Paula Bramel (Interim 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.

Lynn O Keefe Lascar (Company Secretary)

My interest in Horticulture started as a teenager, as a rebellion against my techy family! I joined the Irish Seed Savers Association when it was just Anita and Tommy in Co. Carlow, before the current site was even bought. After school I went on to study an NCH in Commercial Organic Horticulture in Otley College in Suffolk and worked on organic farms in West Cork and Tuscany for several years. Then in 2005 I helped to set up a community orchard in Kinvara Co. Galway, and went on to run the garden for 11 years until it was sold into private ownership in 2015. In that orchard we grew about 50 Irish Seed Savers apple trees on a mix of root stocks and I learnt a lot about growing apples from that experience and from Roger Phillimore, a knowledgeable grower who was part of the community garden team. We were also seed guardians for the Irish Seed Savers in the community garden, and I attended the seed grower’s course in Scariff.

I returned to education in 2012 and studied for a degree in Amenity Horticulture at Greenmount College in Antrim. From that I got employment with the OPW as the Craft Gardener in the walled in kitchen garden attached to Portumna Castle. This is a bit of a dream job for me, I get to grow lots of fruit and vegetables but also flowers, shrubs, and trees. The garden is open to the public from Easter to Halloween, and I love chatting to the visitors about the garden and the plants and the wildlife that shares the space with us. I also teach with the GRETB a FETAC 4 course in Horticulture in Mountbellew.

Having always kept up my membership with Irish Seed Savers and a keen interest in the work they do it was interesting to be asked to join the Board of Directors as a horticulture rep. It’s not something I took on lightly, as meetings can be just a way of keeping minutes and losing hours! But it’s a good group that works well together and we’ve a very good chair in Ted Brookes. It’s almost a year since I joined the Board and I hope to be a positive influence in the future.

Conor Carty

I am delighted to be joining the Board of Irish Seed Savers. I hugely respect the work undertaken by the organisation and I am looking forward to assist in the future development and direction. I hail from Loughrea in County Galway. I am the manager of the Rural Development Programme (LEADER) in Galway Rural Development.

My background and passion is in agriculture and rural development. Growing up on a farm, and working with many farming organisations throughout my career such as Macra Na Feirme and Ornua has developed a strong interest in the agriculture sector at all definitely level from farm to corporate level. I am equally interested in the sustainability of rural communities from an economic, social and environmental perspective. I hope to be able to assist Irish Seed Savers by bringing my experience from working in sustainable agriculture and rural development over the years.

Christine Costelloe

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).

Caitríona Fitzgerald

I began my working life in the horticulture sector. Upon leaving secondary school I worked on a number of sustainable development projects as a Willing Worker on Organic Farms in Germany. When I returned to Ireland I lived in a Camphill community where I volunteered as a community gardener. My experiences at Camphill motivated me to pursue a formal qualification in horticulture and in 2001 I completed a Certificate in Amenity Horticulture at Teagasc, Kildalton College. After which I worked for a number of years in various aspects of the horticulture sector in Ireland, the U.K. and Germany from propagation nursery work, sustainable development, to floristry and back to gardening.

In the mid-2000s I transitioned from the horticulture sector into administration. From 2008 to 2013 I worked as a research project administrator in Dublin City University on two research capacity building projects. This role also brought me to Malawi and Uganda where I co-organized research capacity building conferences at Chancellor College, Malawi and Makerere University, Uganda. During this period I also began a degree in Social Science at Maynooth University, at the end of which I was awarded the John and Pat Hume Scholarship to continue my studies in sociology. In 2018 I completed my Ph.D. in Sociology. My research explored 9 to 12-year-old children’s understandings of citizenship and their experiences of democratic participation at school.

I currently work at the Educational Research Centre, Dublin where my work involves research and evaluation of the DEIS school programme.

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.

Míchéal Ó Drisleáin

I live in a beautiful part of West Waterford, in the small rural community of Ballymacarbry. I have built a large garden over the past number of years and have a great interest in nature, growing vegetables and gardening. I am a supporter of Irish Seed Savers for a number of years and feel the work the organisation does is extremely important.

I completed a law degree in UCC before going on a 6 year PhD adventure studying a collection of Irish from the Waterford Gaeltacht. Tá suim mhór agam sa Ghaeilge agus gach a bhaineann leis an teanga agus an cultúr Gaelach. My day job sees me work as Director of Coláiste na Rinne, an Irish language educational college in the Waterford Gaeltacht of an Rinn, and I also work part time in UCC and with TG4.

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.

Deirdre Treacy

Deirdre is a Sales and Marketing professional with 15 years of experience in both commercial and non-profit sectors. Early on in her career she worked as a Sales & Marketing Manager in the analytical software company,SPSS. When the company merged with IBM in 2009, she played a key role on the team that re-branded their consultancy group to a company that later became IBM’s leading implementation partner for Predictive Analytics solutions in Ireland.

A passion for volunteering has always been a consistent part of her life and she has undertaken various short and long-term projects in Spain, Peru, Jordan, Thailand & Bolivia and served on the National Committee of the Volunteer Service International (VSI). It was this experience that sparked her belief that she could use her commercial skills in Sales and Marketing to better the social issues she was passionate about.

Following a nine-month EVS placement in a homeless charity in Spain, she returned to Dublin to join the Fundraising team in ActionAid Ireland. She left the organisation as Supporter Marketing Manager in 2016 and moved to Galway to start her current role as Fundraising & Communications Manager in Galway Simon Community.

Deirdre’s qualifications include a BA in International Marketing & Japanese, a Post Graduate Diploma in Commercial Management and more recently, a first-class MSc in Digital Marketing & Analytics. Coming from a farming background and understanding the critical importance of the work undertaken by the ISSA, she is embracing the opportunity to join the Board with both hands and is eager to identify the relevant and meaningful value that she can bring.

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.