Southland Seed Savers Network
The ongoing availability of locally-adapted heirloom fruit and vegetable varieties is crucial to a resilient, sustainable local food supply. Seeds are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small number of overseas companies: it is critical to reduce dependence on a global seed supply chain which is vulnerable to shocks such as global pandemics...
Southland Seed Savers Network (SSSN) was established in 1999 to develop a system whereby growers could share non-hybrid seeds that grow well in Southland, as well as saving locally-adapted varieties threatened with extinction. Members pay an annual membership fee (helping fund the project), and are then able to purchase a range of seed varieties. They are then expected to grow, save and return these seeds in larger quantities at the end of the season.
To access seeds you must be a member. Please click the button below to download a membership and order form. If you are just beginning your seed saving journey, please order from the Public Seed Catalogue, as these are varieties that are more common and will be good to practise saving with. If you are an experienced seed saver and keen to help keep some of our valuable heritage varieties going, please contact us. We usually send these to people who have sent us seeds in the past, but if you are keen and experienced, we would love to have more people keeping our seeds in a living bank!
History of the SSSN
This group was established in 1999 by the late Henry Harrington of Ohai to develop a network whereby growers could share non-hybrid seeds that grew well in Southland. Henry advised, admonished, encouraged and entertained us with his deep knowledge and respect for the world of plants and we are very much the richer for it. Henry left us with a legacy that we act upon every day and we are grateful to him.
As part of a nationwide network of Seed Saving Groups, home gardeners from throughout N.Z. were sending us their seeds to trial in Southland. With 19 seed saver groups around New Zealand we were a band of home gardeners protecting the legacy brought to N.Z. by our ancestors. These plants have fed us down through generations.
Over the years we offered the opportunity for people to 'adopt a seed' that we had little of and bulk it up over a couple of years by saving all the seed possible. As seed savers come and go, and beginners get practising, we developed a guardian system for some of our more rare varieties.
In 2007 we started caring for some Otago seeds to look after for the two provinces. Kay Baxter, a well known heritage seed saver who founded Koanga Gardens in the North island wanted to source Southland seeds for sale, but our numbers were not high enough to support commercial sales.
In 2008 we sought to bulk up our seed stocks by leasing some small parcels of land near Riverton for the project. We hoped this could build to a point where it would create a couple of part time jobs. However, funding was not found.
Over the intervening years enthusiasm for seed saving has waxed and waned and many of the seeds that have been sent out from the seed collection have not been returned. We will soon do a stocktake and decide what we are able to offer to the public. The intention in 2021 is to source some of Henry's original seed lines (which have been kept going by some other organisations, primarily the Koanga Institute) and request seasoned seed savers to grow these varieties in Southland and Otago to 're-localise' them. Once numbers grow high enough we will then be able to offer them in our own catalogue once more.
How to Save Seeds
If you would like advice on seed saving or would like to attend a workshop in your area please contact us. More information on seed saving is below.
Grow for Southland Seed Savers
We need people to grow and supply seeds, and help trial varieties new to Southland. If you want to become part of a network of growers for Southland seeds, read on.
While keen gardeners could each stockpile their own seeds for future use, this approach is limited because:
Often seeds need to be germinated the next season to keep them viable, and as individual gardeners we have limited space
We risk climatic or pest events destroying an individuals seed stock
So we think working together we can better ensure the survival of a variety of seeds that have been carefully nurtured for generations, which grow well in our climate.
If you like this project and would like to help in some other way (packaging, labelling and cataloging seeds in winter) please contact us as we are always pleased to welcome new volunteers joining our team.
Our seed saver group has decided to refresh our focus on developing a vibrant collection of seeds that will thrive in the Southland bio-region. We will be actively seeking seeds of food plants that Southlanders have grown successfully as well as rejuvenating the collection of seeds originally grown and saved over many years by our 1999 founder Henry Harrington (d.2010). We will also be looking further afield for varieties that may be suited to building food resilience to trial here.
This year we have split our catalogue into those seeds available to members as per previous years and those seeds that are more precious and require specialist attention to bulk up for the collection. If you feel confident that you can do this, please let us know and we will be happy to share these special seeds with you.
If you live in Southland and would be interested in being a contract grower of heritage seeds please let us know, as this is a direction we are interested in pursuing.
As always, we welcome any seeds that you have to share, especially if they come with a story (we love seedy stories!)
We have kept our prices from last year: $1 per packet of seeds. Yearly membership is still a donation of between $5 - $20