Seed Gathering 2023
On 11th and 12th of February 2023, we hosted our second Seed Gathering – a space for our seed networks to come together to share, learn, and celebrate all the incredible work going on throughout our lands.
The Seed Gathering took place online to allow for international speakers and ensure the event is accessible and affordable. All of the videos from our Seed Gathering are also available in a showcase on our Vimeo channel.
Watch the recordings
In a hope to amplify the many calls to action heard during the Seed Gathering we have collated links shared from speakers and attendees. The full list is available to download as a pdf by clicking here
Into the Wind with the Seeds Zine
In collaboration with Custom Food Lab, we’ve put together a zine from contributions across our networks. It is intended to be a thoughtful accompaniment to our Seed Gathering schedule. Please enjoy!
|9am||Opening Plenary & Keynote||Opening plenary of the Seed Gathering and keynote by journalist, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme, and author of Eating to Extinction: The World’s Most Endangered Foods and Why We Need to Save Them.||Dan Saladino (BBC’s The Food Programme)
Facilitator: Sinéad Fortune
|10am||Accessing Agrodiversity||In these turbulent times of climate and political chaos, crop diversity remains key to ensuring we will be able to face the many challenges that lie ahead. We all want to ensure that we have food on our tables and crops in our fields.
Farmers in the UK no longer have access to the wealth of vegetable cultivars from EU catalogues and Irish farmers can no longer depend on a steady seed supply from their nearest neighbour.
We invite you to join three panellists from different backgrounds who will share their stories of how they have been accessing agrodiversity and facing up to the challenges of today.
|Adam Alexander (The Seed Detective), Pete Iannetta (James Hutton Institute)
Facilitator: Richie Walsh
|11am||Fruits of our Labour: The Black Oats Saga||Saving seed from extinction is only the first step in the journey of getting rare varieties back on our plates. We have recently concluded a quest of several years working to revive Welsh black oats, by linking engineers and chefs to be able to finally taste this rare crop.
In this session, we will hear from farmer Gerald Miles and chef Jaqueline Morgan about the partnership which enabled us to taste the fruits of our labour. We will then hear from Lane Selman about the ground breaking work at the Culinary Breeding Network to map flavours and develop new dishes (and demand) for rare crops.
|Gerald Miles (Caerhys Organic), Jacqueline Anne Morgan (Chef), Lane Selman (Culinary Breeding Network)
Facilitator: Katie Hastings
|12pm||Seed Saving for Market Gardeners||Market growers are the obvious start point when looking to get people saving seeds. This session will look at the issues involved with growing market crops while at the same time growing seed crops.||Ashley Wheeler (Trill Farm Garden), Chloe Blackmore (Little Bishop Organics), Colm O’Driscoll (seed grower)
Facilitator: Jason Horner
|1pm||Lunch||Virtual Lunchtime Tour: Vital Seeds|
|2pm||Queer Botany for Seed Savers||Botany is an essential part of learning how to save seed. Our knowledge of plants is entwined with heteronormative ideals which hark back to the Victorian era. Let’s elucidate these preconceptions and explore queer perspectives on plant botany for seed savers.||Chris Keeve (University of Kentucky), Dr Emily May Armstrong (Plant Biologist)
|3pm||Trials & Tech: Reflections on our Trialling||Join us to hear from Seed Exchange participants about how they got on with their ‘Growing Diversity’, ‘Celebration and Culture’ and ‘Building Resilience and Adaptability’ seed trials last year. Hear about the challenges and opportunities that presented themselves, and where we go from here.
Also, a special announcement will be made!
