Irish plant scientist sells organic seeds all over the world

Plant scientist Madeline McKeever sends organic vegetable seeds all over the world from her remote farm on the Turk Head peninsula in west Cork.

What is special about your business?
Seeds are special. They are the fundamental units of agriculture and it is a privilege to work with them. We produce around 100 varieties of seed and grow a mixture of old and modern varieties. We select those that perform well and further adapt them to the Irish climate. We grow unusual grains such as amaranth and quinoa and are also particularly interested in tomatoes and have about 50 different varieties.

We have stuck to vegetables because if you diversify too much, you can’t do everything well. We are a small family business so what we do is very personal and hands on. Producing seed is hard work. Our business is very much a labour of love.

What sets your business apart in your sector?
We are one of the only two farms in Ireland producing vegetable seeds. The rest are imported. Both of us are striving for the same thing – to supply good, organically certified, open-pollinated seeds to Irish growers. This is important because open-pollinated seeds are populations that carry a diverse mix of genes. The country of origin does not have to be put on seed labels/packets and many people assume that Irish companies are selling Irish seeds when they’re not.

We are passionate about organic seed and prepared to invest the time and effort required to produce it whereas the large seed companies are not. We see our mission as enabling people to grow their own food. Our seeds cost around €2.50 a packet which is not a lot for an Irish-produced seed with strong provenance.

Read more at The Irish Times (Olive Keogh)

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