Neil Munro – cleverly protecting heritage vegetable varieties against bureaucracy

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This is a great episode. We met with Neil at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017 (another in the series). He works for Garden Organic – a tiny non profit focusing on promoting organic growing (go figure!), and his task is managing a library of seeds that do not appear on the National Seed List. Only seeds that go through vetting, and testing (which costs a bit of money) can go onto that list, and are allowed to be sold legally. What the Heritage Seed Library does, it provides a way to distribute those seeds without the need for adding them to the List. Listen and read more on how they achieve that. You will find some interesting gems here.


Garden Organic – began in 1950’s

Heritage Seed Library began in 1978. Its aim is to conserve varieties that are no longer available.

Before 1973 you could sell any vegetable seed as long as it had a certain germination rate.

National list of plant varieties gazette

EU Plant Variety Database

Since joining the EU, one could no longer sell any variety of veg seeds, without them being added onto the national list, and that came with fees for administration and testing.

The Heritage Seed Library cannot legally sell the varieties of seeds they manage, because they are not in the national list. To go around that they’ve created a membership scheme.

Most members are home gardeners, small holders, farmers

Seed Guardians – volunteers that grow out varieties held by the Library. They choose seeds from the “orphan list” – of seeds which have not had a chance to be grown out.

The control of trueness to type is done through traceability of batches of seeds right from delivery from volunteer through growing by the next member. Members are asked to feedback any variations from type, and that can be traced back to the Seed Guardian, and discuss steps to avoid essentially loosing the type.

Neil is one of the directors of the Seed Cooperative.

Jamie Oliver – would you be interested in trying out some heritage vegetables? (this goes for any chef in the country)

Do a call out to your members to post pictures of meals made with the veggies grown out of the seeds.


Who wants to publish a book of recipes compiled of meals made with “illegal” seeds?

Who wants to start a perennial version of the seed/plant library?

Save your seeds! They are not a typical catalog, as the same varieties don’t appear every year.

Join Garden Organic and help them preserve heritage seed varieties! 

Music used: Luxe by Jahzzar is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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