An often-used phrase comes to mind this time of year on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Native Seed Farm: "Separating the wheat from the chaff." This phrase has its roots in ancient agriculture, and is relevant on this special farm as piles of cut plants are turned into tons of seed for restoration within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
This is the end of the harvest season, and volunteers on the Native Seed Farm are processing and cleaning seeds from poppies, lupines and other annual plants (such as bird's beak, shown here). Seed pods are separated from plant stems and collected for threshing to separate them from the chaff. It's a team effort, with one person loading the dried plant material onto the sieve, one person shaking the sieve and one person removing the chaff that has already dropped its seed.
With the help of community volunteers, more than 1,600 pounds of seed was harvested in 2011. The seed farm is an integral part of the restoration work the Conservancy performs in partnership with landowners such as OC Parks, the City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach, and is a cost-effective and efficient way of producing native plant seed that would be otherwise unaffordable or unavailable.
The Conservancy hosts regular programs at the Native Seed Farm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and they provide all necessary training and tools. Kids 12 and over are welcome to come with their parents or by having their parents sign a participation waiver in advance. Individuals, families or small groups can register for these scheduled harvesting sessions at www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities. Special accommodations can also be made for groups of 8 or more, and local businesses may hold corporate volunteering events at the Native Seed Farm.