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Fear of closure continues at Irish Seed Savers as fundraising slower than expected

The organisation requires €250,000 to secure its future.

Image: Irish Seed Savers

THE FUTURE OF the Irish Seed Savers Association remains uncertain as a fundraising campaign launched last month struggles to gain momentum.

The group, who aim to conserve ‘Ireland’s very special and threatened plant genetic resources’, launched an appeal campaign in last month in an attempt to stabilise the organisation.

They say a total of €250,000 is required to ‘ensure Irish Seed Saver’s survival’, and detail that the money will be spent on various measures including buying property they are currently renting and improving their ability to sell seeds and trees.

An Indiegogo online campaign has raised less than €10,000 of the €100,000 aim, with a week left to go.

The organisation has secured hundreds of varieties of plant since it was founded in 1991 by Anita Hayes, including over 140 varieties of apple tree and 50 varieties of potatoes.

Staff hours and wages have been reduced in recent years after three successive cuts to a grant received from the Department of Agriculture.

“We already operate on a huge amount of volunteer hours,” marketing coordinator Geraldine Tobin told TheJournal.ie.

What we are aiming for is to secure Irish Seed Savers into the future and make it sustainable

“I don’t know how we could manage if the goal is not reached”, she said.

Irish Seed Savers also operate a seed bank, launched by President Michael D Higgins last year, and where over 600 ‘rare and endangered vegetable varieties’ are stored.

“It’s unique, it’s what know as a living seed bank,” Toibin said, “Each year, we grow out the seeds to allow them to adapt to small changes in Ireland’s climate.”

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“Seeds from Ireland are naturally quite strong due to our particular climate”, she added.

imagePresident Michael D Higgins at the launch of Irish Seed Saver’s seed bank. (Image: Irish Seed Savers)

It has been estimated that Ireland has lost as much as 75 per cent of its biodiversity over the past 100 years, meaning that many plant varieties are either at risk of being lost or already have been — and studies into some of these forgotten varieties has led to unexpected results.

“A study by Irish Seed Savers found that one heirloom variety of tomato, the Caro Rich, found that it had over ten times the normal amount of beta carotene”, she said.

“Other varieties which have not yet been studied, could yield surprise findings like this”, Toibin added, saying that the non-governmental organisation aims to continue such research if funding is secured.

Read: Forestry Inventory finds 10.5% of Ireland’s total land area is forest >

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Nicky Ryan

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