Seed savers’ quiet revolution

A quiet revolution is underway. And it’s sprouting where you might least expect it. In old baths and window boxes. In reclaimed parking lots and allotment plots. This is an urban seed revolution.

Londoners are rising to the interconnected challenges of climate change, food poverty, entrenched inequality and our nation’s mental and physical health crises by reviving one of the oldest human activities of all – sowing, saving and sharing seeds.

Their remarkable efforts to coax life from city soils are explored in a new short film from The Gaia Foundation and award-winning photographer and filmmaker Andy Pilsbury.

Resilience

Released during Seed Week 2022, A Quiet Revolution (8-mins) profiles London’s urban seed savers and the London Freedom Seed Bank, a network of more than 72 growers caring for over 150 seed varieties. It highlights the many benefits of seed saving in urban environments

Many of the seed varieties in the London Freedom Seed Bank‘s collection are rapidly adapting to London’s unique growing conditions. This is thanks to years of diligent seed selection, saving and sharing by growers like Richard Galpin from Walworth, South London. 

“The crops that we seed save are noticeably more resilient than commercial seed I’ve bought. That’s because we’ve necessarily chosen to save from the plants and varieties that have done well here. What we’re doing is is purposefully creating a wider gene pool of locally adapted varieties,” says Richard.

As the climate changes, having a diverse array of locally adapted seed varieties available represents an important source of resilience for London’s urban food systems and other who their seed could be shared with.

“As we face increasing climate uncertainty our food security is profoundly threatened. Suddenly, this collection of seeds that we have, becomes extremely valuable. A lot of them have been saved in London for maybe five, maybe seven, maybe even ten years now, and they’re actually acclimatised to our conditions here”, says Charlotte Dove of Sydenham Community Gardens.

Community

“Food growing, as well as sharing food and eating together, cooking together, I think is probably the greatest tool in terms of breaking down barriers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, rich, poor, can’t speak English, speak English, whatever your age, it breaks down barriers”, says Dee Woods of Granville Community Kitchen in South Kilburn.

Granville Community Kitchen (GCK) grows a wide array of crops from seed for a radical veg box scheme that provides culturally appropriate food for the local community. Every Wednesday fresh, organic fruit and veg is prepared at the kitchen to feed households all over Kilburn at variable rates according to what those households can afford.

GCK is just one example of how London-based seed savers are feeding multicultural communities across the capital, many of whom suffer from a lack of access to fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables. 

“Three of us grow food here for the local pantry, which is like a food bank where local people struggling to afford food can buy good food for very little money. Local residents are able to buy £15 worth of food for £4.50,” says Ann Gumuschian of Glengall Wharf Garden in South London.

“Unfortunately there’s plenty of need for food aid at the moment. It’s very important for us to be able to create systems of solidarity and systems that give people access to food, and in particular to good, healthy food. We make a point of only growing organically and to harvest our crops just an hour before delivery so people do get the best vegetables possible.”

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