Forest of Dean Community Seed Silo

Forest of Dean Community Seed Silo

Central to any resilient culture of food production is the necessity of saving seed. We seek to build upon the pioneering work of the Forests Seed Savers to develop a self-funded Community Seed Silo [CSS] for the Forest of Dean. Supported by volunteers we will ensure a wide variety of heritage, heirloom and locally adapted species of plants are preserved and propagated. From wild-flowers, grasses and herbs -that can be used to regrow ancient grazing and wild-flower meadows, to local and heritage varieties of vegetables, fruit bushes and trees for traditional growers and gardeners alike.

A central catalogue will be kept with all the seeds, cuttings and root-stock available to buy. Seeds and other stock would be sold online, and via a physical shop located at the Seed Silo -where people would be inspired to learn and partake in the processes of saving and processing seed. The income from combined sales would cover the costs of production, distribution and marketing. All profits would be reinvested back in the CSS and other local projects that seek to preserve and disseminate traditional and rare varieties of plants and tree species suitable for agro-forestry, organics, wildlife habitat creation and other ecological food/ fuel/ timber production systems.

We will seek effective, scaled seed production rates through a variety of innovative schemes, for example, encouraging volunteers and members to grow seed at home. The CSS could sell, or even sponsor seeds to members on condition that a percentage of seed grown is returned. Members could get paid a percentage of the money their labour generated – incentivising a emulous internal work environment, whilst providing greater task efficiency leading to the CSS’s increased ability to compete economically with the large seed companies, albeit on localised level initially.

How does the Forest of Dean Community Seed Silo relate to the heritage of the area?

This project is focused primarily on the ecological landscape and agricultural heritage of the region. Many of the interested individuals we are linked with are at the for-front of the battle to conserve traditional plant varieties and the associated knowledge of soil and seed alive. Their tireless effort, is keeping a wealth of bio-diversity that took centuries of small-scale organic agro-ecological practise to generate, alive. We are on the precipice of a great change in agricultural practises – preserving our remaining diversity of locally adapt food plants is critical for economic resilience.

Our natural heritage in the Forests is being encroached upon by the mono-cultural wastelands and agricydal methods of the E.U.’s ‘Common Agricultural Policy’. Fortunately, there is a wide network of small-holdings and traditional growers in the Forest, these people are living history of place and represent our best hope of rediscovering the skills required to feed the people of the Forest without petro-chemicals. This project would empower a new generation of small scale agricultural projects and small-holdings, and seek once again to cultivate a patch-work diversity of economically viable small-scale food production systems.

With seed markets becoming increasingly monopolised by a few multi-nationals, there is both economic and moral support in the Forest of Dean for organisations that seek to preserve our seed bio-diversity and agricultural heritage in the form of genetic plant stock -fruit trees, old varieties of grain, veg cultivars, wild flowers, etc. This is clearly demonstrated by the success and expansion of the Forest Seed Savers group – who we have been working in close co-operation with, among many other groups.

Working with Forest Seed Savers, Dean Meadows group, allotment associations and various small-holdings, traditional growers, and local farms would promote the seed business whilst creating a network of volunteers and supporters. Volunteers would exchange labour for shop discounts and skills -seed saving being both an Art and a Science that takes years and a wealth of knowledge to be proficient at. Members could eventually have the option of earning a percentage of the money their labour generated for the CSS.

If successful what will your project achieve?

The protection and future proliferation of our traditional and ancient heritage varieties of plants.

The Community Seed Silo will provide a physical hub for the many local organisations interested in the conservation and protection of bio-diversity in the Dean.

The CSS would be used as a resource hub for community growers, it would donate free trees, seeds and cuttings to local community gardens, for example veg plots in schools or youth support centres. We have already been engaged to provide gardens for several community facilities.

Increased opportunities for people, especially young people to get involved in real farming -like their grandparents did- by converting to traditional methods, now called agro-ecology and/or agro-forestry, assisted by the knowledge and resource base of the Community Seed Silo and other allied projects.

The creation of a successful community owned business, selling competitively priced seeds, plants and courses related to seed saving, processing, growing offering meaningful voluntary and paid work in the Forest of Dean.

A large stock of heritage varieties of plants, many adapted to the unique bio region of the Forest, increasing the resilience of future generation of forest food production.

Many have commented that the current seed savers group suffers due to lack of communication facilities. They use standard email chains, and have no central hub to organise from – this project would set up an electronic mailing list, and website with forums, notice boards etc making communication and general organisation a lot easier and more efficient for Seed Savers and other groups wanting to be involved.

Estimate the total cost of your project

£25,000

£10,000 for initial set up, infrastructure, drying rooms, storage, website, promotion

£15,000 for acquisition of primary stock, seeds, bare roots, grafted trees, and also ‘seed ambassador’ style research- costs for scouting out old orchards, wild-flower meadows and home gardens for rare heirloom varieties people are quietly growing to themselves.

Hopefully around half of the £15,000 could be set aside as a redundancy fund/ emergency fund.

This estimate should be enough to get the FoDCSS up and running.

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