Racial Justice in Food and Seed Sovereignty Organising

At the London Freedom Seed Bank we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that have swept the globe in the wake of the state-sanctioned killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others. These are crucial times of protest and outrage, of education and learning about the systemic and structural racism* faced by the Black community across the globe and here in the UK which pervades every area of life. 

It is therefore crucial that we see our work in the context of the systems of racism which control and block access to food, resources and the land itself. In our own area of work, the structural racism of the industrial food system is clear: from the exploitation of un(der)paid, un(der)valued work of marginalised workers in the agricultural and food sector to the fact that people of colour are disproportionately at risk of household food insecurity which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown. Black people alone are almost 1.5 times more likely than other ethnic groups to suffer from food poverty.

It is on us all to dismantle systemic racism in the structures we work in as well as within ourselves, which allow these inequities to continue. For us organising in food and seed sovereignty, the principle of food justice should have a central place in our organising:

Food justice recognizes the influence of race and class on the production, distribution and consumption of food in the food system. It seeks to address the structural causes and disparities by drawing from established social and environmental theoretical frameworks to effect policy change and practical solutions (Deirdre Woods)

As well as the disparities in distribution and access to food and crops, access to land for people of colour is further restricted due to the UK’s long history of colonialism which concentrated land ownership in the hands of a very small number of wealthy and white landowners, making access to land for food growing inaccessible to people of colour in particular. 

In the UK many groups and networks are challenging these realities. Reparative justice approaches to food and seed sovereignty centre racial justice and work to disrupt the exploitative mindset of domination of the current food system under which marginalised communities and the Earth are made to suffer and bear the consequences of large-scale consumption and destructive industry. Land In Our Names is one example for an organisation that centres reparative land justice for marginalised communities and which promotes growing and agricultural practices that sustain life and honour the living Earth. 

We strongly feel that racial justice must be more than an add-on to our work and must be centred in organising around food sovereignty and seed saving. This is a conversation that we need to have at the London Freedom Seed Bank as well. As Sam Siva from Land In Our Names (LION) eloquently states:  

“We need you to recognise how our struggles are tied together, our liberation is bound together, and that dismantling racism is not just the work of Black people or something that is only remembered when one of our deaths is recorded and broadcast. It is work that we are doing everyday and it is work that we all need to do if we want real change.

Below are just some resources that we have found useful on racial justice in the context of food and seed sovereignty:

        The Landworkers Alliance is hosting a webinar on Race and Farming in the UK on Wednesday 8th July, click here to register!



       Building an Anti-Racist Food Movement: Reflections from Land in Our Names by Sam Siva

       Invisible Women: Hunger, Poverty, Racism and Gender in the UK by Deirdre Woods


Listen / Watch

       The Seeds of Our Ancestors: A Day at Soul Fire Farm, Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder

       Food Justice Requires Land Justice: A Conversation with Savi Horne

       Farming While Black: Uprooting Racism, Seeding Sovereignty by Leah Penniman

TedX Talk: Ron Finley – A guerilla gardener in South Central LA



Land In Our Names is a UK food and land justice organisation for people of colour.

       UBELE is a social enterprise supporting African diaspora social action and community projects. A particular focus at the moment is research into the disproportionate impact COVID has had on BAME people.

       Black Rootz  is a black-led multigenerational project at Wolves Lane in north London where the older generation share their growing knowledge and support young people.

        The African Caribbean Food Heritage Network is a new social enterprise working towards Black food sovereignty and uplifting African and Caribbean heritage foodways through advocacy, research and the provision of services including education, training and educational resources that build equity in the food system.

       Black Lives Matter UK are working to dismantle the structures that disproportionately harm black people in the UK through advocating for change in legislation, distributing educational resources and healing practices, calling for justice for those killed by the British police, providing emergency relief for those facing the worst of the pandemic and more.

Black Land and Spatial Justice Fundraiser : This fund has been developed to redistribute resources, including finance and knowledge on land and food justice and to strengthen collective organising to redefine people’s relationships to land and space. 


       21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, daily prompts to deepen your understanding of & ability to confront racism in the food system.

