.
- A research facility for genetic testing of our DNA sampling and information dissemination about the findings.
- An ongoing source of native-origin seed, available via the seed bank for research or seed packets for everyone.
- A hub for visitors to enjoy a day, exploring the plants that provide us with our unique natural heritage and the life it supports.
- A herbaria so future generations can see what the seed collections should look like if they grow out some seeds.
- An opportunity for learning and becoming involved in this detailed work in practice – out collecting seeds and specimens – growing in the nursery – seed banking techniques. Who knows what present and future researchers will discover about Irish plant life once we can dedicate time and effort into native plant research.
We are extremely grateful to the efforts and kindnesses given to True Harvest Seeds, for the funding we have received from so many, for our skilled and dedicated seed collectors and for the belief you have shared with us in our vision – to save the future of our beautiful Irish wild flora. It has been quite a journey which continues…