Around the world, seed diversity is threatened, and yet it is critical for ensuring a secure and resilient food system that serves both people and planet. At a time of climate crisis, there has never been greater urgency to protect and restore global seed diversity.
The Gaia Foundation’s Seed Sovereignty Programme aims to support the development of a biodiverse and ecologically sustainable seed system here in the UK and Ireland. That means, wherever possible, organically produced and open pollinated seeds, grown locally to reflect the diverse growing conditions of the British Isles.
A friendly and committed team of Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinators – based in South West, South East and North East England, and in Scotland, Ireland and Wales – are working closely with small-scale market gardeners and seed producers, community groups and land workers to create the conditions for a diverse seed system to thrive. Meet the team further down this page.
Together with our partners we’re supporting diversity and knowledge revival by:
– Offering trainings to learn the skill of seed saving and to support commercial growers to diversify their businesses through small-scale agro-ecological seed production.
– Supporting community groups and growers dedicated to conserving diverse varieties of vegetable seed, oats or grains. Reviving the related knowledge associated with these varieties through research and intergenerational learning.
– Encourage local seed initiatives and connecting up seed saving networks across Europe and around the world through peer to peer learning exchange.
– Informing the general public and influencing policy makers about the need for diverse, open-pollinated seed, where to buy them and how to support small-scale producers through fair legislation.
– Supporting variety trials and explore participatory plant breeding for future resilience.
Through this dedicated programme website you can:
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.
Katie is coordinating the seed sovereignty programme in Wales. She is also co-founder of the community organisation Mach Maethlon where she coordinates a horticultural training programme, food hub and community growing scheme. She grows wheat as part of a collective, which is baked by a local bakery and eaten by people in Mid Wales. In her free time she grows field scale potatoes and salad for her local ‘solidarity veg box scheme’. Katie is a member of the Landworkers Alliance Cymru coordinating grou. She is especially interested in rare oats.
Robyn is the regional coordinator for the South West of England while also being a grower and horticulture teacher. She currently runs a kitchen garden for a local seasonal restaurant and is an active member of the South West Seed Savers Network. With a background in arts and activism Robyn is particularly interested in the intersection of food and social justice, having previously worked as part of a prisoner resettlement charity running their market garden. Robyn can often be found helping others set up new growing spaces from scratch in whatever space may be available, she is committed to supporting others to overcome barriers to both food growing and seed saving.
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 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 is working with growers in South East 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.
Jason Horner is a seed saver based in Co Clare. He has 30 years’ experience in commercial organic horticulture and is now working as a consultant for the programme in Ireland. He studied for an MSc. in Organic Farming at SRUC (formerly SAC) and works as a Coordinator with the Organic Growers of Ireland on their Small Growers Network.
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.