If you want to strengthen your understanding of racism and racial justice, consider starting a “White Affinity Group” or “White Caucus”. These are spaces in which white allies can explore their experiences and privileges of whiteness without burdening people of colour with the responsibility and the labour of educating you/us (which remains a big problem in anti-racist organising and has been called out by many anti-racist organisers). This is not meant to be a space without accountability to black people, rather it is a self-aware attempt of doing the emotional work of anti-racism and engaging in the rich material on anti-racism out there so that people of colour won’t have to continuously live through and speak about their experiences of racialisation and racism again and again – there is plenty of material out there! Read more about this idea here, here and here

* when we speak about structural and systemic racism we mean the privileging of whiteness across our different systems of governance, our state and economic structures, policies, organisations.


Dear friends,

Have you ever thought about creating your own community seed collection or do you worry that your saved seeds aren’t stored correctly? We’ve got just the event for you! Join us for ‘Caring for a Community Seed Collection’ on Sunday 17th November at Walworth Garden. We have teamed up with Community Seed Banks Academy and Vital Seeds to cover the basics of good practice in drying, cleaning and storage of seed. There will be hands-on experience of cleaning, sorting, packing, and labelling as we process the London Freedom Seed Bank 2019 harvest, in preparation for distribution through community events. You are also welcome to bring your own seed for cleaning through our seed cleaning machine! Booking required, limited places: here

Before that, we’re co-hosting Seeds Stories and Symbionts with the Roving Microscope and Connected Seeds Library on 27th October. Part of Spitalfields City Farm’s wildlife appreciation day, we will explore the human and more-than-human stories that are carried by our seeds, taking a closer look at their shapes and textures and meeting some of the microscopic communities that inhabit them. Bring some seeds or seed stories along. Tickets here.

Field-drying seed at Shoulder to Shoulder Farm, Oregon

Field-drying seed at Shoulder to Shoulder Farm, Oregon. Photo: Richard Galpin

It’s been a busy few months for us. Back in August LFSB’s Richard Galpin caught up with Frank Morton in Oregon, USA, the legendary seed farmer and experimental plant breeder. “I turned up unannounced to Frank’s farm towards the end of the working day and found Frank enjoying the hazy sunshine amongst the flowering lettuce heads at the edge of his four acre plot,” Richard says, “Frank was gracious enough to show me around the farm. It was incredible to see the 150 seed crops he’s growing this year alone, and pick up some tips for field-drying seed crops, and see the way he harvested and cleaned seed, including the awesome Winnow Wizard a seed cleaning machine designed by Mark Luterra, one of the farm hands.

Most exciting of all, I got the answer to the question I went there to find out: What were the parents of the Mayan Jaguar lettuce? (One of Frank’s farm-bred lettuces which is itself, one of the parents of my London-bred Bloody Marvel lettuce). The answer was Crisp Mint crossed with  Forellenschluse’ (meaning speckled like a trout’s back) AKA ‘Flashy Trout Back’. No surprise that the red flecked heritage variety Flashy Trout Back was somewhere there in the mix.”

Richard and Frank

Richard and Frank

At the start of September, we helped launch the Wellcome Collection’s new permanent gallery, Being Human. For the next 10 years, London Freedom Seed Bank seeds (Latte Calaloo, Fiesta Corn and Bloody Marvel Lettuce) will be on display. The work of the seed savers within our network is celebrated as a hopeful response to environmental breakdown. It is so encouraging to see large, mainstream organisations like the Wellcome Trust recognise the important work seed savers do. Read more about the exhibit here.


We’ve been busy too with a late summer/ early Autumn full of workshops, talks and activism. It seems like there’s a real appetite for fully closing the loop to community self sufficiency and sourcing organic, open-pollinated seed. On a larger scale, increasing work with the UK food sovereignty movement and Extinction Rebellion, highlight the important contributions seed savers make to fighting biodiversity collapse, increasing resilience to climate breakdown and building a more just, healthy food system. More on this soon!

Finally, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get cracking with your seed collecting. In-breeders like tomatoes, french beans, lettuce and peas are a good place to start. Julie Riehl guides you through it here.

Get in touch if you have any seed to donate to the bank! We’d love to hear from you.


Charlotte, Richard, Julie and Helene

London Freedom Seed Bank Team

Lead image: CC: Wellcome Collection 

Seed Saving in South London – Tues 20th Nov.

We warmly invite you to join us for a Seed Saving Evening at the South London Botanical Institute on Tuesday 20th November from 6.30-9pm.

We will be screening the Seeds of Freedom documentary, sharing top tips on how to start saving, and hearing from Richard Galpin about his experience breeding new lettuce varieties. Richard will also be demonstrating his DIY Seed Cleaner, built using an Open Source design on the Real Seeds website – come and see it in action!

