The Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s 14-acre Native Seed Farm is essential to the success of habitat restoration projects throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, but it also serves as a great way for the community to connect with the land. Community support and involvement are critical for the farm’s success. Volunteers and participation from the public allow conservancy staff to produce more seed from a wider range of plants, essential ingredients for successful restoration on the land. However, many volunteers will be quick to admit that it isn’t just the plants that keep them coming back to the farm.
Rachel Lambert, Seed Farm Stewardship Coordinator, leads most public activities at the farm. Her bubbly personality and deep knowledge of plants and history make every outing an adventure to remember, and keeps the public coming back for more. She has been working at the Native Seed Farm for six years and is responsible for planning and hosting stewardship activities at the farm, as well as assisting with the farm’s day-to-day operations.
As the Seed Farm Stewardship Coordinator, Rachel trains and coordinates groups of volunteers who support the Farm by taking on a variety of behind-the-scenes tasks. Volunteers help grow and tend plants, harvest seed, and clean and prepare the seed for use on the Landmarks. Every year Rachel and the Native Seed Farm team host over 1,000 volunteers, who together contribute about 2,600 volunteer hours at the Farm.
“This year at the Farm, we’re enjoying the double-edged sword of the rain,” said Lambert. “It’s going to be a great yield this year, but we have to battle the abundance of weeds. I have some very tenacious volunteers that are a great source of joy and inspiration. Their curiosity and enthusiasm are refreshing!”
In addition to working in the Farm’s seed production area, Rachel works with the volunteers on facility improvements. This year, staff and volunteers are building demonstration gardens and planting additional vegetation that will help keep the Farm safe from threats like wildfires. They will also be adding a second cooling unit to enhance the seed storage system and inventory technology.
“Rachel has been a great asset to the Native Seed Farm,” said Dave Raetz, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Deputy Director. “Her knowledge, liveliness, and dedication to the Native Seed Farm is a continuous inspiration to Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and volunteers who have the pleasure of working with her.”
Outside of her work on the Native Seed Farm, Rachel can be found making reed and willow baskets and researching her favorite time period, the Middle Ages. She hopes to someday travel to the UK to work on and rebuild traditional English hedgerows.
Do you want to join the restoration efforts on the Native Seed Farm with Rachel and other community members? Visit LetsGoOutside.org for a complete list of activities that take place on the Native Seed Farm and throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Programs are open to the public with required registration. Space is limited and early registration is recommended.