The demand from organic farmers and growers for open pollinated seed is growing. But with 80% of the open pollinated seed sold in the UK currently being imported, there’s a clear need to increase production here in the UK. As open pollinated seeds adapt to, and are therefore best suited to, the locality of the place in which they are grown, UK grown seed will produce much better results than imported.
We produce seed ourselves and are building a network of certified growers in the UK. Members of our seed production network are able to supply harvested seed to the Seed Co-operative for processing and testing, to be sold through the Seed Co-operative.
If you’re interested in growing seed for us please read the information below and contact us for further details.
Do I need biodynamic or organic certification to grow seed for the Seed Co-operative?
Yes, we only buy and sell biodynamic or organic certified seed. However if you are not certified but grow using organic methods do get in touch and we can discuss how you might be able to start growing seed.
Do I have to be a member to be a seed grower for the Seed Co-operative?
Yes, although we are happy for the purchase of the 100 £1 shares needed for membership to come out of your first payment for seed so that there is no upfront cost. See our membership page for details.
How is a cropping list arrived at?
We have a list of required varieties and amounts of seed needed for each year which can be used as the basis for an agreed cropping list. We welcome off list suggestions if you have particular varieties that you feel do well on your farm.
What sort of cropping area do I need?
Obviously this depends a bit on the crop and the number of different seed crops you are growing. We are happy for people to grow only 1 or 2 seed crops. We can advise on the area of land need to grow the required amount of seed for each crop.
Are all crops spring sown?
It will vary depending on the crop and your location (depending on length of growing season and capability to dry seeds at harvest time) although most of the annual crops will be. Many vegetables are biennial for which it takes two growing seasons before you can harvest seed.
How are isolation distances assessed?
Many crops needs to be isolated from other plants of the same species. This can be done by having sufficient distance or by the use of nets for some species. Also cross pollination can occur with wild plants and neighbouring crops that bolt, like sugar beet. In general, insect pollinated species need to be 800m to 1000m apart, wind pollinating species 1400m to 1600m. Depending on the seed crops, for most small-scale seed growers knowledge of neighbours’ cropping plans are needed to be able to plan for seed growing.
Is seed for the seed crop supplied?
Yes. In the first season we will provide seed and a cost price deduction is made from the final crop payment to cover the cost of seed supplied. In subsequent seasons of growing the same variety we’d encourage growers to use the seed they’ve produced, after we’ve cleaned and tested it.
How much help and support will I get from the Seed Co-operative?
We will encourage local / regional support groups so that members can provide support to each other. We will also be able to answer queries and provide technical support by phone and email. Realistically, individual on-farm support over and above inspection visits will vary depending on the scale and number of seed crops that you are growing and your location in relation to other growers, as these are the factors that will govern how easy it is to practically get to your farm in the time available.
Is there a policy regarding sales of surplus fresh produce?
Any sales income derived from surplus produce is to the benefit of the grower. An example of where this could happen is growing perhaps 300 lettuces from which the 70 best are selected to save seed from. The remaining 230 could be sold as fresh lettuce by the grower.
Does the grower bear the cost of a failed crop?
Yes, except for the cost of the seed supplied by the Seed Co-operative.
How much seed cleaning / processing is the grower required to do?
Depending on the crop we normally expect the grower to undertake the first threshing (could be manual or mechanical depending on the crop) if you have the capability to do so. For fruits we’d expect growers to extract and dry the seed. We can be flexible depending on the location and whether you can bring material to us or whether it is possible to share or arrange for a mobile thresher to come to you.
Is seed collected or does the grower deliver?
Delivery to us is preferable, which could be by courier. It is the growers responsibility to organise this at their own cost.
Is there any form filling to be done?
Of course! Once the crop is planted the crop entry form is filled in and sent back to us. On this form is recorded the species, variety, location, of the crop and the previous cropping of the growing area. During the growing season you record varies things on the crop record form, like seed/planting rate, crop appearance, pest and plant diseases, Once the crop is harvested and send for processing this form had to be send as well.
Are there any inspections?
After we have received the crop entry form from you we will arrange a crop inspection. This gets recorded on a crop inspection form.
How is seed quality determined and at what point is it accepted or rejected?
The seed needs to meet minimum germination rates. These vary from crop to crop but are generally 85-95%. If the seed contains too many weed seeds that are difficult to remove, it might get rejected, or we might have to deduct from the price for the extra cleaning. We test seed for seed-borne pathogens and again it needs to meet certain standards. If the crop is rejected we would not be able to pay anything, but the seed will stay your property and if you want it can be returned to you.
How is payment calculated?
The basic principle is that the grower gets 50% of the whole sale price, based on a price/kg for seed we buy in from other seed companies. For example; beetroot seed we buy from Holland costs us £50/kg for seed that is ready for sale. If you grow beetroot seed for us we will pay you £25/kg.
When will the grower be paid?
Growers are paid after all processing and testing is satisfactorily completed, and all necessary forms have been adequately completed and returned.
Should the grower retain seed for the next season?
We would normally expect growers to send us all of the seed produced for processing and testing. If the grower is producing the same crop in future seasons we will try and ensure that we return seed grown on their farm. In this way the quality of the seed should be maintained due to the testing and storage facilities that we have available.
What sort of seed storage is required and is this inspected?
In most seasons we would expect seed to be able to be harvested dry enough to be delivered to us without requiring storage. Depending on the climate and season on your farm we may need to discuss how you deliver seed to us in a satisfactory condition, and if and how you would store / dry your seed crops.
Are the requirements relating to crop rotations and seed crops?
A specific cropping interval between related/similar crops should be adhered to. This will prevent a build-up of soil-borne diseases etc. and seed volunteers.
How do I register my interest?
Please contact us by email to express an interest or find out more.