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 21.27.24.png

For tickets, please go to the Eventbrite page.

We are happy to be collaborating with Incredible Edible Lambeth and the South London Botanical Institute on this event.

Three seedy events in October not to miss

We’re delighted to share news of three seedy events coming up in October:

Screening of Seed: The Untold Story, Monday 15th October, 4.15pm, at the Bertha Doc House. Melanie Fryer from the Gaia Foundation will be joined by food activist Anna Lappe for a Q&A afterwards


Talk: A food revolution starts with seed, Tuesday 16th October, 11am-12.15pm, at the Bargehouse Gallery. 9 out of 10 bites of food we take owes its origin to seeds. And yet seeds are often overlooked in discussions about our food system. As part of a full-day of exciting events organised by the Land Workers Alliance, learn how small-scale seed producers are boosting the quality and amount of locally-adapted, organic seed as part of Gaia’s Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme.


Both of these events form part of a busy programme surrounding the launch of the Gaia Foundation’s photographic exhibition, We Feed the World

Seed Swap at the Jetty, Saturday 20th October, 12-3pm. Learn about seed saving and swap seeds for the season ahead. Come in the last hour and enjoy a tour of this quirky, floating garden. This event is organised by Urban Growth Learning Gardens.


London Freedom Seed Bank is happy to support these promise-to-be-excellent events.

Peas and Solidarity!



Edible Living Harvest Festival

London Freedom Seed Bank are pleased to be taking part of the Edible Living Harvest Festival on Friday 22nd September. It’s going to be a fun celebration of growing with a pot luck dinner, activities to get your hands dirty, and the chance to meet Lambeth’s food growing community. We will be there with the seed bank so come along to get your hands on some FREE LOCAL ORGANIC SEEDS!

Edible Living Harvest Festival (1)

Next re-skilling training Saturday 25th April

Hello all,

There are a few spaces left on our next training with Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds.  It will be held next Saturday 25th April from 10.30 to 1.30pm at Regents Park Allotment.  The training will cover all aspects of seed saving with plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

Saturday 25th April at Regent’s Park Allotment

Trainer: Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds

Time: 10.30am-1.30pm

Venue: The Regent’s Park allotment garden is located in the middle of Regent’s Park itself, at the Corner of Chester Road and the Inner Circle, next to the park’s office. If using a GPS use the postcode NW1 4NR.

Email us at freedomseedbank@gmail.com if you would like to book a place.

In solidarity

London Freedom Seed Bank


Re-skilling workshops – Spring 2015

We are pleased to announce our upcoming workshops for this spring.   These workshops will provide you with the information necessary to start saving seed this year. We will cover choosing which varieties to save, considerations for avoiding cross-pollination, choosing which plants to select, and the practical aspects of saving seed from your plants. Growers and gardeners with no previous experience are welcome.

All workshops are FREE, and we will be distributing seed from the London Freedom Seed Bank at the end of the trainings to those who can commit to donate some of the seed back to the bank at the end of the growing season. This enables us to continue the cycle of redistribution next year.

The first two events in March are in collaboration with Oasis Nature Garden and Glengall Wharf Garden and do not require booking. For the April workshops we ask that you email us at freedomseedbank@gmail.com to book a place.

We would love to see you again if you have been on previous trainings at the London Freedom Seed Bank, especially if you have donated seed to the bank. If you are be interested in building on your current experience we would encourage you to attend the training on Saturday 25th April at Regent’s Park Allotment with Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds.


 Seed Swap  @ Oasis-page-001Saturday 21st March in collaboration with Oasis Nature Garden 

Trainer: Charlotte Haworth

Time: 1-4pm

Venue: Oasis Nature Garden on the corner of Larkhall Lane and Studley Rd, Stockwell, London, SW4 6SP

Tel: 020 7498 2329


Seedy Sunday 22nd March-2

Sunday 22nd March at Seedy Sunday Glengall Wharf Garden 

Time: 1-4pm

Trainer: Natalie Mady

Venue: Glenhall Wharf Garden, East end of Burgess Park, 64 Glengall Road, SE15 6NF



Saturday 11th April at Keats Community Organics

Trainer: Jack Astbury

Time: 10.30am-1.30pm

Venue: Keats Community Organics, South London, DA16 3NB (nearest station Welling)

Please book at place by emailing us at freedomseedbank@gmail.com


Saturday 25th April at Regent’s Park Allotment

Trainer: Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds

Time: 10.30am-1.30pm

Venue: The Regent’s Park allotment garden is located in the middle of Regent’s Park itself, at the Corner of Chester Road and the Inner Circle, next to the park’s office. If using a GPS use the postcode NW1 4NR.

