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New Seed Savers’ manager plants roots

Lisa Duncan, new manager of the Irish Seed Savers’ Association in Scariff.  Photograph by Declan MonaghanThe Irish Seed Savers Association has a new manager who is hoping to plant her roots in Seed Savers for some time to come.
Lisa Duncan comes to the Scariff-based national charity from an administrative background in theatre, community dance, film and television and although she hasn’t had an association with gardening, other than as a hobby, she is looking forward to the new role.
“It is a totally new venture for me. Apart from the fact that I would be a hobby gardener I would still have had a genuine interest and would have kept abreast of what Seed Savers was doing. I feel thrilled and very exciting because I have come at a really important time, as this is Seed Savers’ 21st year and there’s a real sense of all the jigsaw pieces slotting into place. We’ve got the buildings that we need and everything is starting to really work so we are coming of age and starting to really look at very important things for our future survival, in terms of being a visitor attraction,” Lisa explained.
Lisa said her vision for the future development of Seed Savers is to ensure the sustainability of the organisation and her focus will be to concentrate on the visitors and their experience when they are here. She aims for Seed Savers to become much more family friendly and to develop on the educational opportunities it has to offer as well as developing the cafe and shop so that when people visit, it is a day out.
“I would hope that while they are here they will learn about what we do and take a little bit of seed from here and save their own seeds. That’s the whole point really because we are all about heritage seeds and being able to grow and save your own seeds rather than the modern way of buying seed packets and having to keep on buying seed packets,” Lisa outlined.
She explained that her expertise is in people management and creativity so she hopes to come up with some new ideas.
“For me, it’s really exciting because I’m coming in at a very interesting stage. We have 22 staff here and a lot of them have been working a very long time and they have really good ideas and it is my job to draw those ideas out. “They have worked so hard to get Seed Savers to where it is but sometimes ideas can be put to bed so for me it’s a process of drawing those out and for me to decide in a creative way how those ideas can fit,” Lisa continued.
As the association is a charity and reliant on membership and donations to keep things going, Lisa accepts that her job to manage when the country is in a time of recession will be a challenge but she hopes to meet that challenge head on.
“I think it will always be a challenge but I’m really hoping to change directions and focus much more on the community as opposed to focusing on the work. The work is going to carry on regardless but bringing in the community is where we see ourselves going. Particularly, I would like to build on the connection with young families and that will automatically develop membership but it will also automatically develop an overall awareness of Seed Savers,” she said.
Lisa is hoping to build on the steady growth in membership, which the association has already built up and would like to include an educational focus on food safety and create more of an awareness of Irish seed heritage.
“We are hoping to have a late afternoon pizza to encourage the children to come in after school, where we will have homemade pizza and ice-cream. The idea would be that the children would be involved in the pizza making, stick their own toppings on and pop it into the cob oven. That’s one of the ideas. Another idea would be to bring in mums with new babies,” Lisa added. 
The organisation has plenty planned for the summer season, with the grand opening of their new seed bank, a first of its kind in Ireland. They are also encouraging members of the public and grow it yourself groups to visit, as it affords them an opportunity to take a tour of the grounds in Scariff as it comes into bloom.
“There’s so much here, it is so fascinating every day. I’d really like to see this through. It’s not going to be a flash in the pan thing for me. It will take time to evolve the ideas we have, some of these things will happen very quickly and others will take some time but that’s fine,” Lisa concluded.


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