Blue Patch Sustainable Business Awards 2018

Sustainable Innovation Award: For businesses with a cutting edge idea that will save energy, reduce carbon, encourage a circular economy and protect the planet.

We are very excited to have been shortlisted for a Blue Patch Award.

Blue Patch is a sustainable marketplace for UK design, ethical fashion, eco-furniture, green gifts, organic & fair trade food.  This is the third year that they have run Sustainable Business Awards.

We are RECRUITING! Seed Shop Manager and Seed Steward

A relatively young organisation, the Seed Co-operative is run by a small and dedicated, friendly and proactive team who cover a broad range of tasks in their roles. Being a Seed Cooperative our tasks naturally change with the seasons which keeps us on our toes! The success of the cooperative is completely reliant on people working together to achieve great things. Team members work hard to support each other in day to day tasks and are flexible and proactive, picking up work where needed when priorities change. 

The Seed Cooperative is at an exciting and crucial point in its young history. With a growing need for efficiency to support customer demand, and with internal projects in progress to support it, the cooperative is now on the lookout for new team members to join us on this challenging and rewarding journey.

Seed Shop Manager – CLOSED to applications.  We have filled this position now.

Seed Steward (starting in early spring 2019) – please register your interest NOW; we are looking for a grower with tractor and machinery experience to lead our field cropping and seed processing work.  Details will be sent to those interested as soon as the application process opens.

Seed Shop Manager – Job description

As Seed Shop Manager you will be responsible to the Managing Director and your duties and responsibilities will involve managing the following:-

  • processing orders: via web shop, phone, email and post; from gardeners, retailers and growers;
  • maintaining the web shop, web site and contributing to the smooth operation of IT systems; 
  • stock level management: seeds, packaging and consumables; 
  • seed packet production: printing and packing, gardeners and growers packs;
  • book-keeping: data entry and reconciliations;
  • sales communications; customer enquiries and feedback, social media promotion, and contributions to newsletters
  • record maintenance: ensuring all requirements of our certification body and seed licensing are met, in addition to any legal or regulatory requirements
  • catalogue generation, packet pricing and sales promotions; also slowly expanding the range of products we offer for sale
  • events organising

All tasks will involve working with other members of the team; at times you will need to assist in areas co-ordinated by others, these may include:

  • assisting with seed processing and testing
  • glasshouse and field crop management tasks
  • supervising the work of volunteers  
  • ordering horticultural supplies and spare parts for machinery and infrastructure
  • providing support and sales stall during events at Gosberton Bank Nursery

Person specification

A team player.  Generous of spirit, with a co-operative open nature, wanting to share skills and knowledge.  Someone who enjoys learning new skills; with a hunger for knowledge.  Creative and passionate about making a difference towards a better world  through their work.

Essential skills & experience

  • Establishing and maintaining efficient administration systems
  • Capable of administering IT systems including small networks.
  • Good experience of computer operation including word processing, spreadsheets and databases, and peripherals such as printers and scanners.

Desirable skills and experience

  • practical experience of gardening, particularly of vegetables
  • knowledge of varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers
  • passionate about good food
  • understanding of sustainability and environmental issues, particularly around food and farming
  • knowledge of organic horticultural practices; why they are important and how they are implemented


Seed Shop Manager 

To apply please email a copy of your CV along with covering text that  includes what you are looking for in your work, and what interests you in working at the Seed Co-operative.  Thank you.

Seed Steward

Please email to register your interest.  We will get back you when full details are available and applications are open.  Thank you.

BBC Food and Farming Awards – FINAL – Sept 2017

What a night it was at the BBC Food Awards final!! Growing Underground were named the winners in the Future Food category. Islander Kelp were the other very worthy finalists, and their story of regenerating both a lost industry and an island community is well worth checking out.  Apparently we were the top three from over 70 entries across the UK.  The fact that we’re disappointed not to get first place just shows how far we’ve come!

Thank you to ALL of our supporters, those that have taken an interest in what we do, and of course the whole team at the BBC Food and Farming Awards for finding these fantastic stories and people to celebrate, and doing it so well!

IMG_3092We have received a great boost from Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, and winner of the Derek Cooper Award at the 2017 BBC Food and Farming Awards.  He sent us the following message:

“I’d like to capitalize on any attention that I’ve received for winning the Derek Cooper Award to remind people of the critically important work of the Seed Co-operative, a project which is countering a potential mass extinction of the seeds we depend on for health, vitality and diversity in our food systems. It is easy to overlook the potential importance of the humble seed, especially at a time when fewer and fewer farmers and growers have the knowledge of saving seed from the plants they grow. The Seed Co-operative reminds us that each farmer and grower is a custodian of the seeds they inherit and which are passed on to future generations. In the spirit of democratising the food system, their community owned model allows everyone to become a part of it by buying shares and becoming co-owners. The cause of this community owned seed company is close to my heart and any support you can give towards their target of £300,000 for securing the start-up costs is greatly appreciated. The  Seed Co-operative have achieved  enormous recognition as finalists in the Future Foods  category BBC Food and Farming Awards. They represent an incredible opportunity to reverse the dramatic loss of seed diversity which has declined by more than 90% since than the 1900s. Please give generously!” – Patrick Holden

On the radio…

You can still here the radio programmes featuring the Seed Co-operative, and the BBC Future Food Award….

