The Irish Seed Savers conserves and makes native seeds and plants available to gardeners and food growers.

As a result of genetic engineering many farmers and food growers throughout the world are faced with the fact that fewer varieties of seeds are becoming available to them. 

In Scariff, County Clare the Irish Seed Savers Association has been set up to protect many of those old varieties which are rapidly disappearing. The venture is part of an international network of seed saving associations and seed banks. Gardeners can purchase seeds and plants here, as well as commercial growers. As founder Anita Hayes explains,  

Ordinary people can help in the conservation of biodiversity or food conservation.

Groups of volunteers are hard at work at the new Irish Seed Savers site, transforming it into a garden, an oak forest and an apple orchard. Seeds are saved, preserved, catalogued and stored in their office. Currently there are four hundred and fifty varieties of vegetables and fruit. 

Brigid Carlin is a FÁS (Foras Áiseanna Saothair) supervisor here she hopes that funding will be secured to provide jobs, 

I feel privileged to be working with such a competent and committed team in such a beautiful place.

FÁS trainee Damien Punch started out working in a garden centre, but now says organic gardening is best. He loved working with the land, but using chemical pesticides on the plants seemed like a contradiction to him.

You were...working with the land, and yet at the same time you were handling these chemicals which were bad for the soil and bad for yourself.

One of the rare Irish varieties on site is a Ballyvaughan Seedling. This is just one of sixty native apple trees at Seed Savers, and they are much in demand by Irish gardeners, as Linda Stainby explains,

Next year there’ll be even more grown here so we can supply the demand for the trees.

Primarily a voluntary organisation, Seed Savers has only been able to expand with the help of funding from FÁS and European Union grants. Members of the public are also helping by sponsoring tree planting on the site. 

 Always looking to the future, the work they do is not just about conserving heritage varieties and heirloom seeds. It is also about the means of production, says Anita, which is, 

Vital for future generations in ways I don’t think that we can even begin to predict.

This report for ‘Nationwide’ was broadcast on 28 January 2000. The reporter is Valerie Waters.