About Irish Seed Savers
Irish Seed Savers Association exists as a living testimony to the richness and wealth of the agricultural legacy of our ancestors. Irish Seed Savers Association was founded by Anita Hayes in 1991. The work was initially done on a small farm in Co. Carlow before moving to Capparoe, Scarriff in 1996.
We were very fortunate to have the help of Dr. Keith Lamb who had conducted the original research into native Irish apples in the 1940s and Dr. Michael Hennerty former head of the Department of Horticulture in University College Dublin who has continued to provide wisdom and expertise. In 1996 the project moved to its present site in Scariff and in 1997 a FAS community employment scheme developed by Bridget Carlin secured employment for many staff.
Through the hard work of staff, volunteers and the generosity of subscribers and friends of Irish Seed Savers we have grown steadily since that time.
In 1996 Michael Miklis, began efforts to conserve Irish grain on his own farm in Co Kilkenny.
In 1997 the Native Irish Apple collection (Lamb/Clarke) was inaugurated by President Mary Robinson.
In 1998 an Irish Brassica project was started in co-operation with the Wellesbourne Gene Bank in the U.K.
With the acquisition of new land we were able to build a purpose built Educational Facility and small Shop and Café. We currently offer a wide range of Workshops on subjects such as Organic Gardening, Bee Keeping, Making the most of your Polytunnel, Cheesmaking, Creating and Orchard and many more.
Our new building has also provided office and administration space.
The new land also houses our New Research Orchard a Cob House, Earth Oven, a New Polytunnel In 2008 we completed a Horticultural Therapy Unit located just outside the Shop and Café. This facility has specially prepared octagonal raised beds which are wheelchair accessible. We have hosted a number of workshops for people with physical and intellectual disabilities in this Horticultural Therapy Unit since it opened and look forward to hosting many more.
We also have a colony of hives of the Native Black Bee on the new land since 2008.
Irish Seed Savers Association achievements to date include
- The creation of the Native Apple Collection containing over 140 distinct varieties
- The creation of the Native Irish Grain Collection with 48 varieties
- The establishment of a Seed Bank containing more than 600 rare and endangered vegetable varieties
- The establishment of a Native Brassica Collection
- The creation of a Native Broadleaf Woodland and Wildlife Sanctuary
- Extensive areas of beautifully landscaped seed gardens and peaceful orchards which are open to the public
- Establishment of a colony of hives of Native Black Bee
- Maintenance of a separate living malus (apple) gene bank helping Ireland to meet its obligations in the area of conservation and sustainable use of Plant Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture (PGRFA)
- A unique orchard of over 33 self rooting varieties of apple trees that require no grafting for propagation. This is probably the largest collection of this type of apple tree in the world
- The donation of 1% of our earned yearly income to support other organizations with similar aims within Ireland and in the developing world
Today we have 20 dedicated staff under the direction of Lisa Duncan, around 600 heirloom vegetable varieties; 48 heirloom grain varieties; 140 native apple varieties and an heirloom potato collection. We are grateful for the support of our local community and the many volunteers who come from all over the world. We are especially grateful to the many Subscribers and Friends of Irish Seed Savers. Without their financial support we would be not be able to continue to expand this very important work.
Our main objective is the conservation of Ireland’s very special and threatened plant genetic resources. Our work focuses on the preservation of heritage varieties from all over the world that are suitable for Ireland’s unique growing conditions.
Irish Seed Savers Association maintains a seed bank (help by donating to our seed saving project) with over 600 non-commercially available varieties of seed. All of our subscribers receive 5 free packets of seed annually along with starter packs of heritage potatoes (subject to availability). Manuals on Seed Saving and Fruit Production are available so that so that these essential skills and the craft of Seed Saving can be passed on to future generations. We also offer workshops on a range of topics including Organic Gardening, Creating Orchards, Cheesemaking, Bee Keeping.
How you can Help
In this way we share the task of conserving Ireland’s fruit, vegetables, grains and potato’s in a real and practical manner. Who knows? Perhaps you have the last of a particular type of fruit tree, or know of a family who may have been saving the seed of a rare variety of fruit or vegetable. The race is on; the knowledge of heritage plants is often with elderly people and could easily die with them.
Join us and be part of this vital work by subscribing to Irish Seed Savers Association. Your contribution will ensure that this living legacy can be held in trust for future generations.
When you become a subscriber you will receive 5 free packets of heritage open pollinated seeds, 3 varieties of heritage potatoes (subject to availability) a 10% discount on Apple Trees and Workshops and a bi annual newsletter.in addition to free entry to Irish Seed Savers Organic Seed Gardens, Orchards and Woodlands.
The Irish Seed Savers Association is one of very few organizations in Ireland engaged in this urgent work; time is running out for finding these old varieties. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. Extinction is forever!
How we go about conserving
We locate rare varieties of vegetables, soft fruit, flowers, grains, potatoes and apple trees and then conduct research on them in our gardens. We then select varieties which are hardy and suitable for the local climate. This process takes time patience and skill and our subscribers, Friends of Seed Savers and the public are rewarded with tasty and productive varieties to grow at home.
One of Irish Seed Savers Association’s main aims is to raise public awareness about the vulnerability of Irish agricultural biodiversity to schools and community groups through workshops. We encourage and facilitate liaisons with government departments, universities and gene banks worldwide.
Irish Seed Savers Association has received awards and recognition from many governmental, environmental and heritage organizations.
As environmental issues come more the forefront in all of our lives, the small efforts of many make a real difference. Join us so that you can help.