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, in the hands of farmers, not corporations.
“Seed Sovereignty reclaims seeds and Biodiversity as commons and public good. The farmer’s rights to breed and exchange diverse Open Source Seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants”. Lexicon of Food
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.
– Encouraging local seed initiatives and connecting up seed saving networks across Europe and around the world through peer to peer learning exchange.
– Educating 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.
– Organising variety trials and 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 group. 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.
Ellen splits her time between the Seed Sovereignty Programme and market gardening in East Devon where, amongst other things, she works for Trill Farm Garden, a small-scale vegetable garden which supplies produce to restaurants and grows seed for the Real Seed Catalogue. Previously, Ellen has worked for the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) organising pathology-based varieties trials on broad leaf crops. She also holds a degree in Plant Sciences at University of Sheffield, during which she specialised in the effects of low tillage on soil health.
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.
Francis Everson is the regional coordinator for the South East of England. He brings experience from a broad background of work within production horticulture, including commercial organic seed cultivation and field-scale vegetable production. He is keen to support farmers and growers to ensure they can access and work with the seeds they need, irrespective of their scale, marketing or certification status, while also developing projects with amateur and community gardeners. Overall, he wants to develop the scope of seed stewardship and production while sharing and supporting the principles of independence, self-reliance, cooperation and equity within the sector.
Jason Horner is a part time seed saver based in Co Clare where he grows for Brown Envelope Seeds . He has 30 years’ experience in commercial organic horticulture and is now working as a consultant for the programme in Ireland. In 2010 he completed an MSc. in Organic Farming at SRUC (formerly SAC) Aberdeen. With a keen interest in the natural world he can be found outside work hours cycling, fishing, bird watching or swimming.
Catherine coordinates the seed network in the north of England supporting amateur and professional growers to grow more open pollinated seed for thriving, diverse and resilient food production. She is a co-director and founder of a ‘plot to plate’ community interest company in Teesside, runs the Middlesbrough Farmstart programme and has a background in helping people from diverse and challenged communities create gardens in urban spaces, particularly where these lead to new enterprises or work opportunities. Catherine is particularly interested in local and heritage varieties and celebrating the stories that sit behind them, and enjoys chatting to people at length about their growing adventures! When not actively engaged in mud, she enjoys making and crafting, which somehow always ends up back at seeds...
Anna recently joined the Seed Sovereignty Porgramme team in 2022, and previously worked to support the Programme's first official Seed Gathering in 2021. She is an avid grower with a passion for creating accessible technologies for community related projects. As a steering group member for the London Freedom Seed Bank, she helped to build the London Freedom Seed Base- a database that aims to capture the interactions between Varieties, Growing Spaces, Seed Batches and Growers. Get in touch to collaborate on anything seedy/ techy!
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.