Scotland is unique in the UK and Ireland seed network, as there are no commercial vegetable seed producers here. The last Scottish seed company, D.W Croll of Dundee, closed their doors in the 1980s. Around this time, other Scottish seed companies either closed down or moved “down south”. Growing seeds in Scotland comes with its own set of challenges. The wet weather, and often high humidity, make getting a seed crop to ripen and dry in the field a difficult task. On the flip side, because of our cooler climate, many pests and diseases are not found here, or are at much lower levels than in England and Wales.

The lack of Scottish grown seeds means that Scottish growers are forced to buy from elsewhere; these seeds will expect a warmer, drier climate than Scotland to germinate in. Growers know this and a new generation of Scottish growers are keen to cultivate their own vegetable seeds adapted and ready for our unique climate.

Contact

Email: richie@gaianet.org
Twitter: @scotlandseedsov

Training

In Scotland, we offer an Introduction to Seed Saving course. In the past, this was run as a full day of training on a farm in Scotland. Due to the pandemic, we were forced to move this training online instead and run it over two webinars. Every cloud has a silver lining: we quickly realised that online training enabled growers from The Highlands and Islands to attend sessions that would have been inaccessible had they been run in the Central Belt. In the post-pandemic world, we have decided to keep the Introduction training online to allow as many people as possible to attend.

The topics covered in the Introduction to Seed Saving course are:

  • Basic taxonomy
  • Pollination & isolation techniques
  • The politics and history of seeds (UK context)
  • Incorporating seed crops into your system
  • Case study of two seed crops

We run the introduction to Seed Saving in Scotland course twice a year, usually in early autumn and in late winter. If you would like to express interest in signing up, please send an email to richie@gaianet.org

 

Year-Long Course

Following on from the Introduction course we also offer a Year-Long Seed Saving course. In order to sign up for this course, you must have completed our Introduction course or a similar seed saving course. You must also have at least three years’ experience of growing vegetables and be willing and able to grow two seed crops and keep records of these crops as the practical part of the training. The topics covered in the Year-Long course are:

  • The politics and history of seeds (global context)
  • Seed crop pests and diseases
  • Non-parasitic seed crop disorders
  • Legalities of selling seed
  • Plant reproductive strategies
  • Seed savers guide to genetics
  • An introduction to plant breeding and variety selection
  • Seed harvesting, processing and packaging

At the end of the Year-Long training, the participants will be asked to present their two crop portfolios to the rest of the group. The Year-Long training starts in March and runs until November covering one growing season. It is comprised of both online and in-person sessions.

When growers have completed the Year-Long training they get access to a number of advanced training opportunities. We aim to expand these opportunities in the coming years. Completion of the Year-Long training also gives growers access to taking part in other seed trials. Next year Scottish growers will be trialling to find the best neeps (swedes) for our climate and systems. They will also be trialling Scottish heritage vegetable seeds from various English suppliers to find the best seed stock out there.

Scottish Seed Hub

The Scottish Seed Hub was set up by the growers who completed the Year-Long training in 2021. They are currently bulking up a number of seed crops for commercial release in spring 2024. The Scottish Seed Hub is following in the footsteps of The Wales Seed Hub. They are concentrating mainly on heritage Scottish vegetable cultivars. Membership is open to growers who have completed the Year-Long training.

Rematriation

A number of Scottish heritage vegetables have been lost to time. Some of these that were extinct in the UK have been found in gene banks and seed catalogues abroad. The Scottish network is working hard on finding old Scottish verities and returning them to be grown again in Scotland.

Also in Scotland

Grain Network: Scotland has a vibrant culture of small-scale agroecological grain growers. It is because of these growers that we still have many heritage grains such as bere barley and Hebridean rye. The Seed Sovereignty Programme is supporting and connecting many of these growers with millers, bakers and brewers to help build a new food system in Scotland based around our grains. We do this in cooperation with our friends at Scotland the Bread and Common Grains.

Uncommon Grains: In February 2021 we connected Scotland’s bere barley network with the Welsh black oat network online for Uncommon Grains, a celebration of our unique grain crops and the people who work with them. We plan to host another Uncommon Grains event in the near future.

Human-Scale Technology: One of the major bottlenecks for our grain growers to bring their grain to market is the lack of human-scale machines for processing. Much of the grain processing equipment in use today is only suited for use with many hundreds of tonnes of grain. The seed sovereignty Programme has been working with rye grower, baker and engineer Adam Veitch to develop and build an open-source, human-scale oat de-huller. We hope to develop build and release the plans for more human-scale grain processing machines in the coming years.