The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to many rare and native species that inhabit the lands from the mountains to the sea. Many of these species are being threatened by degradation and invasive plants, and Irvine Ranch Conservancy works to preserve the many wildflowers, shrubs, and native trees that grow throughout the Landmarks. The Native Seed Farm is an integral part of preservation and restoration on the open spaces, and staff and volunteers are rolling up their up sleeves and harvesting seeds to help the Landmarks thrive. Discover how the Farm helps the Landmarks self-sustain and register for a program at the Native Seed Farm today!
“It's rare that an organization is able to do what we’re doing,” Matt Garrambone, Plant Coordinator at the Native Seed Farm, said. “We’re managing the development and production of native plants and seeds in-house, creating a self-sustaining cycle that lets Conservancy staff and volunteers use locally appropriate seeds for restoration. It’s really exciting to have a resource like the Seed Farm.”
Irvine Ranch Conservancy seed harvesting originally took place on a small parcel of land in Orchard Hills, but demands quickly made the little farm outgrow its surroundings. In 2009 planting was relocated to the Native Seed Farm’s current home off Jeffrey Road, where many acres of land were available for use. The Farm is rich in farming and agricultural history, originally operating as a pasture until the late 1960s. After the land was no longer used for cattle, it was home to orange orchards through the 1990s then an ornamental nursery and lastly as a strawberry field.
“The land the Native Seed Farm is located on is rich with agricultural history, so it’s very fitting it’s now used for preservation purposes. The stewardship programs on the farm have really thrived under the leadership of Rachel Lambert, our Seed Farm Coordinator. We’re lucky to have her and so thrilled with the community participation,” Garrambone said.
The Native Seed Farm is also home to an active arthropod community, and supports an increasing number of pollinators that include bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The wildlife and insects are drawn to the Seed Farm because more than 50 species are grown and harvested on ten acres of land annually, providing a vibrant and invigorating ecosystem that supports a variety of plant life and wildlife.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy encourages visitors to enjoy the lands while giving back to the Native Seed Farm. The seed farm covers 11 acres total and harvests as much as 1,000 pounds of seeds per year. Single day and long term volunteers as young as eight years old can harvest seeds from whimsical summer wildflowers like vinegarweed, yellow pincushions, and California buckwheat. All seeds harvested are chosen by Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s ecologists and directly affect the Landmarks by giving animals food and shelter and providing a barrier from the negative effects of natural disasters like floods and wildfires.
It’s Harvest Time! Collect Wildflower Seeds at the Native Seed Farm is a stewardship program offered most Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 8:30 am - 11:30 am. All activities at the Native Seed Farm are free with required pre-registration, which closes at 4 pm the day prior to each event. Children eight years old and up are welcome to get outside and volunteer on the farm, and must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. For more details on programs click here or visit LetsGoOutside.org/activities.