True Harvest Seeds

Who we are

Julia Cross
Trustee - Chairwoman

Owner of InTune Therapies. Kindergarten teaching certificate. Mother of four children. Shaman, spiritual healer. Julia organises and contributes to our fundraising activities, from music nights in Belfast to joining in stand exibitions, she's really great with the children answering their many questions about seeds and in the true spirit of Chairwoman she endlessly promotes our conservation work.

In Tune Therapies
Mark Bryson
Trustee - Secretary

Director/manager Eco Seeds. NVQ Nursery stock production. BSc Sociology. Mark organises our meetings. He also has acted extensively in an advisory capacity on how True Harvest Seeds can grow row crops of wild flowers at Kilclief. His cooperation and advice means that between the two companies of Ecoseeds and True Harvest Seeds we act congruently and  for the greatest good of conservation of flora on this island.

Becky Knight
Trustee - Treasurer

BA(Hons) Accountancy and finance. Becky keeps our finances right, she's the final say when getting the accounts ready for the accountants. Becky also keeps an eye on the charity's governance and reporting schedules and handles the trustees report that's available to the public through Companies House to let everyone know what we have achieved in any given year. Becky gives her advice and expertise freely and cheerfully because she's great at what she does and she enjoys her work, she allows the administration to be confident and assured that we get the charity governance right, which is a great relief.

Katie Laurence
Trustee - Staff liason manager

Dedicated conservationist. BSc Zoology. Interests are in native ecosystem preservation and native mammals. As a founder member, Katie's enduring belief in the cause that is our native flora has always provided a steadying and stabalising influence on the charity. She has a quiet voice that is worth slowing down and quieting yourself to listen to, her practical advice and general ability to see the bigger picture and how our actions will benefit a wide audience is always soothing and encouraging.

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Debbie Gillies
Chief executive

Debbie Gillies BSc(Hons)Computing. Environmental conservation, Community facilitation. Community environmental leadership. RHS level II Hort. Seed Conservation Techniques from Kew. Debbie is the engine that drives True Harvest Seeds day to day. She's the person you'll likely get on the other end of the phone. She coordinates and organises contributions from the members and long term volunteers steering the charity according to their advice and recommendations. Her true passions lie in growing plants, setting out garden spaces and working with seeds from collecting expeditions and talking to everyone involved to allow them to happen, to working in the field harvesting, cleaning and testing seeds. She also has built this website, another passion.

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Mike Bennett
Long term Volunteer

Mike is a retired physicist so with his common sense and practical abilities he has joined in with everything we have put to him. From seed collection expeditions to seed harvesting and cleaning to irrigation installation to seed packing and numerous odd jobs, we are very glad to have his steady thinking and experience at hand. Mike dedicates time every week and we have learned to depend on his contribution.

Long term Volunteer

Retired scientist. Helen has made a momentous contribution to True Harvest Seeds and deserves much credit for the success of the charity. She has volunteered every week for over three years now. She's Debbie's right hand and the trusted ear to run unfamiliar and tricky situations past to end up with sensible, intelligent conclusions. Helen is an enthusiastic seed lover and has been involved in every aspect of seed conservation we undertake, as well as having contributed her time she has contributed financially to the charity. Her new scientific project within True Harvest Seeds is eagerly awaited.

Michael Thompson
Trustee for Marketing

Mike is a director at Iconic Biscuits, with 20 years in marketing, sales and digital content production for international brands.

His first love has always been wildlife and conservation, previously working as a wildlife and marine photographer around Ireland and South Africa. With his two children, he takes every opportunity to explore the plants and animals available, whether it’s a bird count in the back garden or exploring forests and ponds around the country. When a business colleague invited him to volunteer with True Harvest Seeds, he jumped at the chance to help preserve and learn more about, the native species of plants that make the island of Ireland unique and attract the many varieties of insects and birds that we enjoy everyday.

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Mary Pearson

Mary is a retired biomedical scientist.

Fergus Gordon

I joined THS in summer 2020. I had a keen interest in organic gardening. I was so glad of the opportunity to contribute to the preservation of Irish seeds. Not only that but i really enjoy the work and the good craic with like minded people. I enjoy the variety of work, from harvesting seeds to looking after the organic vegetable plot.

Why did we start?

Back in 2013 on a Sunday afternoon, pondering the natural beauty of our native wild flowers, we wondered where Ireland’s Seed Bank is.  We didn’t find one. Several individual organisations, both private and public have great seed facilities already, but that work is primarily for food and agricultural crops. Crop wild relatives and some endangered species have also benefited from conservation work with various organisations across the island. But until True Harvest Seeds there has been no dedicated ex-situ seed bank for all our wild flowers, shrubs and trees. We also have some varieties of vegetables and herbs that do well here.

Ireland’s flora is generally regarded as being a subset of European flora. We at True Harvest Seeds question this and suggest that this is a broadly sweeping assumption.

It is for this reason we have set up a dedicated Centre for the research into and preservation of flora from the island of Ireland. Our ecosystems work as a whole which includes humans, we disregard any part of it, even the smallest and especially those we don’t understand, at our peril. The computer won’t work if even the tiniest diode is missing.

Getting set up

In December 2013 we took professional business advice and set up as a limited company with charitable aims and in April 2014 were awarded charitable status. Along with prior knowledge on seed technology, farming naturally without chemicals, horticulture and business we approached Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and in November 2014, two of their experts generously came here to stay with us for three days. They gave us training in making the high quality seed collections and much much more.  So many methods and much thinking – necessary for a successful seed bank. In 2016 Debbie undertook a three week live in course on Seed Conservation Techniques at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, tough stuff to learn so much so fast.

One of our members bought a field, in Kilclief, Co Down which enabled True Harvest Seeds to have a long and secure lease on two acres and this is where the Seed Centre is today. As a result of this plus the generous funding, we can accommodate visitors, pass on our learning by teaching, sharing and developing the Seed Centre and Seed Bank. At the Seed Centre we have an office, a polytunnel, a laboratory, community space and outdoor growing areas and beds.  If you or your group want to learn more you can book a tour to learn more.

Ultimately – what we are aiming to achieve – to create:

  • A Seed Centre of excellence; an indigenous plant resource centre on the island of Ireland. 
  • A gene bank containing a high quality scientific collection of each native species from each habitat. 
  • A research facility for genetic testing of our DNA sampling and information dissemination about the findings.
  • An ongoing source of native-origin seed, available via the seed bank for research or seed packets for everyone.
  • A hub for visitors to enjoy a day, exploring the plants that provide us with our unique natural heritage and the life it supports. 
  • A herbaria so future generations can see what the seed collections should look like if they grow out some seeds.
  • An opportunity for learning and becoming involved in this detailed work in practice – out collecting seeds and specimens – growing in the nursery – seed banking techniques. Who knows what present and future researchers will discover about Irish plant life once we can dedicate time and effort into native plant research.

We are extremely grateful to the efforts and kindnesses given to True Harvest Seeds, for the funding we have received from so many, for our skilled and dedicated seed collectors and for the belief you have shared with us in our vision – to save the future of our beautiful Irish wild flora. It has been quite a journey which continues…