Native Seed Farm

2016-3-04_Wildflowers in Bloom_Native Seed Farm-92The Irvine Ranch Conservancy Native Seed Farm began in 2009, and provides the public with a unique opportunity to actively participate in the restoration of sensitive habitats. The Farm was created because of the huge need for seeds to support the Conservancy’s aggressive goal of restoring almost 5,000 of acres of native habitat.

The original Farm relocated to a new and improved location in 2016, and today we are growing about 45 species on 8 acres – with room to expand! The new site on Jeffrey Road in Irvine includes improved facilities and easier public access, with more on-site capacity for all stages of farming – cleaning and storing of seeds as well as harvesting and planting. The Farm grows a wide variety of flowers, grasses, and shrubs, including some locally rare species. The seeds are harvested to support restoration projects managed by the Conservancy and funded by partners such as OC Waste & Recycling, the Orange County Transportation Authority, OC Parks, and the City of Irvine. Regular public volunteer activities are open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Work at the Farm requires no experience, and all tools and training are provided on-site by highly trained Conservancy staff and volunteers. [LEARN MORE]

Volunteer at the Native Seed Farm

Click here for a list of upcoming Native Seed Farm activities. Activities at the Native Seed Farm vary by season, based on the growth cycles of native plants. The activities might overlap, but here are the activities that generally happen in each season:

While winter may not seem like gardening season, it is! This is when our native plants need to hit the soil so they can start growing before the weather heats up. You will be planting seedlings to expand our growing area of perennial (multi-year) species, and can observe the growth of our annual (one-year) species. Planting is a fun and simple task. Since winter rains also encourage weeds, you can help out using a variety of specialized tools to remove the weeds and foster the best growth of our native plants. Weeding provides hands-on satisfaction and the instant-gratification of seeing how good it looks when you’re done!

Spring unrolls with an overwhelming abundance of color and fragrance! Our spring wildflowers are in bloom and the shrubs are shooting out fresh green growth. Harvesting the seeds from our fast-ripening spring flowers is the main way you’ll be helping at the Farm in spring. Whether you are working solo or working in teams, harvesting is rhythmic and rewarding. Additionally, you may help out with “touch up” weeding right before we harvest. We do this to protect the harvest from being contaminated by unwanted weed seeds. This in turn protects the wild lands where the seeds will ultimately be sown.

The harvest continues! In early summer, seeds from a wide variety of native species become ripe. Harvesting methods vary from plant to plant, and you will learn all about the plants you are picking from and how they help support wildlife and the health of the wild lands. Everything you pick is then lain out to dry. Later it will be cleaned and bagged, and used in restoration areas. Once the weather really heats up, the harvest takes a pause and we try to do some quiet work in the shade of our nursery area. Nursery work includes preparing and maintaining potted plants that are used for special projects and planted into the fields the following year.

The harvest keeps going!  By this season, many plants have fragrant leaves and their seeds have wonderful spicy aromas. You will harvest seeds working solo or in a team, and everything you pick is then lain out to dry. Later it will be cleaned and bagged, and used in restoration areas. You can continue to help us bring in the harvest all the way until winter, when the cycle starts again! As you work, you will learn about what happens to the seeds next and how the seeds will be used out on the wild land.