About Irish Seeds Savers
Who We Are
Our main objective is to protect Ireland’s food crop heritage for future generations. Our work focuses on the conservation of heirloom vegetable seeds and Irish heritage apple trees. In recent years we have expanded the scope of our work to include crop varieties from all over the world that are suitable for Ireland’s unique growing conditions.
Irish Seed Savers Association maintains the country’s only public seed bank, with over 600 non-commercially available varieties of seed. We also house the national collection of Irish heritage apple trees in our orchards, with over 180+ unique varieties. Throughout the year we run a wide range of workshops, host school tours, and invite the public to participate in our events days. We encourage communities to come together to share seeds and plants, all with the aim of promoting Ireland’s biodiversity.
What We Do
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 supporters 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. As environmental issues come more the forefront in all of our lives, the small efforts of many make a real difference.
Founded by Anita Hayes on a small farm in Co. Carlow in 1991, Irish Seed Savers exists as a living testimony to the richness and wealth of the agricultural legacy of our ancestors.
In 1996 the project moved to its present site in Scariff and in 1997 a FAS community employment scheme, developed by Bridget Carlin, secured a site and employment for many staff. Anita’s passion drove the project forward and enlisted 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 provided his wisdom and expertise.
Through the hard work of staff, volunteers and with the support of our subscribers we have grown steadily since that time and developed into the 20 acre farm that you see today.
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.
From 1999 with the acquisition of new land we were able to build a purpose built Educational Facility and small Shop and Café. Our new building has also provided office and administration space. This land also houses our New Research Orchard, a Cob House, Earth Oven, and a Polytunnel.
In 2013 we built the country’s first public seed bank which allows visitors to learn about the process of seed saving and the importance of conservation for long-term food security for future generations.