Paula Bramel (Chair)

An agricultural scientist with a Ph.D from Iowa State University in the USA and more than 30 years of experience as a teacher and a researcher, Paula’s background includes 11 years as a Professor of Agronomy at Kansas State University, as a sorghum breeder, plus 12 years of international research experience in plant breeding, seed systems, and biodiversity research at ICRISAT and IITA. Paula has also been involved in agricultural research and development with a focus on plant breeding, seed systems and biodiversity conservation.

She also has extensive experience in research management, including as the Deputy Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust where she continues to work with them as a consultant. As a consultant with the Crop Trust, she has led the development of global crop conservation strategies with global partners for coffee, tea, and apples. At the Crop Trust, she has been involved in the development and promotion of a global gene bank information system, Genesys (httpss:// In addition to currently serving on the ISSA Board, she was also member of the Expert Review Committee for the Global Access to Seed index ( httpss:// ) from 2015-2019.

Paula originally grew up on a farm in central Illinois in the US. She has been actively engaged in advocacy and research for organic agriculture since her early years. She continues to pursue an organic approach to food production in her own garden since she and her husband came to live in Schull in 2016.

Christine Costelloe (Board Secretary)

Irish Seed Savers is an organisation I have supported since moving to Ireland from America several years ago. My engagement with the organisation started as a supporter and grew from there to being a workshop and event attendee, a fundraising and marketing advisor and I am now delighted to be serving on the Board of Directors. Through my Board role, I support Irish Seed Savers by advising on fundraising and marketing strategy and sharing knowledge about climate change, agriculture and food security.

The organisation plays a critical role in environmental conservation by connecting people to the importance of protecting Ireland’s food heritage and food security through education, outreach, research and organic seeds and fruit trees. From my very first interaction with Irish Seed Savers, I have been inspired by the dedication and skill of every team member to deliver on the organisation’s objectives. I have also enjoyed meeting the organisation’s many supporters who are passionate about topics such as growing, environmental stewardship, conservation and Ireland’s heritage.

Irish Seed Savers is entering an exciting time in its development and continued support will be vital for the organisation to meet its ambitious strategic objectives. Over the next few years, investments in education, outreach and research capacity, physical and technology infrastructure and development of the team will be required to achieve efficiency and impact. I am excited to support Irish Seed Savers’ growth as the leading food conservation enterprise, nationally and internationally.

Christine Costelloe holds a Masters of Science in Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (MScCCAFS) from NUI Galway, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), a Bachelors in Economics, and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE).

Líosa Beechinoor

Líosa is a barrister whose practice focuses on land, landlord and tenant and probate matters and who is a member of the environmental bar association. In addition, having studied food law at university and having a particular interest in food resilience and biodiversity, she has an enthusiasm for the work of the Irish Seed Savers Association in conserving and promoting seed diversity and for its stewardship of Ireland’s national heritage apple tree collection. 

“The work of ISSA, both in terms of food defence and food resilience is incredibly important; preserving and conserving seed diversity is a natural insurance policy that is particularly needed in circumstances where climate change has made weather both more volatile and more unforgiving. ISSA also carries out crucial work in educating and encouraging people to grow and save open pollinated seeds for their food. In this way, through raising awareness and creating community, it is helping reconnect the ‘agri’ to the ‘culture’ in food cultivation and I am proud to be a part of that.”

Martin Hanan

Martin Hanan was born in Cork. He has extensive experience and a strong background in the manufacture, sales and marketing of fast moving consumer goods. Initiated manufacturing start- ups in both Ireland and South Africa. A Former Ernst and Young Sponsored Young Entrepreneur of the Year, he has served as Sales Coordinator with Cantrell and Cochrane, Sales Manager with Rowa Pharmaceuticals, CEO of Internet Business Ireland and Managing Director of Martins Natural Foods.

He first became a shareholder and was appointed Managing Director of the Alternative Pizza Company in late 2005 and retains ownership of the brand today. In 2015 he founded Brandbrokers a multi-agency food brokerage representing high-end European food producers here in Ireland and the UK. He loves orchids and Love in a mist and is delighted to join the board of Irish Seed Savers where he hopes to assist the sales and marketing team in achieving their goals.

Paula Pender

I have been involved in Organic gardening for the past 20 years, both in Ireland and the US. After studying organic horticulture at the Organic College in Dromcollogher Co. Limerick, I ran an organic vegetable and cut-flower business in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, selling through a weekly vegetable box scheme, local food co-ops, farmers markets and wholesale outlets.

On returning to Ireland I put two acres of family land into conversion and have been growing on a similar scale, establishing sales through local markets and a weekly vegetable box scheme. During this time I also entered the educational side of growing and became involved in teaching horticulture. I now run the QQI Level 5 Certificate in Horticulture distance learning at the Organic college, where I teach students from a wide variety of backgrounds. This has allowed me to share my practical growing experience with new entrants to the sector. In 2015 I completed a master’s degree in Organic Horticulture at UCC which has further deepened my knowledge and expertise in the area.

The combination of my work as an organic grower and my involvement in the education sector has given me extensive knowledge and experience of all aspects of small-scale organic vegetable production. I am passionate about promoting the importance of small scale local food production that use sustainable growing practices and I look forward to contributing to the important work that Seed Savers does.

Anita Hayes and Tommy Hayes (Founding Members)

Anita Hayes was born in the American Midwest and moved to Ireland with her husband Tommy Hayes in 1989. During her studies in Ecological Agriculture at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington she was shocked to learn of the risks to food security through the loss of genetic biodiversity and began to focus her studies in this area. Inspired by the Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa in the US, Anita found that there was no similar organization in Ireland. Acutely aware of the importance of the work, she decided to just give it a go in Ireland and so began Irish Seed Savers Association.

Tommy is former Chairman and a founding member of Irish Seed Savers. Tommy Hayes has been at the forefront of traditional Irish music for over 30 years. He has been a member of a number of ground-breaking bands during his career. He was a member of Stockton’s Wing from the bands inception in 1977 to 1983 recording four seminal albums. He was also the original percussionist for Riverdance. The strong link between Traditional Irish Music and the land inspired Tommy to create a recent collaborative film, dance and music performance called Apples in Winter which is now available on DVD the proceeds of which are being donated to Irish Seed Savers Association.