Irish Seed Savers Association’s Projects
Preserving Irish Biodiversity
We have over 600 varieties of heritage, open pollinated vegetable varieties from Ireland and from gene banks around the world. Our apple tree varieties include native Irish varieties and those few English, US and French apple varieties that were traditionally grown in Ireland for many many years. We have a unique self rooting apple orchard whose trees require no grafting for propagation. These were found on the remains of very small homesteads where they were grown as a disease resistant and economical food source.
Our latest project is the construction of a new Seed Bank and processing and drying facility. We will have a seed drying tunnel, a viewing area and within the seed bank itself there will be a number of different areas for the processing of the seed from farm to finish these include a sorting and threshing area, a dehumidifying room, a packing and sealing room, a long term freezer facility, a small laboratory and a seed stock room.
Please click here if you would like to donate to our Seed Bank Fund. We are very grateful for your help so that we can realize this very important facility. This facility will see us able to increase the amount and quality of seed we can produce as demand grows. If you are interested in running an event to fundraise for this project please let us know.
The Native Irish Apple Collection
The first collection was made in the 1940s by Keith Lamb then planted on land belonging to Dublin Corporation; tragically it was destroyed. Anita Hayes, working with the late Peadar MacNeice of the Armagh Orchard Trust and Dr. Michael Hennerty of University College Dublin, began to replicate Dr. Lamb's collection. Now all but 18 of the original collection are found. In 1997 this collection was opened by President Mary Robinson
Irish Seed Savers Association has been involved in a variety of research projects over the last 15 years. Research into apples, plums, grains and vegetables are ongoing. Some of the research has included the antioxidant properties of some of the old apple varieties and the omega contents of native flax seed. We are particularly proud of the Education Project, which is aimed at educating the young in the importance of biodiversity.
In the early 1990's we began a search for traditional Irish varieties of apple. These apples were once reknowned for their range of taste, texture and cooking qualities. They were grown before the advent of pesticides and some of them are more resistant to scab, mildew and canker than modern cultivars. The success of this project is result of many years of hard work by members of the public, local historians, scientists, and Irish Seed Savers Association staff. Kevin Dudley was our first dedicated orchard manager who was able to build the collection with his expertise in grafting from poor specimens of dying trees from around the country.
Before the introduction of the potato, Irish people included grain as a dietary mainstay, particularly oats. Oats were used in breads, desserts, drinks, medicines and cosmetics! Other grains that were grown included barley, flax, rye and some wheats. Unfortunately, many of these grain varieties were lost and we had to turn, primarily to the Vavilov Institute in Russia, the first genebank in the world, to repatriate our native grains. Michael Miklis in Piltown, Kilkenny, working with very small quantities of grain, over many years trialed them and bulked them up so that they could be resown on field scale again.
To date, many of these native Irish oats and several wheat, barley and ryes have been re-established. The varieties of grain that are available for farmers to grow today have steadily decreased over the years and the potential for these native grains as a reliable food source is great.
The Education Project was created with the support of the Genetic Advisory Board of the Department of Agriculture. It aims to promote a greater awareness of agricultural biodiversity for children. It is a positive response to the new Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) syllabus, recently introduced into Irish National schools. We have hosted Summer Teacher Education Section Course for Primary Teachers; and with Kerry Earth Education Project produced A Year Round Organic School Garden, a Living Classroom publication. We have enjoyed the enthusiastic company of over 1300 children visiting our site over the last few years!
Preserving Native Trees
We have devoted over 2 acres of land to a native Irish woodland and wildlife sanctuary. Some of the varieties in our Native Irish Woodland are Alder, Ash, Silver Birch, Bird Cherry, Hazel, Holly, Rowan, Oak, Scots Pine, White beam, Spindle and Willow. Members of the public have sponsored the planting of this sanctuary and we are grateful for their support which has provided a new home for a variety of local wildlife and birds. We are currently expanding our woodland and you too can become one of our sponsors. This makes a lovely wedding, commerative, birth or anniversary gift!