|Nico Enjalbert (SeedLinked), Colm O’Driscoll (seed grower), Finlay Keiller (Seeds of Scotland)
Facilitator: Richie Walsh
|4pm||Landrace Gardening||Landrace gardening teaches that plants are stronger, tastier, and more reliable if impure parents are cross-pollinating and undergoing survival of the fittest selection. An heirloom is a variety that was developed long ago, on a far away farm, and has undergone 50 years of inbreeding. Landraces are locally-adapted to current conditions, and have enough genetic diversity to change with the ecosystem.||Joseph Lofthouse (‘Landrace Gardening’), Pippa Chapman (Those Plant People)
Facilitator: Robyn Minogue
|5pm||Hodmedods Partner Session:
Scaling for In-Situ Agrobiodiversity Conservation
|Josiah and Steve will talk about how creating markets and excitement for less usual crops is a critical – and delicious – part of their conservation. Their experience with peas, beans and other pulses on two continents shows that there are a range of scales at which this works best, and that scale will vary for for different crops and geographies. ‘Appropriately scaled is beautiful’ as E. F. Schumacher didn’t quite say.||Steve Sando (Rancho Gordo)
Facilitator: Josiah Meldrum (Hodmedods)
|6:30pm||Saturday Night Film Club: La Restanza||Join us for an exclusive streaming of ‘La Restanza’, followed by Q&A with director Alessandra Coppola! Grab some dinner and settle in for a very special evening.
About the film
Salento, far south of Italy: an area as beautiful to visit, as harsh to live in. A land of labour exploitation and migration. A group of young people in their thirties gathers after a village feast. They have one certainty, they don’t want to leave, they want to remain in this place which it is said: “nothing has ever happened here and nothing will ever happen”. They will prove it isn’t.
|Alessandra Coppola (film director), Viviana Checchia (Delfina Foundation)
Facilitator: Cherry Truluck (Custom Food Lab)
|9am||Desert Island Seeds & Seed Sovereignty Programme Updates||If you were stuck on a desert island with one pack of seeds, what would it be and why?! Hear the marooned musings of the Seed Sovereignty Team, as well as exciting updates from all the connecting, training, and celebrating happening across these fair isles.||The Seed Sovereignty Team
Facilitator: Sinéad Fortune
|10am||Planning and Record-Keeping for Seed Growers||Planning and record-keeping are two of the most important tools in the seed growers’ toolbox.
Join two experienced seed growers who will share with us how they plan their seed crops, how important good record keeping is, and their hints and tips for making you a better seed grower.
|Fred Groom (Vital Seeds), Dan Brisebois (Tourne-Sol)
Facilitated by Richie Walsh
|11am||Be Heard! Legislation Action Workshop with Fulya Batur||The law of the seed is not only a complex labyrinth to understand and navigate, it is also hardly fit for the purpose of the different actors working to enlarge to diversity of vegetable and cereal seeds exchanged, cultivated and used in fields and gardens across the UK. The GAIA Seed Sovereignty Programme has worked for several years with small independent horticultural seed suppliers, as well as the heterogeneous grain network to approach and negotiate with competent public authorities (DEFRA and devolved governments). Following a stakeholder call for ideas from DEFRA in Autumn/Winter 2022 to drive a new Strategy and Vision for Seeds, it is now time for our network to stand up and be heard!
Join us for a practical workshop addressing the key issues with the current legislation as we see them, and what you can do to help influence seed legislation going forward.
|Kate McEvoy (Real Seeds), Charlotte Bickler (ORC), Steven Jacobs (OF&G Organic)
Facilitated by Fulya Batur
|12pm||New GMOs, Same Old Threat||GMOs continues to present a significant threat to the diversity and availability of the seeds we use to grow our food. Our experts introduce key technical concepts, explore the politics that influence this important issue and answer audience questions, both simple and complex.||Liz O’Neill (GM Freeze), Pat Thomas (Beyond GM)
Facilitated by Catherine Howell
|1pm||Lunch||Lunchtime Meditation with Zoë Palmer
Grab a bite to eat, unwind, and let Zoë guide you through a seed meditation before delving back into things.
|Zoë Palmer (artist)|
|2pm||Diaspora Seeds||Our seeds carry stories from home that travel with us as we journey across the world. We hear from four people whose seeds capture memories of their travels and connect them with family and friends near and far.||Dennis Touliatos (Lancaster Seed Library), Francine Hajilou (Entangled Roots), Zoë Palmer (writer, herbalist)
|3pm||Custom Food Lab Creative Partner Session: Seeding Imaginative Futures||
UK and international artists working at the forefront of cultural engagement with farming, seed saving and the politics of our food systems will join Artist and Creative Director of Custom Food Lab, Cherry Truluck in conversation. The panellists will be invited to share their current practice and discuss the potential of art as a vehicle to invigorate change and collectively imagine hopeful futures, asking:
How can contemporary art and community practices of seed-saving and growing learn from each other in solidarity and safety? How can we work co-creatively and sustainably to develop and share a deep understanding of the local whilst attending to our roles in a global (translocal) community? How can social/environmental movements acknowledge and embed different knowledge systems and ways of sharing (including cultural/arts engagement) without appropriating marginalised knowledge or being coopted themselves?
