Connected Seeds and Sensors

I was very happy to be invited along to the Connected Seeds book launch and winter celebration at Rich Mix at the beginning of February. The event featured talks on seed sovereignty, food growing workshops and an exhibition and short-film screening about the Connected Seeds project. The main attraction of the day was the Connected Seeds Library, a new interactive seed library which tells the stories of seeds and their growers in and round Spitalfields City Farm. It was inspiring to connect with other London-based seed savers and to acquire new varieties for the seed bank including unfamiliar crops.

Connected Seeds and Sensors is research project looking at how ‘smart’ technologies can be used to support more sustainable urban food practices. The lead researcher, Sara Heitlinger, based at Queen Mary University London, worked with 14 Seed Guardians throughout the 2016 growing season to grow and save a variety of different seed crops and to record environmental data in each of the gardens.

The Seed Guardians were from all walks of life and different cultural backgrounds with varying levels of gardening expertise. They each committed to growing one or two crops and then donated some of the seeds they had collected to the Connected Seeds Library. The interactive seed library contains seeds from each of the guardians alongside photos, video footage and sounds clips about  the crops from the guardian who donated the seeds.

The guardians grew their crops in various growing spaces around East London, in private gardens, community plots or on housing estates. Each of the gardens was fitted with a specially-designed sensor to record information about the environmental conditions in the garden, including air temperature, air humidity, air pressure, soil moisture and ambient light. The data visualisations can all viewed online:

http://www.connectedseeds.org/data-visualisation/

The data clearly demonstrates the capacity of smart technologies to inform growers about the environmental conditions of their growing space. There is lots of potential to use this data to encourage better growing practices or to map different growing conditions across the capital.

The exhibition featured a seed swap where a variety of crops grown by the seed guardians and donated by other visitors to the event were available. I swapped some of our seeds from the London Freedom Seed Bank with lablab beans grown at Spitalfields Farm and potol, a kind of pointed gourd. I look forward to passing these seeds on to our freedom seed savers to grow and save so we can increase the quantity in the bank and make them accessible to other growers and gardeners.

We’re delighted that there’s another project which is collecting London’s seeds and the stories behind them, and we look forward to seeing how the interactive seed library grows over the coming months. The seed library can be found at its permanent home at Spitalfields City Farm. Get in touch with farm staff to organise a visit or become a member. http://www.connectedseeds.org.

Charlotte Dove

06.03.17

Connected Seeds launch event

Have you heard about A Celebration of Seeds at Rich Mix on Wednesday 1st February? Folks from the London Freedom Seed Bank will be going along to find out more and to show support for this exciting new community resource.

What’s going on?

A day of talks, workshops, films and food to celebrate the launch of the Connected Seeds Library, exhibition and book.

The day offers opportunities for networking with experienced and novice growers around east London, stalls, free vegetarian lunch and exhibition tours. Come along to learn about seed-saving, seed sovereignty, and community growing spaces.

Combined with the Tower Hamlets Food Growing Network’s Winter Gathering, this event is the culmination of an 18- month community research project based at Queen Mary University of London and Spitalfields City Farm exploring new technology to support urban agriculture in east London. The research produced a Connected Seeds Library, which is an interactive community resource that links the seeds within to the stories of the east London growers who grew and donated them. The library will be on display in the cafe gallery at Rich Mix, along with photographs and audio documenting the research process.

In the evening, you are invited to walk over to nearby Spitalfields City Farm for the book launch, herbal drinks and music.

For more info and to reserve a place (tickets are free but must be booked in advance):

https://www.richmix.org.uk/events/spoken-word/celebration-seeds

https://billetto.co.uk/en/events/connected-seeds-launch-and-winter-gathering

Threshing and winnowing at OrganicLea

On Sunday, a group of Seed Buddies from our 2016 training programme, attended a seed saving workshop at OrganicLea, a thriving market garden in the Lea Valley. A worker’s co-operative, they run a box scheme, grow seedlings for sale, and save a range of vegetable seeds mainly for their own use on site. It seemed like a great place to go and learn about seed saving from growers who have integrated the techniques in to their everyday practice.

