Staff at Garden Organic in Ryton felt they’d received the royal seal of approval when their patron, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, visited their stand at the Edible Garden Show in London.
And as well as the royal couple, world-famous chef Raymond Blanc also called in to offer his continuing support for the charity’s work.
All high profile support is welcome as the charity continues to do battle against EU legislation on seed diversity.
As vice-president of Ryton Organic, Raymond Blanc is a keen supporter of its Heritage Seed Library. The chef is currently developing a heritage garden of his own at his restaurant in Oxfordshire using some of Ryton’s stock.
Seed library manager Neil Munro didn’t need to tell Prince Charles that protecting the UK’s plant heritage was “incredibly important”.
But he did explain that thanks to members and supporters, they are able to collect and conserve an ever-increasing variety of historic and heirloom vegetables, contributing to a reverse in the decline of genetic diversity.
Unlike most collections, the Ryton ‘library’ makes seeds available for its members to grow in their own gardens.
Mr Munro added: “Having the support of HRH the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Raymond Blanc helps us fantastically. Our work to protect and conserve these varieties is very successful, but also very expensive. The more we can raise awareness, the more support we hope to receive for our work.”
The charity has had to take a different tack lately as it has been fighting EU legislation which could make seed swap networks unviable by imposing new regulations. Mr Munro believes, if passed, this would slash the number of varieties grown by ninety per cent.
After a period of intense lobbying, the Ryton team recently heard that they had succeeded in having the most recent version of the proposed legislation thrown out.
Even so, Mr Munro believes it’s highly likely proposals will be re-submitted after the May European Parliament elections because the European Seed Association (ESA), which represents major producers, is not sympathetic to Heritage Seed Libraries.