Seed swap and seed saving

By Kate Roberts

The daffodils are in abundance, lambs skip through the pastures and green fingers are twitching , if not already muddied by the soil. A mild February enters into March - a time for sowing and soil preparations . For many small scale growers March was a busy time not for preparing food to eat but producing seed to save. The 18th - 22nd March was seed week. Coordinated by The Gaia Foundation as part of a UK and Ireland initiative to raise awareness about buying locally grown organic seed. 


Feeling inspired by the movement I took a trip to Fishguard seed swap to get some seeds for the coming season. Amongst mugs of Welsh brew tea and sausage rolls, a modest stall tucked away in the town’s farmers market, brimming with an assortment of seeds. We were greeted by Andrew from transition BroGwuan who was boasting a variety of multi-coloured sweetcorn. He informed us that the majority of the seed had come from The Real Seed Catalogue, a company based in Newport who sell locally saved seed. Kate and Ben who run the business have over 20 years of seed production experience. They also work closely with the Land Workers Alliance in facilitating training for new and experienced growers to promote seed saving. A great thing about the website is that they even show you how to save your seed for each fruit or vegetable so you don’t have to buy seed the following year.


In Wales seed saving doesn’t just stop at vegetable growers either. Katie Hastings who is the coordinator for The Gaia foundations seed sovereignty programme in Wales is also working with farmers across Wales to aid in diversification, seed exchange and seed saving in grains and cereals. This month bringing people together to start trails on different oat varieties. 


It is organisations like these that are becoming increasingly important. Following a merger of two huge seed companies 60% of the global seed market is now controlled by just three companies. This will lead to stronger power over government regulations and laws. With industrial agriculture being the target market for these companies we are seeing a increase in seed prices and reductions in variety. Hybrid seeds offered from these companies reduce diversity which could be one of the biggest threats to food security. With more adverse weather conditions from climate change we need seeds that have been saved year on year and have adapted to specific environments or places. After all, this is what has happened for millennia. Whether it’s tomatoes, leeks or sunflowers you want to grow, by saving your own seed you are already creating your own special breed that is specific to your greenhouse, garden or window sill.

We save our seed

To meet our needs

To rise above the weeds

So that the world we can feed


Kate Roberts

Director Torth Y Tir. Grower and cook at @source-pot Pembrokeshire.