The Seed Co-operative has come into being as an initiative of the Biodynamic Association, supported by Garden Organic and the Organic Research Centre, working with Open Pollinated Seeds and experienced seedsman Hans Steenbergen.
Although initiated by the Biodynamic Association, for the Seed Co-operative to be a success a wide collaboration of people will need to be involved. Farmers, growers, home gardeners, chefs, professionals and amateurs, everyone involved in building a resilient food system, will be able to benefit through access to seeds, advice and training from the Seed Co-operative.
The future of farming, by default, lies in the hands of younger generations. After many years that have seen the average age of a UK farmer increasing towards retirement age, new blood is coming in to farming. Many young people entering farming have not inherited their farms and are starting small, often in social enterprises or Community Supported Agriculture. Although the economics need to be proven it is hoped that seed growing might provide another enterprise for small farms.
After growing in 2015 on a 4 acre field of a small organic farm in Laxfield, Suffolk, we moved to Gosberton Bank Nursery.
Half way between Spalding and Boston in south Lincolnshire, not far from the A16 or A17, Gosberton is situated in the middle of an area that is dotted with seed companies. The Grade 1 soil here is ideally suited to vegetable growing and the climate is relatively dry making it easier to harvest seed crops in the autumn than in other parts of the country.
On a total site of 24 acres we are fortunate to have 2½ acres of glasshouses with a rainwater fed reservoir for irrigation. With buildings for seed processing, machinery maintenance and storage, and a sizeable house for staff accommodation and offices we have everything we need here to bring our plans to fruition.
Not only does the site provide us the facilities for our own seed production and sales, plant breeding and knowledge sharing activities, it also will allow us to create a hub for processing seed produced by a network of small organic or biodynamic growers around the UK.
We currently have two staff living and working at Gosberton Bank Nursery. David Price and Kate Ayre moved here in February from Suffolk where they were growing seed for us in Laxfield in 2015.
David had wide ranging experiences before working with and for the Seed Co-operative. After agricultural college he had his own contracting business undertaking practical land management work, mainly on nature reserves. This included woodland and scrub management, livestock fencing, mowing and a firewood business. Later David moved in to project management and design, working for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Environment Agency and Heritage Lottery Fund.
Kate has combined motherhood with working in complementary health as a reflexologist, building up a busy practice before changing direction towards her other passion; growing.
David and Kate have a strong bond forged through raising a family. After their children moved from the family home they moved too and established a smallholding in their spare time. With a polytunnel, fruit and nut trees, sheep and chickens they didn’t make any money but did gain lots of good experience and undertook courses in biodynamic farming, homeopathy for farm animals, permaculture and related subjects.
David’s main areas of responsibility are in the development of the Seed Co-operative as an organisation. Kate is our main grower and between them them run the web shop. The secret to our success is in mutual support and co-operation, and using all of the skills that people bring. Kate and David are the first to acknowledge the help and support they get from members of the Board and a host of volunteers.
Hans Steenbergen has spent 20 years as a seedsman, establishing and running Stormy Hall Seeds at Botton Village in North Yorkshire. Hans was a founder of the Seed Co-operative and is sharing his wealth of experience with us so that we can build on this invaluable work.
Peter Brown; Director of the Biodynamic Association. Peter has farmed biodynamically since he was 21, working in South Africa and Germany before moving in 1994 to manage Tablehurst Farm in Sussex. In 1996 Tablehurst became the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives in the country with the farm business now owned by 600 shareholders.
Neil Munro; Programme Manager of the Seed Sovereignty for U.K. & Ireland programme with The GAIA Foundation. Working with partners to build a resilient, agro-ecological seed network. Previously Manager of the Heritage Seed Library at Garden Organic, conserving a collection of 800 varieties of old and rare vegetable varieties.
Phil Sumption; Research Communications Officer, Organic Research Centre, committee member of the Organic Growers Alliance and Editor of The Organic Grower
Dr Julia Wright; a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University (CAWR). She has a degree in environmental studies, a postgraduate diploma in Land Resource Planning, an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and a PhD on the coping strategies of the Cuban farming and food system in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. In 2003 she joined the International Programme of the Henry Doubleday Research Association (now Garden Organic), based at Ryton Gardens, and has 30 years of experience in international research and development relating to organic farming and food security, both in the UK and overseas, including Latin America. Her current project is a research programme on “Quantum based Agriculture” in order to recognise and give credibility to the non physical dimensions of agriculture. Julia is the Biodynamic Association’s Representative Director on the Board.
Peter Brinch; Founder of Open Pollinated Seeds, studied biodynamic agriculture in Sweden and has 25 years experience of biodynamic horticulture, including 12 years in seed production of open pollinated varieties, undertaking plant breeding, trials and selection, focusing on characteristics suitable for low input farming and horticulture.
Elly Austin; Biodynamic gardener
David Price; Secretary, undertaking project management works in the establishment phase, and providing first point of contact for funders and supporters of the co-operative. David lives and works at Gosberton Bank Nursery with Kate Ayre (his partner and the other full time Seed Co-operative co-worker), he also assists with seasonal farm work as required.
We are one of a family of organisations that have grown from the biodynamic farming movement which is led in the UK by the Biodynamic Association. The other members of the family are:
Biodynamics is about the complete package. For us agriculture is a sacred endeavour, and the foundation for all our well-being. Our roots are ecological, ethical, social and spiritual. Our aim is to regenerate the health and vitality of our soils, gardens and land; the integrity of our food; and the health and wholeness of our communities.
The Biodynamic Agricultural Association was founded in Great Britain in 1929 to promote biodynamic farming and gardening. The Biodynamic Association has been working with growers over many years to encourage seed saving and promote open pollinated seed and production of biodynamic open pollinated seed in the UK.
Biodynamic Land Trust
a charitable community benefit society, established to secure land into trust for healthy and sustainable farming and gardening, conserving a working and living countryside.
The Biodynamic Land Trust is working closely with the Seed Co-operative as they help in the purchase of Gosberton Bank Nursery, securing land and enabling the Seed Co-operative to undertake its important work.
providing biodynamic and organic certification services to farmers and processors.
Biodynamic Agricultural College
Education and training in biodynamic, organic and sustainable agriculture to students all over the world. You can come to the training or the training can come to you!