About the Seed Sovereignty Programme

The Seed Sovereignty Programme of the UK & Ireland aims to support the development of a biodiverse and ecologically sustainable seed system here on home soil. Working closely with farmers, seed producers and partners across the seed sector, together we want more agro-ecological seed produced by trained growers, to conserve threatened varieties and to breed more varieties for future resilience.

The programme is being led by The Gaia Foundation who have been working on seed and knowledge for over three decades both in the UK and overseas.

Objectives

  • To support and cultivate regional and national connections and collaboration to provide coherence across the food and seed sector.
  • To support farmers and growers with further skills, resources and information.
  • To foster a more supportive environment for a biodiverse and ecologically sustainable seed system to thrive.

Activities

  • Strengthen networks and support hubs of seed producers across the UK & Ireland
  • Train farmers & growers in seed production, processing and storage
  • Lobby with partners for changes to legislation that encourage small-scale seed producers
  • Establish a database providing useful information on varieties, by growers for growers
  • Variety trials designed to assess varieties suitable for agro-ecological cultivation and their ability to produce seed in various landscapes and climates across the UK and Ireland
  • Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) with researchers and breeders
  • Raise awareness amongst new farmers and growers and the general public on the issues of seeds, their provenance and their production

Regional Coordinators

Meet the Coordinators who are based across the UK and Ireland...

Maria Scholten
Coordinator for Highland and Islands Scotland

Maria is supporting growers and crofters across Scotland. She has been working in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland collaborating and advising on seed issues and policy with the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) for many years.

Katie Hastings
Coordinator for Wales

Katie is coordinating the seed sovereignty programme in Wales. She is also co-founder of the community organisation Mach Maethlon which works to strengthen food sovereignty in Mid Wales.

Ellen Rignell
Coordinator for Southwestern England

Ellen is supporting growers in the Southwest of England to increase their seed production. She also works for Trill Farm Garden, a small-scale vegetable garden which supplies produce to restaurants and grows seed for the Real Seed Catalogue.

Wayne Frankham
Coordinator for Ireland

Wayne is supporting growers across Ireland. Wayne has worked as a Community Organic Gardener since 2006, growing & selling produce, co-ordinating a community seed system.

Sinéad Fortune
Programme Manager

Sinéad supports the programme at a national and international level. This includes engaging with advisors on legislation, coordinating the overall framework of the programme, creating opportunities for engagement and education, and developing partnerships with key organisations. With a background in food security, community empowerment and social enterprise, Sinéad's previous work has been in community-based food production, sustainable food innovation and community funding.

Charlie Gray
Coordinator for North England

Charlie has been working on food systems for more than 10 years in Yorkshire, supporting community growers and connecting with allotmenteers and farmers. She is based at Horton Community Farm Cooperative where she coordinates seed-saving and co-founded and works cooperatively with various food organisations locally as well as permaculture networks nationally. She is an ethnobotanist by training and interested in the power of seed sovereignty to transform food systems and build community resilience. As a Yorkshire plant-based eater particularly loves all manner of leafy vegetables and broccoli (fortunately)!

Richie Walsh
Coordinator for Lowland Scotland

Richie joined the team in June 2020 as the Lowlands Scotland Seed Sovereignty Coordinator. He has an academic background in amenity horticulture, market gardening and plant conservation. He works professionally in the field of horticultural therapy and is a keen amateur botanist specialising in the heather family native to Europe. He has a passion for community food growing. Over the last decade, he has set up and run community gardens in Dublin, Amsterdam and Glasgow. When not digging in a garden or wandering and botanising in the countryside, Richie can be found brewing his own beer, mead and hedgerow wines.

Helene Schulze
Coordinator for Southeast England

Helene is working with growers in Southeast England to increase their seed production. She is also co-director of the London Freedom Seed Bank and is especially interested in increasing the number and capacity of community seed banks across the region and getting more people saving seed. She strongly believes seed sovereignty to be the cornerstone of food sovereignty and food justice and particularly enjoys hosting seed storytelling circles and workshops on the politics of seed. She also the communications officer for the Food Ethics Council and helps to run a small community garden in Hackney, London.

The Gaia Foundation
Programme Host

The Gaia Foundation has been working at the nexus of climate, seed and knowledge for over three decades, both in the UK and overseas. Across Africa we support local and indigenous communities to revive their local seed diversity, by restoring confidence in their traditional knowledge and governance systems. In 2012 we released Seeds of Freedom, a documentary narrated by Jeremy Irons and exposing the true story of the corporate takeover of seed. In 2014 we hosted The Great Seed Festival on London's Southbank, where the idea for a UK wide seed programme was first conceived. A Feasibility Study reaching out to seed growing networks across the UK & Ireland was conducted in 2015 and the programme started in 2017.

The Gaia Foundation in Partnership with

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