We're all passionate about securing plant life on the island of Ireland.
Back in 2013 on a lazy Sunday afternoon, pondering the natural beauty of Ireland we wondered where Ireland’s Seed Bank was. What we discovered was that while much great work was being achieved by individual organisations, both private and public and mainly for food and agricultural crops, with some specialised work being done on crop wild relatives and some endangered species by individuals – there was no dedicated seed bank for our common wild flowers, shrubs and trees.
We contacted Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank and asked them was Ireland’s flora well represented in their world class seed bank? We were warmly received and subsequently sent a list of the species from Ireland that they had. The list contained 31 collections, including some duplicates.
Well, we thought we’d better set up a dedicated seed bank. We took professional business advice, in December 2013 set up as a limited company with charitable aims and in April 2014 were awarded charitable status.
One of our members bought a field, in Kilclief, Co Down, to enable True Harvest Seeds to have a long and secure lease on two acres. Along with the knowledge we already had about seed technology, farming naturally without chemicals and business we approached Kew’s MSBP again. In November 2014, two of their experts came here to stay with us and gave us training in making the high quality seed collections and much much more. So many methods and much thinking – necessary for a successful seed bank.
We have since then gone from strength to strength, crossing bridges and hurdles as they came along. Sharing the increasing burden of company and charity governance. Training, reading, learning, teaching, sharing, developing.
We have set up a Seed Centre at Kilclief comprising an office, a polytunnel, a laboratory, community space and outdoor growing space. Open to the public during normal working hours with two staff members and many wonderful volunteers both at Kilclief and far afield out at collecting sites we are extremely grateful to the efforts and kindnesses given to True Harvest Seeds, for the funding we have received from so many and for the belief you have shared with us in our vision – to Save the future of our beautiful Irish wild flora.
Ultimately – what we are aiming to achieve – to create – A dedicated plant resource centre on the island of Ireland for the island of Ireland. A seed bank containing a collection of seed from every species from each habitat. A research facility for genetic testing of our DNA sampling and free information dissemenation about the findings. A hub for visitors to come and enjoy a day, exploring the plants that provide us with our unique natural heritage and the life that they support. A herbaria accessible so future generations can see decades and centuries into the future what the seed collections should look like, a double check when they grow out some seeds. An opportunity for learning and becoming involved in this detailed work in practice – out collecting seeds and specimens – growing in the nursery – seed banking techniques – who knows what present and future researchers will discover about Irish plant life once we can dedicate time and effort into intricate research.
It has been quite a journey which continues…
Debbie Gillies BSc(Hons) Computing Science with dip in industrial studies. Organic grower. NVQ2 Environmental conservation, NVQ3 Community facilitation. NVQ2/3 Community environmental leadership. RHS level II. Seed Conservation Techniques, Kew.
BSc Sociology. Director/manager Eco Seeds. NVQ Nursery stock production.
Director and line manager
BSc(Hons) Zoology. NVQ2 Environmental conservation. ABC cert. of Arboriculture.
Kindergarten teaching cert. Mother of four children. Shaman, spiritual healer. Owner of InTune Therapies.
BA(Hons) Accountancy and finance. Currently working on an internship with KPMG.
Qualifications and many talents to be updated.