The Irvine Ranch Conservancy Native Seed Farm got its start in 2009, temporarily utilizing a small parcel of a burned-out avocado orchard damaged in the 2007 Santiago Canyon Fire. In 2016, the Native Seed Farm relocated to a more accessible site with expanded infrastructure.
Why have a seed farm? To get things done sustainably. The Conservancy has taken on an aggressive vision to restore almost 5,000 acres of native habitat throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, and that creates a huge need for native seeds and young plants- up to a ton a year.
Collecting that much seed from the wild would be unsustainable, as it would deplete the natural seed bank and cause more problems for the wild land down the road. At the same time, the supply of commercially available seed is limited, and some key species are not available to purchase at all. The answer was to start the Native Seed Farm and grow a custom mix right here at the base of the foothills.
Volunteers are key to the Farm’s operation. They help to grow and tend the seed producing plants, harvest the seed, and get it cleaned and ready for use. Participating in seed farming is unique way to be involved in the restoration of sensitive habitats. The Farm is at a flat, easy-to-access site, and the garden-like setting feels comfortable even for folks with little outdoor experience. The location on Jeffrey Road in Irvine provides improved facilities and easier public access, with more on-site capacity for all stages of the seed farming process.
To celebrate the move to the new site in 2016, community volunteers helped plant 15,000 native seedlings; today, 49 species – some rare – are growing at the Farm. All projects that the Farm’s seeds go to are managed by the Conservancy and are funded by partners such as OC Waste & Recycling, the Orange County Transportation Authority, OC Parks, and the City of Irvine.
From day one, the Farm has thrived due to support and involvement from the greater community, including plant biology and ecology interns from local universities, community service projects with local organizations and schools, and regular public volunteer activities open to the public two days a week. No previous experience is needed, and everyone (not just green thumbs!) will find the work pleasant and rewarding. Click here to learn more about volunteering at the farm.
The Native Seed Farm has two goals: to provide the local community a connection to the land and to provide a reliable source of quality seeds for restoration projects. The Native Seed Farm is an outstanding example of bringing people and land together for the benefit of both.
For a list of upcoming events at the Native Seed Farm, click here.