Volunteering

If seeds and plants interest you, then together we can help preserve Ireland's flora.

Last year, Debbie was delivering a talk on what we do at True Harvest Seeds and after describing in enthusiastic detail how we were able to restore a habitat from the seed bank that was destroyed in storm Ophelia, an older gentleman posed the question “Yes, but what’s the point”…. Silence in the room.

“Among the [7] billion human beings, the older generation, including me, is getting ready to say goodbye to this world. The youth has to carry the responsibility for the future. So, please realise your responsibility, remember your potential, and have self-confidence. Have an open mind and a sense of caring and belonging. The freshness and strength that youth has should not fade away. You must keep this enthusiasm.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

So, in answer to the question: We are preserving Ireland’s wild flowers for the pleasure of future generations to come. People who we’ll never meet, who haven’t been born yet. It is not success that makes us great, but the endeavour. Endeavour to improve ourselves, to feel good about ourselves and leave behind us a world that our children may enjoy, just like we had.

A voice now, for each of those who can’t speak for themselves.

A comprehensive collection of all Ireland’s species, across the country, is a huge undertaking. We want to share our collecting, growing and seed conservation information and pass on the legacy of knowledge. There are many ways to help; administration, governance, fundraising, outreach, marketing, web upkeep, volunteer leadership, seed collecting, data upkeep, seed conservation, germination testing, horticulture, evaluation, business experience, site maintenance and more. So whether you have an area of expertise you’d like to share and/or you want to learn new skills we’d love to hear from you. To find out more about our volunteer roles, please contact us by emailing debbie@trueharvestseeds.co.uk.

Volunteer registration forms and role descriptions are available to download below.

Completed registration forms can be emailed to debbie@trueharvestseeds.co.uk or posted to True Harvest Seeds, 36 Ardglass Road, Kilclief, Downpatrick, BT30 7NS

Role Descriptions for:

Office work

Learn how to run a charity

There’s a lot of admin to running a charity. We will soon be applying to the generous Heritage Lottery Fund – Resilience Fund, they “can help you to strengthen your organisation, and build the capacity of your staff and volunteers to better manage your organisation“. If you are interested in getting involved with the work that THS does on a more fundamental level then we would be very pleased to hear from you. Contact debbie@trueharvestseeds.co.uk.    

Seed Collecting

Out and about, making the seed collections.

Come out on a seed collection expedition, it’s not easy but you’ll learn about plants and their seeds. The collections offer the opportunity for you to receive our training on how to make scientific seed collections of wild flowers and trees that will be suitable for long term banking at -20C. With our training, you could become an independent collector and donate collections to the Seed Bank, all with your name on them, enshrined in history within Ireland’s 21st century native wild flora seed bank. There are four tree seed collection outings in 2019. You have to be physically fit and healthy to be able to do it, it is demanding.

Nursery work

Produce plants from seed ready for planting out

At our Seed Centre, Kilclief, Co Down, we bring back to life the skill of growing plants for seed and the art of successful seed saving. And you can join in. By volunteering as a growing helper, you will be helping Ireland’s native origin flora, and you’ll learn how to grow native plants for seed. We use samples from the seed collections and grow them on. The seedlings will be pricked out and grown on in modules until they’re large enough to go out into the ground. We grow species out so that we can collect their seeds and these, with their native heritage can be used in conservation projects. To ensure genetic integrity of the new generation we aim to have 250 mature seeding individuals, so results from the germination tests tell us how many seeds to sow. We don’t molly coddle the plants too much to avoid breeding in weaknesses but just enough to give each good growing conditions to thrive. We also have future growing projects to make native plants available as plugs for restoration projects.  

On yer tractor

Plenty of outside work available

There’s 1.5 acres of land to be managed at Kilclief.  All our work is done without the use of any chemicals, which means plenty of weed control and grass cutting. Ground preparation, the soil here is a 65% silt, 25% sand and 8% clay with the rest organic matter, so we’re able to get onto it early. The gentle south facing slope means it’s warmer than many. Plants planted with the planter, we sit behind the tractor and drop the plugs from the nursery down the shute into the furrow opened up by the coulter and then closed up by the press wheels once the plant roots are in.  If the tractor isn’t suitable we plant plugs in by hand. Some plants require isolation from wild relatives found in the countryside so different methods of isolation and pollination are used.

Laboratory work

Seed science

To make the seed ready for long term banking at -20C there are several processes to go through. You’ll learn techniques on seed conservation. As collections come in the seed needs to dry and mature. They can then be cleaned, the method depends on the type of seed. Then we dry them down in the cooled incubator to 15RH – critically dry for a seed. After this germination tests are carried out, under differing circumstances, which determines whether the collection will be suitable for long term storage. If they are suitable the collection is accessioned into the seed bank. Throughout, the results of all of the above as well as the data collected with each collection is entered and stored in our databases.