Sow Diverse exists because we care about biodiversity and food sovereignty...
Hi. We are Randa and Patrick Howell.
We are... as some would say… the founders of Sow Diverse. Though, we don’t particularly love that nametag. Let’s instead say we are “Rebels with a cause”, and entrepreneurs by passion.
Sow Diverse is, in many ways, born out of a lifetime passion for food and biodiversity.
We kind of fell into Sow Diverse in 2020. We both grew up in Africa and spent all our summer holidays at our grandparent’s farms and orchards. We remember fondly the good times picking up fresh and tasty vegetables in the gardens, sweet fruits in the orchards, milking the cows and bringing our bounties to the family kitchen. The smell coming of what was cooking in the kitchen still lingers when we think about it. The memories of the taste and juiciness of the tomatoes or the crispiness of the cucumbers we had just just picked from the garden still makes our mouth water. At that time, food was grown naturally without herbicides and pesticides. When we moved to Ireland in 2005, while we were working on other jobs, we started growing all things edible -No kidding, if it is not edible or usable it does not get planted! We found there was a shortfall in the available heirloom and unusual seed varieties we were looking for. Over the following years, we travelled to many European countries and found a far bigger heirloom and unusual seed selections. We started looking for seeds elsewhere while also buying what was available in Ireland. We also began experimenting with growing things that we were told would never grow in Ireland, invested in two polytunnels to maximize our chances and it all grew. We obviously had a lots of failures but we kept trying. We now have plants inside and outside giving us a continuous supply of fresh leafy greens, kitchen herbs, Asian herbs, carrots, beetroots, cabbage, pumpkins, squashes, and leeks… in the winter and when the spring, summer starts, beans, fava beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and you name it...We still have to manage to get our mango trees to bear fruits till maturity:) and we are not giving up.
We decided in 2020 to leave corporate life and made the jump when we saw the impact the pandemic had on food and seeds supplies. We felt it was the time to follow our love and passion for growing all things edible sustainably. We had already taken seed saving and bee-keeping courses with the Irish seed saving association in Co Clare. We went to get a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) delivered by the UK Permaculture Association in collaboration with Cultivate.ie at the eco village in Cloughjordan in Tipperary. We met beautiful people and built a network of like-minded people interested in protecting biodiversity, saving seeds and working holistically with nature. Maximizing food and seed diversity is a priority for us and we now know we can grow some or all of the food we need, no matter what size our garden may be: a suburban plot, a city garden, a balcony, a few pots on the patio or a windowsill. We experimented with new varieties and our friends started asking us for advices, or were amazed to see what we were managing to grow or cook. Our salads looked pretty with edible flowers mixed with greens.
Sow Diverse was officially born in January 2022 to share what we have learnt and make varieties of Heirloom and unusual open pollinated seeds accessible to all the gourmet, permaculture, adventurous home gardeners, allotmenters and natural food enthusiasts across Ireland.
We operate from Cork, the "Rebel" county in Ireland, and like to think of ourselves as "Rebels with a cause".
Rebels with A cause...
At Sow Diverse, our mission is to provide the seeds of a sustainable food supply for everyone and keep heirloom varieties alive for future generations. We believe every person should be able to shape their own food system and not depend from supermarkets chains or big corporation for their food supply.
We believe that gardeners, communities and farmers have the right to save their own seed, and in doing so, preserve seed diversity, and further food sovereignty.
We are at a time where corporate agriculture is inundating our food supply with mass-produced, chemically treated or genetically modified food, growing fewer varieties, and are engaged in a race to patents seeds that were previously free to use and share. Seed diversity and the access to this diversity have eroded substantially over the past 100 years due to the development of protected named hybrid seed types, patents and global trade agreements.
This seed industry map from Phil Howard, Associate Professor at the department of Community sustainability at the University of Michigan in the United States, illustrates the concentration of power corporate agriculture has quietly started for the last 50 years. Patented hybridized or genetically modified seeds endanger ours and our children’s food freedom.
Leave the planet better than you found it...
We believe that we all have a duty to leave the world better than we found it for our future generations by sowing diversity and cultivating differences. We can also make better buying choices by sourcing seeds from people who made a commitment to sustainability and biodiversity, small local seed savings communities and organizations and endangered communities. We think we shouldn't be limited by people telling us "it does not grow well here" as we have seen first hand this is not always true. It all depends on the conditions you provide for the plant to grow. We believe we are doing the right thing to protect the rights of our children to healthy, sustainably produced food.
Shopping with us allows you to buy from an Irish company that made such a commitment to food sovereignty and seed diversity. Not only are you supporting our family, but you’re also supporting other, extraordinarily hard-working small businesses.
All the seeds we sell are open pollinated, reproducible and can be saved, or shared, and we encourage people to save their own seeds. All of our seeds are untreated (chemical-free, GMO-free and non-patented or protected named hybrid (unless the breeder has agreed to commit to the OSSI pledge where the seeds are left in the public domain)) and are sourced, where possible, from organically certified European suppliers, Heirloom seeds suppliers, rare seeds suppliers, local seed savings organizations across Europe, associations preserving seeds biodiversity, seeds conservation societies and promoting European regional food cuisines.
We would be lying if we said we did not wonder if encouraging people to save their own seeds was the smartest approach to running a profitable business?
But, we can’t see ourselves building a sustainable seed business to preserve food sovereignty and biodiversity any other way. It’s just not who we are.
We encourage you to grow seeds, enjoy what you grow, save some and share the seeds you buy to preserve the rights of our future generations to a sustainable food system.
We are ourselves involved with seed sovereignty networks in Ireland and hope to do our bit to keep as many seeds alive as we can.
For our seed supply or transport, we endeavour to support the traditional and local postal office and system.
Our commitment to sustainability and biodiversity goes also for our packaging. We pledged not to use plastic or any non-recyclable material in our packaging. Our envelopes are made of recycled papers, our glue is water based. We print our envelopes as needed so there is no wasted paper or unnecessary stock.
Please join us in keeping heirloom and unusual varieties alive for future generations, participate in freeing the seeds and bring taste, colour and texture back into our plates.
Become a “Rebel” too and help make the world a better place for our children. Let us all work together to keep nature's legacy alive for a tastier future.
– Randa and Patrick Howell
Founders & Rebels