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Seed Savers share expertise with community gardens across Ireland

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SCARIFF is reaching out to communities across the country, thanks to Irish Seed Savers who are to become ‘Seed Guardians’ for ten projects around Ireland.

Under a new initiative, Seed Savers is to provide training and mentoring in seed-growing and seed-saving to ten community gardens from as far afield Kildare, Leitrim, Dublin and Mayo. Support will be provided by experienced facilitators, who will guide the projects through the steps to enhance seed supply and reduce reliance on food seed imports to grow their own produce. The organisation believes that by supporting communities to grow and save their own food seed, it will improve overall access to seed and foster greater community engagement with the full food supply chain, from seed to plate.

The ten community gardens groups chosen to participate in the Community Seed Guardian Programme are: Mud Island Community Garden, Dublin; Monart Farm, Wexford; Kildare Town Community Garden, Kildare; Millenium Community Garden, Tipperary; Gairdín Gortahork, Donegal; Rossinver Community Garden, Leitrim; Bantry Community Garden, Cork; Kildorrery Community Garden, Cork; Trellick Community Garden, Galway; and Ballina Karen Community Garden, Mayo, a project run members of Myanmar’s Karen community who live in the area.

This training and mentoring programme was developed with funding received through Rethink Ireland’s Innovate Together programme and Community Foundations Ireland.

The programme was established in response to Covid-19 to build resilience in communities.

The Seed Guardian Programme responds to a growing awareness of climate change and fear over the limitations in the food supply chain brought into focus by the pandemic.

“We are excited to be given this support by Rethink Ireland, bringing the experience we have built over 30 years to the wider community across the island,” said Jennifer McConnell, General Manager of Seed Savers. “The growing demand for seed has been evident this year as more people take greater interest in taking control in their food supply, as well as doing more to reduce food miles, in an effort to contribute to climate action. Covid-19 and Brexit has also raised awareness about the threat to our food seed supply, so we are delighted to share our skills with communities, to help them build their own seed supply for long-term food resilience.”

This is a two-year programme and will require commitment of six days training, the total value of which will be over €1,000 per group. Mentoring, seeds, and ongoing support are also provided.

Irish Seed Savers has been in operation since 1991. Originating from an ambitious effort to create a central store of food crop seeds and fruit trees where none had previously existed, the organisation’s work to-date has been to research and protect rare, heritage and naturalised open pollinated food crop seeds and fruit trees on a 20-acre farm in Scariff.

Curating the country’s public seed bank of 600 varieties of heritage seed and the country’s 180 varieties of heritage apple trees, Seed Saver’s work has expanded over the years to include an education and outreach.

Last May, the Department of Rural and Community  Development, through the Dormant Accounts Fund, committed €5 million to the Innovate Together Fund as part of a larger support package to the community and voluntary sector. Rethink Ireland have since received additional donations from The Z Zurich Foundation, Medtronic, Twitter and The Oakfield Trust. The fund supports charities’ innovative responses to the Covid-19 crisis that will also provide lasting community change.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at or telephone 065 6864146.

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