In 2009 Irvine Ranch Conservancy had embarked on a number of large-scale habitat restoration projects. Faced with the challenge of acquiring a large amount of plant materials like seed and container plants, Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff put their heads together and proposed an innovative idea: collecting seeds from the wild and growing them on a farm.
First, the Habitat Restoration and Enhancement team would provide a list of plants they planned to use in their restoration project. The Plant Materials team would go out on the land and find healthy native plant specimens living under similar conditions to the planned restoration site. Seeds harvested from those plants would be grown at the Native Seed Farm, and later harvested for more seed to be used in the restoration projects.
While developing the Farm, Irvine Ranch Conservancy had two simple goals: provide a reliable source of quality plant material for restoration projects and create a place for the public to learn about local wildlands and contribute to restoration efforts.
During the fall of 2009, the first Farm facility was launched, utilizing a temporary location on a 12-acre burned-out avocado orchard that was previously damaged by the 2007 Santiago Canyon Fire. In 2016, the Farm transitioned to its current site located in Irvine, featuring two shade-houses, a seed processing facility, two cold storage bins for seed, a dedicated seed drying area, an onsite office and a shaded staging area. The Farm currently produces around 1,000 pounds of seed annually, while also growing and nurturing over 50 plant species.
The Native Seed Farm’s growth would not be possible without the Conservancy’s partnership with OC Parks, the City of Irvine, and the City of Newport Beach as well as the consistent efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers that assist with the different work across the Farm.
As the Native Seed Farm continues to grow, Irvine Ranch Conservancy aims to enhance their self-contained, one-stop shop with equipment and infrastructure to harvest and clean seeds.