Head grower Ru gave a short talk on practical aspects of saving vegetable seed – how to recognise when a crop is ready for harvesting and how to dry the seeds. Then we got going on the main part of the day – threshing and winnowing dried crops in order to extract the seeds. Seed saving uses a utilitarian assortment of tools. The first to catch our attention was a home-made, badly-worn wooden club. This was used with some abandon to bash large paper bags of dried plant matter to start the process of separating the seeds from their pods. The process continued with some finer sorting using kitchen colanders, nimble fingers and good old-fashioned blowing to extract the precious seeds from the lightweight chaff. In the end, we filled a dozen or so brown paper bags with the booty – chicory, amaranth, leaf celery and coriander seeds, amongst others – all beautifully cleaned and dried and ready for sowing again next spring.

Ru donated two new varieties to the Freedom Seed Bank: Amaranth ‘Latte’, a variety originally collected from a Pakistani women in Leyton: and, Grandpa’s Cress, a fast-growing, small-leaf cress, obtained from the Heritage Seed Library. The Seed Buddies will be growing both of these varieties in community spaces across London next year.

img_4913 img_4921 img_4926

Seed Buddies programme takes root

The Seed Buddies programme launched with a successful training day at the Regent’s Park Allotment Garden in October 2016. The day was attended by 18 food growers and gardeners from across London who have been selected to be the next generation of seed savers for the Freedom Seed Bank.

The training was delivered by seed officer, Catrina Fenton, and horticulturalist Claire Pritchard, from the Heritage Seed Library (HSL). They covered the basic principles of successful seed saving, and gave practical advice about saving the seed of a range of different crops, from easy-to-save peas and beans, to those at the more challenging end of the spectrum, such as carrots and beetroot.

The trainees come from different backgrounds, including urban gardening, landscaping and design, and are all committed to improving their horticultural skills and educating Londoners about the lost art of seed saving. Many are already working with environmental and community-based organisations such as Bandstand Beds, St Lukes Community Centre in Islington, and Stepney City Farm, and will be disseminating their newly-acquired seed saving knowledge amongst their existing networks.

The Seed Buddies will be matched with community gardens in their local area, and over the next year, will support their gardens to start seed saving. By working with community spaces, the Seed Buddies aim to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our seed heritage whilst also passing on practical advice and skills. All of the gardens which are involved will be invited to donate seeds to the Freedom Seed Bank at the end of next year.

Capital Growth will be matching Seed Buddies to community gardens over the coming months. If you are part of a community garden, or know one that would be interested in receiving a visit, then please make sure you register your interest here: http://www.capitalgrowth.org/buddy_scheme/

Final reminder for Seed Buddies training course

There’s just one week to go before the deadline to apply to become a Seed Buddy! 

Seed Buddies form an important part of the Seed Bank’s network. They receive FREE training, access to rare and unusual seeds from the Seed Bank’s collection, and play an important role in helping to raise awareness of the role of seed saving at community growing spaces across London.

Successful applicants will take part in a one-day training programme on Saturday 22nd October at the Regent’s Park Allotment Garden (10:30-16:00). The training day will be lead by expert seed savers from the Heritage Seed Library and will include:

–   Seed saving techniques: theory and ‘how to’ with different plants

–   Planning your space for seed saving

–  Small-scale storage techniques

After the training day, the Seed Buddies will be required to support/mentor two community gardens in saving their own seeds.

If you have any questions or are interested in taking part, then we would love to hear from you! To download a copy of the application form go to www.capitalgrowth.org/buddy_scheme/ or to ask any questions email freedomseedbank@gmail.com.

The deadline for applications is Monday 3rd October at 12pm.

Seed Saving for Beginners: Theory and Practice

London Freedom Seed Bank invite you to this half-day workshop at Glengall Wharf Garden on Saturday 15th October.

The session is for everyone interested in seed saving. Our trainer Charlotte Dove will go through the theory of seed saving (why save seeds, what is cross pollination, what are F1 cultivars) before giving practical advice on how you can save seeds from your garden, and what you need to do to successfully save the best seed crops.

Glengall Wharf Garden is thriving community garden in Burgess Park, south London, promoting food growing, organic horticulture and permaculture.

Course details

Date and time: Saturday 15th October, 12:30-15:00

Address: Glengall Wharf Garden, 64 Glengall Road, Peckham

To book a place, please go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/seed-saving-for-beginners-theory-and-practice-tickets-26079350038

This event is part of Capital Growth’s 2016 Training Calendar. For other upcoming training sessions, visit:  http://www.capitalgrowth.org/training/

Learn to save seeds with the Heritage Seed Library

One-day training course with the Heritage Seed Library on Saturday 22nd October.

The London Freedom Seed Bank is offering a day of free training about how to save vegetable seeds to anyone who is interested in becoming one of our Seed Buddies.

