Saving seeds for the Silver City

Seed saving has become a popular practice as many communities seek to become less reliant on other regions for their food supply.

Landcare Broken Hill has long been receiving seed enquiries from pastoralists, ecological consultants, regional tourism project officers, and people interested in land rehabilitation for both private properties and national parks. Recently, their attention has turned towards the propagation, collection, and storage of seeds to feed the Silver City’s community.

In 2020, Landcare Broken Hill responded to community requests for seeds by submitting a proposal to install a Seed Bank site within the Jubilee Oval Reserve for the collection of native plant seeds, storage, and distribution. At the time, they didn’t consider collecting vegetable seeds due to existing large operators in other regions, but inspired by a growing global trend, the group is now moving towards ensuring food security for residents of our remote region.

Broken Hill Landcare’s Honorary President, Simon Molesworth AO KC, acknowledges we’re living in one of the driest and harshest regions in the country, which is why there’s an urgent need to create a large-scale Arid Zone seed harvesting seed bank to act as an essential ‘feeder’ facility capable of supplying seed to an array of projects designed to combat climate change.

“In the past, we’ve never contemplated collecting vegetable seed as there are already large operators in Australia,” Mr Molesworth told the Truth recently.

“We need to have a good chat about seed collection and storage,” he said. “Setting up a major commercial-scale Seed Bank within the Landcare Sustainability Hub within our Nature Park at Imperial Lakes is and always has been a core component of the Project.

“We already have Stage 1 of the Seed Bank Project up and running and Stage 2 of the Project will see the major facility built. We’ve already received three grants, totalling about $80,000, for the Seed Bank component of our Hub Project, and most of the equipment has been purchased, delivered, and is in storage here in Broken Hill.

“Seed collecting and storage require great expertise because of the need to manage the ever-present threat of moulds, pathogens, and predators—seed-boring insects.

“A company called Eden Seeds is focused on heirloom vegetable seeds. It’s similar to another company called the Diggers Club – the latter being the largest in Australia,” Mr Molesworth told us.

“I have already had discussions with the Diggers Club owners with the intention of securing them as a project partner with Landcare Broken Hill – and they are interested. The Diggers Club is a member-based organisation with the profits now channelled into the Diggers Club Foundation, a not-for-profit philanthropic foundation to support heirloom plant conservation,” he said.

“Lindy, my wife, is the coordinator of our current seed collecting project and already has seed of hundreds of native species. We have consulted far and wide and have external people willing to come to Broken Hill to help establish the Seed Bank when we are ready.

“Like the seed bank in Deniliquin, which is the nearest such facility to Broken Hill, we could potentially employ 15 to 20 people, if we followed the Deniliquin Murray Seeds model,” said Mr Molesworth.

Local Landcare member, Greg Curran, weighed in on the conversation highlighting the importance of setting up a system to acquire, store and make available seeds from “good local gardeners and their gardens.”

“Spring is a good time to start planning something like this. I think it would be well accepted and local gardeners would be glad to supply seeds,” said Mr Curran. Perhaps it’s something other Landcare groups around the country may like to consider.”

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