The origin of the London Freedom Seed Bank

Article by founding member, Azul-Valerie Thom


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!

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 pervasive EU legislations, 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 germinated in London for learning, educating, re-skilling and celebrating the sacred, and sharing our true wealth, our Seeds.

The first step was to find out who still held the knowledge. In London, in the first 12 months we organised and delivered 7 workshops with some wonderful teachers. In Spring 2014, 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 was passed onto to 50+ new Freedom Seed Savers. At the end of each workshop the attendees chose a packet of seed from the Seed Bank with the promise to return some seed back to the London Freedom Seed Bank at the October Festivals. The map of London changed as we placed each seed and seed saver on it.

The Festival: The return of the remembered and saved seed called for celebration. Our first Freedom Seed Bank festival, in 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. We welcomed artists, poets, singers, speakers and danced a great ceilidh …the essence of seed is creativity! We honoured and gave thanks to the Freedom Seed Savers. We celebrated the recovery of skills that we were in danger of losing. We manifested a space for the sacredness of the seed and her gift of life!

The disappearance of our biodiversity and of our seed sovereignty is creating a major crisis for agriculture and food security around the world. We must act before it is too late.  Seeds are the first link in the food chain and the repository of life’s future evolution. As such, it is our inherent duty and responsibility to protect them and to pass them on to future generations (Vandana Shiva, seedfreedom.in)


Why the Freedom Seed Bank?

A bank is a place where we store what is truly precious to us. Seeds are our true wealth, our freedom and our food. Freedom is the reclaiming of what is our direct relationship with life.

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.

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 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 was, 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, who are also in great danger, and on our water. We cannot talk about the seed 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 realising why we must be active in re-skilling our community.

This is why we created this new essential project for all London growers. We are being the change we want to see in the world in seeding, growing and gardening solutions for our freedom of choice!

If you are moved by this article and want to be part of the London Freedom Seed Bank, please contact us through our website.