Our mission is to sow the seeds of a healthy and resilient organic food system that promotes diversity, democracy and a closer relationship with our food, and those who grow it.
The Seed Co-operative exists to shine a spotlight on the vital, but all-too-often forgotten, role of the humble seed in building a resilient food system.
The future of food has to be rooted in democracy, diversity and health. That means diversity of ownership and shared knowledge, with diversity of genetics and wildlife. Working with diversity is adopting nature’s way of nurturing the health of our planet and people.
Varieties that are open pollinated and adapted to organic growing systems are the essential ingredients in making this happen. That’s where the Seed Co-operative comes in.
We grow, process and sell organic, open-pollinated seed for the UK and beyond, and develop new varieties through organic plant breeding, to support the collective work of those striving towards making agro-ecological farming and food sovereignty a reality. We want you to know where your seed comes from; who grew it and where, and even who bred each variety.
We’re not interested in tricksy seed biotechnology, or dominating the world’s seed supply. Instead, we believe passionately in breeding open pollinated seeds that everyone can grow, everyone can save for the next year, and everyone can afford. All our sustainable futures depend on it.
Our Journey So Far
The Seed Co-operative came into being in 2014 as an initiative of the Biodynamic Association, supported by Garden Organic and the Organic Research Centre, working with the Open Pollinated Seeds initiative and experienced seedsman Hans Steenbergen.
We established ourselves as a Community Benefit Society to provide a co-operative membership organisation open to everyone: farmers, growers, home gardeners, chefs, professionals and amateurs alike. Similar projects are establishing themselves across the globe from Columbia to Canada, India to Ethiopia, and throughout continental Europe, in response to the threats of industrial food production over the last century.
In 2016 we bought Gosberton Bank Nursery in Lincolnshire, which had been largely abandoned for four years. Our 24-acre home, now nursed back to health thanks to the hard work of staff and a host of volunteers, includes 2.5 acres of glasshouses with a rainwater-fed reservoir for irrigation, buildings for seed processing and storage, and housing for staff. In 2017 we were a finalist in the BBC Food and Farming Awards. We achieved organic certification in April 2018.
David, with his partner Kate, grew seed for us in Suffolk before moving to Gosberton Bank Nursery in 2016. As our Managing Director, he is responsible for the development of the Seed Co-Operative as an organisation. David previously ran his own business in practical land management, mainly dealing with nature reserves, and has also worked for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Environment Agency and Heritage Lottery Fund.
Kate is our longest-serving member of staff, having taken on the growing of seed crops in Suffolk for us before moving to Gosberton with David. As well as our lead grower on-site, she has been the mainstay of our seed sales operation, working with part-time staff and volunteers to process, pack and manage seed orders. Before joining us, Kate combined motherhood with working in complementary health as a reflexologist before changing direction towards her other passion - growing.
Peter Brinch - Chair
Peter is the founder of the Open Pollinated Seeds initiative
, studied biodynamic agriculture in Sweden and has 25 years’ experience of biodynamic horticulture - including 12 years of open pollinated seed production and plant breeding, trials and selection.
Hans was a founding member of the Seed Co-operative, having spent 20 years as an expert seedsman. He previously established and ran Stormy Hall Seeds in North Yorkshire, which was the UK’s biggest producer of organic vegetable seed despite sitting on just 7 acres of land.
Neil is Programme Manager of the Gaia Foundation’s Seed Sovereignty programme for UK and Ireland
, working with partners to build a resilient, agro-ecological seed network. He was previously a manager of the Heritage Seed Library at Garden Organic
, conserving a collection of 800 varieties of old and rare vegetable varieties.
Elly is a trained graphic and garden Designer and Steiner school teacher. She worked for 16 years teaching and developing the landscapes at Ruskin Mill College, which included seed production work for Stormy Hall Seeds and nurturing the seed growing initiative from its concept.
Roberto Romano - Biodynamic Association representative
Roberto is the Biodynamic Land Co-ordinator at Clervaux near Darlington, a Ruskin Mill Trust centre. He oversees their biodynamic market garden, farmland and woodland and is responsible for providing social, therapeutic and work experience opportunities on the land. He is Trustee for the Biodynamic Association
and co-designed and tutored on the Step-by-Step Biodynamic Gardening Course
Gemma, along with her husband Laurence, first met us as a volunteer in 2018. She has a passion for organic growing thanks to her parents, who run an organic food business in Ireland. As a business analyst by day, Gemma advises us on our systems and processes.
Laurence is a freelance writer with a background in environmental policy and sustainable business. After volunteering at Gosberton with his wife Gemma in 2018, Laurence joined the board to share his experience in marketing and communications strategy.
Tony qualified as dentist in 1978, where the condition of his patients mouths’ inspired him explore healthier diets. He started growing his own fruit and vegetables and achieved further degree qualifications in Biological Natural Science and Human Nutrition, which ultimately led him to the Seed Co-operative’s vital mission.