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Irish Organic Vegetable Seeds 

Our Mission is simple: To enable people to grow their own food

The First Brown Envelope Seed Catalogue was produced in 2004, and contained 25 varieties. It was clear then that traditional farming would not support a family and something imaginative would need to be done to avoid getting a real job. The decision to produce seeds was also inspired by the need to increase food security in Ireland. Apart from the Irish Seed Savers Association no vegetable seeds were being produced in the country.

Since then the number of varieties produced by Brown Envelope Seeds and the volume of seed has increased every year. Most of our customers order from a hard copy of the catalogue posted out around Christmas but orders from the WWW are increasing all the time.

The farm was a dairy farm when we move here in 1988. We carried on milking 12 Jersey cows until 1999 when we changed to beef. In spring 2005 about half of the farm was planted with broad leaf trees, mostly Oak, Alder and Ash but with small amounts of other species. After two seasons these are doing quite well especially where there is good shelter. Now, Brown Envelope Seeds is the most time consuming activity on the farm.

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What they are and why we use open-pollinated cultivars

Open pollinated varieties are those that come true from seed, as opposed to hybrid varieties which are produced by crossing to inbred lines of plants for seed. In the first generation hybrid seeds perform very well and produce uniform crops. However subsequent generations will have a random mix of genes from the two original lines and will not perform as well.

Seeds of domesticated plants have been handed down from our ancestors for thousands of years. They been stewarded by ordinary farmers for most of this time, and this has brought about a vast diversity of varieties. Because of the globalisation of information including the internet which connects us to other growers we have access to a huge range of genetic resources now. This is decreasing all the time as the seed industry consolidates and old varieties are lost. Old varieties were kept because they produced valuable crops, often under less than ideal conditions. Modern varieties are bred to perform under ideal conditions of climate and fertility, and often perform badly when stressed. We have a window of opportunity at the moment to, make sure each area has varieties suitable to its environment and climate.

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Every year we trial new varieties from all over the world, especially places with similar climates to us, hoping to find new useful crops for Ireland.

Open-pollinated varieties are populations which carry a diverse mix of genes. Natural selection by nature weeds out genes that are unsuitable to an environment, and farmer selection encourages the proliferation of genes that make the plants useful to us. In this way plants that carefully selected varieties can adapt to new conditions. Inbred plants are produced by selecting seeds from a single or small number of very similar plants and self pollinating them. When this is carried out over many generations the individuals become genetically almost identical, which give them very little scope to adapt to new conditions.

Our mission statement is to enable people to grow their own food. Part of that is producing their own seeds. Producing hybrid seeds is not practical for most gardeners, so that is why we use open-pollinated stock. Every year we trial new varieties from all over the world, especially places with similar climates to us, hoping to find new useful crops for Ireland. Our catalogue is the result of this search.

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Seeds, Gift Boxes and Gift Vouchers

Our annual catalogue contains lots of tips for storing your garden harvest and details of the gardening workshops and four day seed saving course that we run. All the seeds in this catalogue are grown on our farm in West Cork.

We have been selecting over the years for varieties and individual plants that work here. They are open-pollinated, or open source seeds, which means that you can save your own seed from them.

The farm is certified by The Organic Trust so that the seeds may be used by certified organic growers. There are no chemical treatments carried out on the seeds or the plants they are harvested from. (IRL-O1B3-EU Symbol No. 159). Brown Envelope Seeds is registered with the Department of Agriculture and inspected by it.

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Madeleine McKeever

Brown Envelope Seeds
Church Cross
West Cork

Telephone: +00 353 (0)28 38184

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