The UK’s only community-owned seed company, the Seed Co-operative produces and sells open-pollinated seed that ‘belongs’ to everyone and no-one. Established as a community benefit society in 2014, the Seed Co-operative is an incredibly important endeavour. The Biodynamic Land Trust is proud to support it, alongside the Biodynamic Association, Garden Organic, and the Organic Research Centre.
The last year at the Seed Co-operative has seen sales double as demand for biodynamic / organic seed has rocketed. Volumes were very strong before lockdown. However, once peoples’ previous pattern of life was disrupted there was a very significant uptick in orders. Clearly new and established gardeners placed extra orders but the effect further up the supply chain was also felt. Many organic / biodynamic growers saw a huge hike in orders for their vegetables, whether through box schemes or market stalls; this led to many more seed orders for the Seed Co-operative as production increased.
From the beginning of lockdown to the middle of May they had to limit their checkout opening hours to ensure they could continue to fulfil orders in a timely fashion. As the seed packing, picking and dispatch is all undertaken in rooms in the house which is also the home of Kate and David, other staff could not come into work and different forms of home-working were adopted. Much higher sales volumes were sustained through the summer than in previous years. They have recruited more staff who will be living on site to help this winter.
The frantic sales have resulted in less seed crops this year, but they have still managed to produce good amounts of seed of the following: three tomatoes, three lettuce, carrot, parsnip, celeriac, beetroot, pepper, red cabbage, spinach beet, basil, cauliflower and some roots to grow on for seed next year. Their network of growers are also starting to send seed in now.
Sustainable farming needs to be adaptive to changing climate and environmental conditions and open-pollinated seed provides this resilience in a way that no other seeds can. This is seed that is renewable, so farmers and growers can save it for the next year. It can also be used to naturally breed new varieties – it is the open source software of food.
Currently 80% of the organic vegetable, flower and herb seed sold in the UK is imported, so the Seed Co-operative is establishing a network of seed growers to grow the UK adapted seed that we so critically need.
Not many people realise it, but most of the vegetables that we eat are grown from seed that is, in one way or another, ‘owned’ by one of the six global corporations. The use of F1 hybrids also means that seed saved by growers does not ‘breed true’ and the seed is useless. In addition, patents on plants secure the ownership still further, and breeding techniques using genetic engineering (but not labelled as GM) can make seeds saved from these plants infertile: all of which means seed has to be bought every year.
opportunity to invest
The Seed Co-operative has successfully raised over £450,000 so far and now has more than 350 members. It is seeking additional investors to reach its £750,000 target. For more information about investing see the Seed Co-operative website.
donate to the seed co-operative
It is also possible to donate to the Seed Co-operative via the Biodynamic Land Trust. We will use 100% of your designated donation (less online payment fees e.g. Stripe fees) to buy shares in the Seed Co-operative for the purchase of its farm, Gosberton Bank Nursery. There are two methods of payment available:
Bank transfer or cheque (no bank charges incurred)
Click here to download and print the donation form.
Please complete and send to us at the address on the form and make your donation by your preferred payment method – cheque or bank transfer.
If you are a UK tax payer, please tick the Gift Aid box to ensure we can boost your donation.
Alternatively you can make an online payment below.
Seed Co-operative is the trading name of Biodynamic and Organic Plant Breeding and Seeds Limited, which is registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, registration number 7013. Registered office: Gosberton Bank Nursery, Spalding, PE11 4PB