The UK’s community owned seed company, Seed Co-operative, is one of three finalists in the BBC Future Food category of the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2017.
The Seed Co-operative is a community owned company, growing and selling organic and biodynamic open pollinated vegetable, herb and flower seed in the UK. It is run on a small farm in Lincolnshire with a small team of staff and volunteers. Set up in 2014, it is building on the 20 years of work by Stormy Hall Seeds, the biggest organic vegetable seed producer in the UK on just 7 acres. (Watch the trailer of Seed: the Untold Story here: www.seedthemovie.com/trailer)
Nine of every 10 mouthfuls of food derives from seed, yet little seed is now produced in the UK - 80% of open pollinated seed is imported. Globally, 75% of seed is sold by just three corporations, whose interests are in pesticides and fertilsers.
People can take back the future of their food through the community ownership of a seed company. People can grow and eat chemical-free, localised food for their families, while reconnecting with their natural world.
Without open pollinated seed the evolution of our crops is in jeopardy, leading to a risk for our whole food system. The current food system is dominated by seed varieties that entirely rely on a functioning ecology. Yet our climate is constantly changing, and so these conditions will be altered, leading to an unstable climate for these seeds to grow in.
In the natural world, insurance is provided by diversity, and that is what we need with our seeds. Supporting locally grown, open pollinated seeds will ensure diversity, and therefore a stronger future for our food systems.
Maddy Harland, Permaculture's editor says: "I am more than happy to endorse the Seed Co-op as a favoured source of seeds for my annual veg growing. Their seeds achieve a high germination rate and strong healthy plants with good yields. I have been using them for years."
As a Community Benefit Society, the financial backing is provided through donations, grants and community shares, with 220 people now being co-owners. Their focus is on regenerating UK farm-based organic seed production and participatory plant breeding amongst small scale growers to ensure the availability of appropriately priced seed of the best quality and suitable for UK growing conditions.
Seed Co-operative has a customer base of over 4,000, partly inherited from Stormy Hall Seeds, and deals with commercial growers and organic retailers, plus mail order and web sales to gardeners. In 2016 there were eight growers producing seed as part of the network, in 2017 this figure is expected to double.
David Price of the Seed Co-operative said “We are delighted to have been given this chance to tell our story about the future of food. Food is not ‘man-made’ but produce of the natural world and it all starts with seed. We are bringing seed production back home and re-connecting farmers, growers, gardeners, chefs and ‘people who eat’ with the natural world, through co-operation. Vitality, diversity and resilience is what our seed is all about.” BBC Future Food Award The winners of this award are providing cutting-edge innovation and pioneering work that could influence how our food will be grown, distributed or sold in future. This award is for an ambitious and groundbreaking idea found within the food supply chain; from initiatives by national retailers and major food and drink manufacturers to new models being put into practice by farmers and producers. Who’s introducing the new ideas other food businesses will want to follow? It could be work that deals with sustainability, access, health, energy or waste; any initiative which is scalable, commercially viable and applicable to food production and distribution in the UK.
The Seed Co-operative will ne working with the Gaia Foundation on their UK and Ireland Seed Sovereignty Programme, which is being established in 2017. The documentary SEED: the untold story is receiving its London Premiere on 22 April www.seedthemovie.com/london
If you're interested in buying shares, please do consider it; there is great strength in numbers! www.seedcooperative.org.uk/support/
Charles Dowding & Stephanie Hafferty share their seed saving techniques in the new issue of PM, out in April