The Seed Buddies form an important part of the Seed Bank’s network and are responsible for passing on their seed saving skills to community groups across London, helping to raise awareness about the lost art of seed saving.

The one-day training programme will take place on Saturday 22nd October at the Regent’s Park Allotment Garden (10:30-16:00). The training day will be lead by expert seed savers from the Heritage Seed Library and will include:

–   Seed saving techniques: theory and ‘how to’ with different plants

–   Planning your space for seed saving

–  Small-scale storage techniques

After the training day, the Seed Buddies will be required to support/mentor two community gardens in saving their own seeds.

The scheme is a great opportunity to receive FREE training, to learn about the lost art of seed saving, to gain access to rare and unusual varieties from the Seed Bank’s collection, and to help preserve these varieties for future generations.

If you have any questions or are interested in taking part, then we would love to hear from you! To download a copy of the application form go to www.capitalgrowth.org/buddy_scheme/ or to ask any questions email freedomseedbank@gmail.com.

The deadline for applications is Monday 3rd October at 12pm.

Volunteering opportunity at the Seed Co-operative

The Seed Co-operative is a community-owned seed company, producing organic and bio-dynamic seed for UK distribution and building a network of certified growers.

They recently moved to Gosberton Bank Nursery in East Lincolnshire, where they are developing facilities for their own seed production, plant breeding and knowledge sharing activities, as well as creating a hub for processing seed produced by a network of small organic or biodynamic growers around the UK.

They are currently on the look out for new volunteers to help them with a huge variety of tasks at their new premises. It’s an excellent opportunity to get involved with this exciting and ambitious project at a pivotal stage of their development.

Good veggie food, bathroom and comfy bed are provided for live-in volunteers. Weekend work parties are also welcome.

More details on their website: http://www.seedcooperative.org.uk/volunteering/

Anyone interested should contact David Price davidprice@seedcooperative.org.uk

London Grows Seed Buddy Scheme

The London Grows Seed Buddy Scheme is open for applications.

The London Freedom Seed Bank is teaming up with Capital Growth, London’s leading food growing network, to offer free training and support to a group of Seed Buddies.

The Seed Buddies will form an important part of the Seed Bank’s network and will pass on their seed saving skills to community groups across London, helping to raise awareness about the lost art of seed saving, and to increase the supply of locally-grown seeds across the capital. Seed saving skills have been largely lost amongst modern-day growers and we think it’s essential to bring these skills back to order to build a robust and sustainable food system.

We are looking for skilled growers and gardeners who are interested in learning to save their own seeds and to support other community and/or school gardens to start saving their own seeds too. As part of the scheme, the Seed Buddies will be required to attend a one-day training programme on Saturday 22nd October at the Regent’s Park Allotment Garden (10:30-16:00). The training day will be lead by expert seed savers from the Heritage Seed Library and will include:

–   Seed saving techniques: theory and ‘how to’ with different plants

–   Planning your space for seed saving

–  Small-scale storage techniques

The Seed Buddies will also be required to support/mentor two community gardens in saving their own seeds. This will involve visiting each garden at least twice, once in autumn 2016 and then again in 2017. You can nominate to work with a community garden with which you are already involved or we can match you with a garden that would like to learn more about seed saving.

The scheme is a great opportunity to receive FREE training, to learn about the lost art of seed saving, to gain access to rare and unusual varieties from the Seed Bank’s collection, and to help preserve these varieties for future generations.

If you have any questions or are interested in taking part, then we would love to hear from you! To download a copy of the application form go to www.capitalgrowth.org/buddy_scheme/ or to ask any questions email freedomseedbank@gmail.com.

The deadline for applications is Monday 3rd October at 12pm.

 

Seed Saving at OrganicLea

You are warmly invited to the next Open Day at OrganicLea on Sunday 26th June from 12-4pm.

OrganicLea is a community food project based in the Lea Valley in north-east London. They produce and distribute food and plants locally, and also save their own seeds. They have invited members of the London Freedom Seed Bank to come and learn about their seed saving efforts and enjoy the Open Day.

There will be site tours and workshops, plus the launch of their new rhubarb beer, brewed locally from rhubarb grown on site.

This will be a great chance to meet other members of the London Freedom Seed Bank network and learn about seed saving techniques first-hand. If you are interested in coming along please email freedomseedbank@gmail.com. We will arrange a meeting point for everyone at OrganicLea.

Hope to see you there!

More info about open days at OrganicLea: https://www.organiclea.org.uk/whats-on/open-days-at-hawkwood/