On Your Farm broadcast 17 Sept 17 – listen here

The Food Programme also broadcast 17 Sept – listen here

Press Release – Seed Co-op in a nutshell

About the Seed Co-operative

Seed Co-operative is a community owned seed company that is growing and selling organic and biodynamic open pollinated vegetable, herb and flower seed in the UK.  Launched in 2014, this initiative is building on the work of Stormy Hall Seeds which for 20 years has been the biggest organic vegetable seed producer in the UK on just 7 acres.  A small farm in Lincolnshire, run by a small team of staff and volunteers, is currently in organic conversion, and provides a hub for a growing UK wide network of seed producers.

As a Community Benefit Society the capital backing is mainly provided through community shares, with 260 people current co-owners, and many more sought.   Seed sales will mean that seed production will at least break-even and pay staff and overhead costs in the long-run, but just as only inherited farms can be viable in the current economic situation, the wider community is enabling us to ‘inherit’ this farm.  A similar model to a community shop or community pub.

Our focus is on regenerating UK farm-based organic seed production and participatory plant breeding amongst small scale growers to ensure the availability of appropriately priced seed of the best quality and suitable for UK growing conditions.  Seed Co-operative has a customer base of over 4,500, partly inherited from Stormy Hall Seeds, and deals with commercial growers and organic retailers, plus mail order and web sales to gardeners.  In 2016 there were eight growers producing seed as part of the network, in 2017 this figure increase to 17, with more interested in getting involved in 2018.

Why is this important?

9 of every 10 mouthfuls of food derives from seed, yet little vegetable seed is now produced in the UK.  80% of the organic open pollinated vegetable seed sold in the the UK is currently imported. Globally 75% of seed is sold by just 3 corporations (a few months ago it was 5) whose other interests lie in pesticides and fertiliser.  Through the community ownership of a seed company people have the opportunity to take a stake in their food future. This is about co-operation between people who eat food and people who grow food, but also between people and the natural world.

Why is this work relevant to the future of food in the UK and perhaps further afield?  How might it influence the wider food industry longer term?

Evolution is an ongoing process.  Our food system needs crops to evolve or the food system itself will be at risk.  Without open pollinated seed the evolution of our food crops is in jeopardy.  Choices being made about the shape of our food system are being driven by short-term economic considerations resulting in the domination of F1 hybrid varieties and the consequent loss of open pollinated varieties.

Our food system relies entirely on a functioning ecology; given a malfunctioning ecology we won’t eat.  Within the natural world insurance is provided not by the money markets but by diversity.   Natural resilience comes from the ability of species to adapt to changing conditions; that ability is inherently dependent on the genetic diversity within living organisms as much as having a diversity of species / varieties.  Open pollinated seed, compared to F1 hybrid or GM seed, has oodles of genetic diversity and provides for a resilient food system rooted in natural processes.

Since 1900 the global availability of food crop varieties has reduced by more than 90%. Many of the remaining open pollinated varieties are in desperate need of restorative maintenance after decades of under investment whilst seed companies have concentrated on F1 hybrids.   There are parallels between plant breeding and computer programming: open pollinated is in many ways equivalent to open source software; available to all as a shared resource.  Seed companies commercial interests are protected by concentrating on F1 hybrids because seeds cannot be saved as they do not breed true-to-type, meaning growers have to go back every year to buy more seeds.  Patents and other legal devices are also dominating the seed world, placing control of our food system in the hands of very few people.  Our Seed Co-operative is about demonstrating that this process is reversible.

Our reaction to being a BBC Food and Farming Award finalist

David Price of the Seed Co-operative said “We are delighted to have been given this chance to tell our story about the future of food.  Food is not ‘man-made’ but produce of the natural world and it all starts with seed.  We are bringing seed production back home and re-connecting farmers, growers, gardeners, chefs and ‘people who eat’ with the natural world, through co-operation.  Diversity, health and democracy is what our seed is all about.”

please email for pictures

Annual General Meeting and Open Day 2017

Annual General Meeting

The formal part of the day started, a little late, at noon. Many people had travelled a long way to be with us and had quite a battle to get through the August traffic.

A report from our Auditor was read out and David Price took us through the Annual Report.  You can download the Annual Report, Financial Report and Minutes of the meeting here:

Open Day

Over the course of the day over 30 people came along to either the whole event or elements of it.  After the AGM we had lunch together before setting out on a tour of Gosberton Bank Nursery.  David Price and Kate Ayre led the party around the fields and glasshouses before the group split with half going to see the seed testing and storage facilities led by Kate and the other with Hans Steenbergen for a demonstration of the seed cleaning equipment.  After swapping to ensure everyone saw everything we had tea and cake.

At the end of the day we watched a documentary film Seed:the untold story before people made their way home.

Thanks to everyone who came along and shared a very seedy day.