What is the Freedom Seed Bank?

We have awakened to the realisation that we are losing something of great importance: As food growers and farmers we have lost our knowledge of how to save seed and our crop diversity … and we no longer hold the seed sacred!

Freedom Seed Bank Festival 201318-18-IMG_513929-29-IMG_5198

In Oct 2012 Vandana Shiva and the International Permaculture Network made a call to Occupy and to protect our Seed. It was the wake up call we needed at FOOD from the SKY to completely transform our relationship with our food system, therefore with something very profound .

That breaking down of our old understanding was sped up and deepened as we educated ourselves about the GM situation, the threat on our Seed Saving initiatives in the UK by the pervasive EU legislations, the Corporate control and many other threats to our food system, therefore to our very survival!

We went from shock to fear to anger to grief and to action! We called for the first meeting in London with food growers, seeders of change and activists. As well as the loss of knowledge, seed diversity and the freedom within our own food system we also talked about the impact of having lost our celebrations. We have lost our ceremonies and our stand for the Sacredness of the Seed and therefore Life!

After a World Cafe and a Truth Mandala (inspired by Joanna Macy’s work) the London Freedom Seed Bank emerged. Our motivation grew to take action and to start an active journey of remembering. An initiative seeded and germinating in London for the learning, educating, re-skilling, celebrating the sacred and the sharing of our true wealth, our Seeds.

Freedom Seed Bank Logo

What is a FREEDOM SEED BANK?: It is place where we remember, grow, store, celebrate and share what is truly precious to us, our seeds…a living seed bank and a living community space. It can be on balconies, allotments, schools, urban food growing sites and farms.

1- RAISING AWARENESS: For all the issues and actions threatening our seeds. Also a space for partnership and networking.

2 – RE-SKILLING : Providing a series of workshops for urban food growers and schools about growing seeds, saving and storing organic seeds.

3 – CELEBRATING in a yearly FESTIVAL: Each October – Celebrating as a sacred and creative ceremony the welcoming of the Freedom Seed Savers* as they bring and gift their Freedom Seeds to our community.

4 – SHARING and DISTRIBUTING: Each Feb/March – Sharing and distributing Freedom Seeds*for free to all who want to grow food while providing more training for people who want to become Freedom Seed Savers.

*Freedom Seed Savers: Individual attending re-skilling trainings about how to save seeds to organic standard.

*Freedom Seeds are seeds saved by trained individuals and initiatives in open pollinated seeds.

Our seed saving capabilities have become very specialised, and we now purchase seeds every year from seed companies more interested in profit than diversity or the well being of our natural systems. We buy seeds very often in complete ignorance as to whether they are biodynamic, organic, hybrid, local, fertile or not and what that means. We have become blind and numbed out.

So we have to ask ourselves: how does this make sense in a world of climate change where we should be increasing crop biodiversity if we hope to continue to feed ourselves in a rapidly changing climate, and at a time where cheap energy will soon be a thing of the past? In the UK, in the last two years, we have experienced destabilised weather patterns affecting our crops and our ecosystems. We need to bring our communities together and skill up if we want to respond to the changes responsibly and with care.

As we shared our concerns and new knowledge with our own food growing communities we witnessed again and again that there is, in our collective mind and heart, a disconnection between seed and food.

Our food system is fractured, fragmented and isolated, therefore separated from the sacred intelligence and guidance of life itself.

I am moved to bring other recent and similarly robust and destabilising awakening calls! The threat on our Bees and on our Water who are also in great danger. We cannot talk about the Seed, it now seems clear to me, without bringing its whole community…Soil, Water, Bees, Fungi, Humans and all the other organisms involved in the existence of life… Our remembrance of our interdependence is Part of our remembering is to become active in re-skilling our community.

The first step was to find out who still held the knowledge. In London, in the last 12 months we have organised and delivered 7 workshops with some wonderful teachers. This Spring Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds, Kate McEvoy, Real Seed Company, Jack Astbury,  FOOD from the SKY, Sally Cunningham, Heritage Seed Library .

Most importantly, through these re-skilling workshops the seed saving knowledge is being passed onto to 50+ new Freedom Seed Savers. At the end of each workshop the attendees choose a packet of seed from the SeedBank with the promise to return some seed back to the London Freedom Seed Bank at the October Festivals. The map of London is changing as we place each seed and seed saver on it.

The Festival: The return of the remembered and saved seed is calling for celebration. Our first Freedom Seed Bank festival, last October 2013, took place at Passing Clouds and was shared by 150 people. We created a beautiful Mandala with our seeds and seasonal food grown in London.

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Loss of Variety – 1903 to 1983

We welcomed artists, poets, singers, speakers and danced a great ceilidh …the essence of Seed is creativity ! We honored and gave thanks to the Freedom Seed Savers. We celebrated the re-covery of skills that we are in danger of losing. We manifested a space for the sacredness of the seed and her gift of life! Seeds were gifted…

Last October I spoke to the European Parliament in Brussels around the question: ‘How will we feed our cities in times of crisis?’ I introduced the Freedom Seed Bank and later on that day, at the Urban Ecology Center, a seed germinated and grew…they are joining us with the celebration and festival 2014.

If you are moved by this article and want to be part of creating a local Freedom Seed Bank and please contact us through our website. Also join us at the Great Seed Festival : Celebrating the seed that feeds us -October 11th and 12th 2014 at the Garden Museum in London.

Check out Gaia Foundation, who is taking on the coordination role this year, for other cities where the Festival is also sprouting in different towns. [http://www.gaiafoundation.org or will it be the Great Seed Festival website? TBC]

Azul-Valerie Thome and the London Freedom Seed Bank: https://londonfreedomseedbank.wordpress.com

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