|Emilio Hernández Martínez (Cocina CoLaboratorio),
Raju Rage (artist), Andrew Merritt (Something & Son)Facilitator: Cherry Truluck (Custom Food Lab)
|4pm||Seed Machinery Hack||Processing seed crops efficiently is key to success as a seed grower, but with commercial equipment beyond the reach of small-scale producers, we take a look at equipment solutions which will save you both time and money.||David Catzel (FarmFolk CityFolk), Ben Gabel (Real Seeds), Debbie Gillies (True Harvest Seeds), Lucy Shepherd (Heritage Seed Library)
Facilitator: Jason Horner
|5pm||UK Grain Lab Partner Session:
Cereal Thrillers: Working with cereal seed diversity in the kitchen, in the lab and in community
|The topic of seed sovereignty is so overarching and powerful, change requires a holistic approach, collaboration and a commitment to step outside our current culture. Presenting the work of three exceptional and inspiring practitioners that demonstrate the breadth of action currently underway to reimagine cereal seed systems within the UK Grain Lab Network.||Shambala Fisher (Pasta Shambala), Laura Valli (US Bread Lab), Ruth Levene (Sheffield Wheat Experiment)
Facilitator: Kimberley Bell (UK Grain Lab)
|6pm||Closing Plenary||Reflections, gratitude and next steps||Liv Torc (Hot Poets)
Facilitator: Sinéad Fortune
Learn more about the speakers sharing their time, talents and experience at our Seed Gathering by checking out our Speaker Profiles (pdf).
About the Artwork
We’re thrilled to have collaborated again with much-loved artist Isla Middleton to come up with this iconic image to represent the Seed Gathering 2023.
With a popular series of foraging posters and calendars, Isla’s work had caught the attention of Gaia’s Seed Sovereignty Team and we knew that her earthy style would suit the Seed Gathering perfectly. Isla usually sources inspiration for her designs from plant forms, flowers and natural colours from her immediate surroundings, and this year she has highlighted the stories of three of our crops – chicory, amaranth, and heterogeneous wheat.
Chicory/raddichio fever is spreading rapidly throughout our networks, both for its ability to help us embrace our bitter side and for the opportunity it represents to diversify our offering of winter veg. For us, it represents our ties with sister networks internationally and inspirations such as the Culinary Breeding Network.
Amaranth is a favourite of the London Freedom Seed Bank, an inspirational community seed organisation. This plant represents the cultural diversity found in our communities here in the UK and Ireland, and the importance of celebrating these contributions.
The YQ/Wakelyns Population was bred through a collaboration of the John Innes Centre and the team at Wakelyns from the Elm Farm Research Centre (as the Organic Research Centre was then known). In population wheats, each plant is genetically distinct meaning the crop is diverse and more resilient. It represents the importance of genetic diversity in our crops for nutrition and in the face of climate change.
The Seed Gathering has been organised with support from four of our valuable allies – UK Grain Lab, Hodmedods, the Organic Growers Alliance and the Custom Food Lab. Each of these organisations represents collaboration in key areas of inspiring, connecting, and generally making good stuff happen.
UK Grain Lab – an annual meeting of farmers, millers, plant breeders, bakers, cooks, scientists and academics providing an opportunity to bake together, eat, drink, learn from each other and talk about the future.
Hodmedods – works with British farmers to provide pulses and grains from fair and sustainable UK production.
Organic Growers Alliance – is a network of growers, farmers and horticulturalists. The OGA is a peer-to-peer support network run by growers for growers as well as a place to exchange information and learn and it represents its members.
Custom Food Lab – is our arts programming partner, joining as part of their Arts Council funded project Seeding the Commons, which explores art-making as a practice of commoning knowledge systems around food and growing.