On International Women’s Day 2022, we are celebrating the inspiring work of the women coordinating our Seed Sovereignty Programme which has trained over 500 seed savers across the UK and Ireland to-date.

Corn grown by urban seed savers in London. Photo: Andy Pilsbury.

 

Seed Sovereignty – women lead the way

Around the world, seed diversity is threatened, and yet it is critical for ensuring a secure and resilient food system that serves both people and planet. At a time of climate crisis, restoring global seed diversity has never been more urgent.

The Gaia Foundation’s Seed Sovereignty Programme aims to help restore this seed diversity by supporting the resurgence of a biodiverse and ecologically sustainable seed system here in the UK and Ireland. That means, wherever possible, organically produced and open pollinated seeds, grown locally to reflect the diverse growing conditions of the British Isles.

Offering trainings in seed saving, supporting community groups and connecting with seed networks across Europe, our women-led Seed Sovereignty Team are at the vanguard of the revival of our seed system.

 

Meet the Seed Keepers

 

Katie Hastings – Coordinator for Wales

Katie is coordinating the seed sovereignty programme in Wales. She is also co-founder of the community organisation Mach Maethlon where she coordinates a horticultural training programme, food hub and community growing scheme. She grows wheat as part of a collective, which is baked by a local bakery and eaten by people in Mid Wales. In her free time, she grows field scale potatoes and salad for her local ‘solidarity veg box scheme’. Katie is a member of the Landworkers Alliance Cymru coordinating grou. She is especially interested in rare oats.

Watch Llafur Ni, a short film that explores Katie’s work to revive endangered grain varieties with farmers and growers across Wales:

Llafur Ni

 

Helene Schulze – Coordinator for South East England

Helene is working with growers in South East England to increase their seed production. She is also co-director of the London Freedom Seed Bank and is especially interested in increasing the number and capacity of community seed banks across the region and getting more people saving seed. She strongly believes seed sovereignty to be the cornerstone of food sovereignty and food justice and particularly enjoys hosting seed storytelling circles and workshops on the politics of seed. She is also the communications officer for the Food Ethics Council and helps to run a small community garden in Hackney, London.

Watch A Quiet Revolution, our short film exploring the hidden worlds and profoundly important contributions of London’s seed saving networks:

A Quiet Revolution

 

Charlie Gray – Coordinator for North England

Charlie has been working on food systems for more than 10 years in Yorkshire, supporting community growers and connecting with allotmenteers and farmers. She is based at Horton Community Farm Cooperative where she coordinates seed-saving and co-founded and works cooperatively with various food organisations locally as well as permaculture networks nationally. She is an ethnobotanist by training and interested in the power of seed sovereignty to transform food systems and build community resilience. She is a Yorkshire plant-based eater who enjoys fresh leafy vegetables and broccoli.

Read Lunch at Mr Bean’s, Charlie’s account of meeting the daughter of one of the UK’s late seed heroes, Professor Colin Leakey:

Lunch with Mr Bean

 

Ellen Rignell and Robyn Minogue – Regional Coordinators for South West England.

Ellen Rignell. 

Ellen is a talented seed custodian, part of the South West Seed Savers Cooperative (SWSSC) who is supporting trainings for agroecological seed production in south-west England.

Robyn is a grower and horticulture teacher. With a background in arts and activism. She is particularly interested in the intersection of food and social justice, having previously worked as part of a prisoner resettlement charity running their market garden.

Read Robyn and Ellen’s latest blog, in which they share a bit about the exciting varieties thriving in the hands of seed keepers in the southwest of England:

Southwest seed stories

 

Sinéad Fortune – Programme Manager

Sinéad supports the programme at a national and international level. This includes engaging with advisors on legislation, coordinating the overall framework of the programme, creating opportunities for engagement and education, and developing partnerships with key organisations.

With a background in food security, community empowerment and social enterprise, Sinéad’s previous work has been in community-based food production, sustainable food innovation and community funding.

Whether you’re a commercial grower, a passionate allotmenteer or a home gardener, our Seed Sovereignty resources page has some wonderful tools for all, thanks to Sinead:

Seed tools and resources


Find out more

While International Women’s Day may occur on one day every year, the incredible work these women do happens all year round and should be celebrated and appreciated every single day.

If you feel inspired by their groundbreaking work, and you’re interested in seed saving and production, visit our Seed Sovereignty website to find out more.

Seed Sovereignty