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Project information

Heritage Seed Library

Biodiversity is essential for global food security and the health of our planet. But in just 100 years we have lost 75% of the genetic diversity of our food crops. The Heritage Seed Library conserves heirloom varieties and enables schools, communities and individuals to get involved in growing them.

It's an ongoing project

Charity information: Garden Organic

Garden Organic logo
  • Need


    Increasing reliance on just a few crop varieties means plant genetic diversity is being destroyed. Traditional crop varieties are being lost, along with their unique history and heritage. Across the UK, people are increasingly out of touch with where food comes from, and have limited knowledge of how to grow their own crops and how to save and maintain seed.


    The Heritage Seed Library (HSL) is a living library of over 800 endangered vegetables, safeguarded from extinction. We encourage public awareness and engagement through providing heritage seeds for members to grow and share. We also lobby for legislative change at the national and European level. We aim to extend the HSL collection, improve the learning aspects interpretation and get more people involved in growing HSL crops.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Long term protection of crop biodiversity


    » Maintain and extend the HSL's living collection of heritage seeds
    » Link with Garden Organic’s Sowing New Seeds project to develop a collection of exotic crops, shared by the project participants

    What success will look like

    Increase HSL seed stocks and in the testing and accession of varieties. New exotic crop collection established, linked with our Sowing New Seeds project

    Aim 2

    Increased volunteer engagement


    » oIncrease our volunteer force of Seed Guardians who grow out HSL crops, save the seed and return it for use in the HSL collection.

    What success will look like

    Increase in volunteer Seed Guardians who grow heritage seeds in controlled conditions, save the seedand return it to HSL

    Aim 3

    Increased public participation in growing, saving and sharing heirloom and conservation varieties


    » Increased public participation in growing and sharing heirloom and conservation varieties
    » Highlight heirloom varieties in our work with schools and encourage school engagement in growing these crops
    » Improve HSL’s overall operation with new seed processing and packing equipment (currently our 6,000 seed orders are processed and packed by hand)
    » Improve HSL’s efficiency with a new on-line seed ordering system, enabling us to maintain seed stock levels and plan ahead

    What success will look like

    More awareness of and demand for HSL seeds, supported by new databases and equipment saving hours of laborious work. National seed swap network established and active

  • Impact


    Long term conservation of crop diversity and heirloom varieties. Success is demonstrated through the existence of HSL and growth of the collection and potentially through legislative change. Public engagement in seed saving and swapping. Success is demonstrated through development of the national seed swap network, the demand for heritage crops and the engagement of volunteers, schools and community groups.




    Donors to this project will receive progress reports after 6 months and 12 months and can opt to be included in HSL’s newsletter “seed news”.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £42,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £4,000 Seed training package Could help develop a training package for seed swap groups to cover biodiversity issues, seed saving
      £6,000 Seed database establishing an interactive database / website to assist seed ordering, stock taking and planning
      £12,000 Seed Equipment essential seed cleaning, processing and packing equipment, freeing up many hours of staff time
      £20,000 Seed Officer Supports our seed officer for one year, who supports volunteer and public engagement
  • Background


    HSL is based at Garden Organic's headquarters at Ryton Gardens near Coventry however it's reach is national.


    Gardeners, community groups and schools who get involved in growing heritage crops, plus participants in seed swap events. Involvement in HSL and seed swapping enables people to play an active role in plant conservation, to learn about seed saving and swapping and organic growing techniques and to build links within their local community. We will also promote the knowledge of exotic crop growers through establishing an exotic collection, benefiting both growers and the wider community

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Garden Organic has over 50 years experience in organic research and practice. We ahve been runnign the Heritage Seed Library for over 20 years and are recnognised as experts in the field. We also have great experience of communtiy projects and education work, meanifn we are able to sahre our expertise with a wide audience and promote engagement with this work.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Bob Sherman

    Chief Horticultural Officer. Writer, speaker and organic gardening expert with over 25 years' experience.

    Neil Munro

    Heritage Seed Library Manager. Developing links with communities and schools and leading the seed swap network for HSL

    Rachel Crow

    Coordinating HSL volunteers and seed guardians