This training is aimed at those with some experience of seed saving.  Please book at place by emailing us at freedomseedbank@gmail.com


We look forward to seeing you!  Please email us if you have any questions.

In solidarity

London Freedom Seed Bank 



Freedom Seed Bank

Trainings to be announced and upcoming events


IMG_1487Hello fellow seed savers,

With spring nearly here we’re kicking into gear at the London Freedom Seed Bank ready for the new growing season. We have been carrying out germination tests on the seed that was donated back to the bank by our freedom seed savers at our festival last October, in preparation to redistribute at this year’s trainings. These tests are being carried out at Growing Communities Dagenham Farm, where the bank is being stored (thank you to Alice Holden for space, help, and corner of a propagator). The dates of our trainings are in the process of being finalised so watch this space, we will be advertising them here shortly!

photo (2)In the meantime, we will be going to the Global Justice Now event tomorrow, Monday 23rd ‘What lies ahead? Pan Africanism: connecting and taking action for global justice’. It looks to be a great discussion – see you there if you can make it.

Please check out the upcoming community food growers network events here.

In solidarity

London Freedom Seed Bank


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.

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

We are GROWING A WEBSITE this winter!

Dear all – this blog is not sufficient anymore so we are growing a new website!

growing a website

2013 has been AMAZING for the Freedom Seed Bank: We have grown fast and now need to regroup and create a fabulous website for 2014.  We will move from this blog to a new site that will contain and take us through the growth and seeding of the Freedom Seed Bank in 2014, the Festival 11-12th Oct 2014 and beyond.  Thank you all for your contributions and support!




2013 recap

FEB 2013:

Meeting with Vandana Shiva and Satish Kumar at Gaia Foundation. Vandana becomes a committed supporter and contributor

MARCH 2013

Re-skilling workshops offered by Open Pollinated Seeds and others

MAY 2013:

First re-skilling training to growers with Open Pollinated Seeds

JUNE 2013:

Re-skilling training

SEPT 2013:

Saving&Storing seeds workshop at FOOD from the SKY


5th Oct

The first Freedom Seed Bank Festival at Passing Cloud in Dalston welcoming 34 Freedom Seed Savers!

Seeds donated to the seed mandala
Seeds donated to the seed mandala
Brina singing her Seeds of Freedom song
Brina singing her Seeds of Freedom song
heresa from Gaia Foundation
Teresa from Gaia Foundation

Freedom Seed Bank

Seed savers donating seed
Seed savers donating seed
Abundance of seed
Abundance of seed
Caroline David leading 'Seed unto Seed'
Caroline David leading ‘Seed unto Seed’


















The first Freedom Seed Bank Festival at Passing Cloud in Dalston welcoming 34 Freedom Seed Savers!

17th Oct: Vandana Shiva and seed savers, food growers and other people interested in food and seed sovereignty gathered in a deep conversation that led to action and commitment from different people present.

Azul-Valerie Thome and Vandana Shiva 2 women 'seeding' the change they want to see in our world...
Azul-Valerie Thome and Vandana Shiva 2 women ‘seeding’ the change they want to see in our world…










Azul-Valerie Thome at the European Parliament in Brussels
Azul-Valerie Thome at the European Parliament in Brussels










NOV 2013

30th Nov 

Meeting at the Regent’s Park allotment to re-skill and raise awareness, plan Festival 2014 as well as growing our network.

Pod forming for the Festival 2014
Freedom Seed Bank mind map
Mind Map










DEC 2013:

5th Dec: Organised meeting with Gaia Foundation, A Team Foundation: What do you think about the Freedom Seed Bank idea?  What initiative are you working on in 2014?  Would you like to be involved in the Festival and in what capacity?

Guests attending

  • Freedom Seed Bank
  • A Team Foundation
  • Gaia Foundation
  • Soil Association
  • Enlightened Agriculture
  • UK food Ltd.
  • GM free campaign
  • Seed Freedom
  • South Bank Roof Garden
  • Sustain

Fabulous outcome, resume and collective mind map of the meeting available!



We wish you all a very warm and restful winter celebrations to give you support&strength for next year!

In solidarity

Azul and Freedom Seed Bank Pod