On the fourth day of our travel to Ireland we visited the center of the Irish Seedsavers Association near Scariff. After a brief introduction and a nice lunch we were guided through the whole farm which is more than 7 hectares. We got many thoughts, I would like to share them with You.
The local seedsaving story began 24 years before, when Anita Hayes (an American woman) brought back original Irish varieties.
Later on many other professionals joined who were active on this field. Keith Lamb collected native apples, while Michael Miklis had a collection of original grain species. The structure of the group and the association were developed by Bridget Carlin. Thanks to her work now they have lots of members in the Irish Seedsavers Association who support the project in terms of finance.
In the past two decades the community started various professional projects. They have a worldwidely unique collection of self-rooting apple trees. These types can propagate without grafting. Maybe this “skill” is directly descended from their wild ancestor.
Besides the above mentioned original grain collection they have also wide variety of running beans and special cabbages. After all, the most popular topic is about potatos: since the history of Ireland is connected to this plant, people tend to honour potatos (and like different kinds). Finally, they have more than 600 kinds of vegetable seeds, 140 varieties of fruits and 25 ancient grain.
Besides the gardening they engage in other activities like bee-keeping, forestry, cheese-making, etc. Groups can come and participate on events and courses. Topics are different: composting, organic gardening, planning of orchards or even setting up polytunnels. This last is extremly important in Ireland, because of the regural rains and continous wind.
Beyond the numerous vegetable beds and the large orchard the farm has many buildings on the spot, too. The first small center was extended with a cafe and a visitors room. There is a shop and different kinds of storage buildings: one for the potatos and other roots, one for drying seeds and a cold store where they can preserve the varieties for long years.
Why this project is successful, how to manage well an initiative like this?
Personally I think one of the most important factor is the professionality. There are well educated staff on key positions: from the growing of plants, through the harvesting and processing of seeds, till the storage and documentation. All of these are in good hands. They cooperate with scientific instituts and high schools, as well.
Not less important is the social aspect. It is good as they try to get involved people around, also youngs from schools. It could be interesting for class to journey here and learn. The site has its own “young-corner” with a pond, insects hive, composter and also living buildings made of willow. It is also pratically useful for all members of the association that they receive varieties which are inaccessible in normal shops. In exchange of the yearly fee they get 10 different types of seeds and discount on buying fruit trees.
Maybe we even cannot understand the importance of the task what Irish Seedsavers (and similar initiatives worldwide) do. To enable agro-bio-diversity spread around a country and also in the world can allow our long-term survivorship on Earth. Not only because of the wider range of nutritions we can get from them, but also because of their skill to adopt to the changing environment. It seems this question gets more and more actual these days…
We are all affected by the questions of food-security, not only those who have not got enough to eat. It is our common duty to maintain diversity! Let us do now what we can: somebody just buy local food on the market (try to choose old varieties), others can step further and use traditional seeds in their garden. Let us connect to local initiatives who are working with original varieties and support their activity with our interest.
This articles was written by our volunteer, Geza Bohm. Thank you Geza!