Skip to content

Irvine Ranch Conservancy Celebrates 10th Anniversary of the Native Seed Farm

PictureVolunteer tending native plants at the Farm

​Nearly a decade ago, Irvine Ranch Conservancy was faced with the challenge of acquiring plant materials like seed and container plants for habitat restoration projects throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff put their heads together and proposed an innovative idea of collecting seeds from the wild and growing them on a farm. Once grown, the plants would be harvested for more seed and used in restoration projects throughout the Landmarks. This idea led to the creation of the Native Seed Farm.
 
This fall season marks the 10th anniversary of the Native Seed Farm and Irvine Ranch Conservancy is excited to celebrate the significant growth and impact the Farm has had in restoring the Landmarks, as well as educating the community.
 
“The Farm was started as a direct response to an issue, but it has evolved into a community outreach asset,” said Mike O’Connell, the President and CEO of Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “Thanks to our dedicated staff and volunteers, we’ve not only been able to produce the plant materials and seed needed for our restoration projects, but get the community involved and educate them along the way.”

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. Although the site lacked infrastructure and contained only a single nursery shade-house, the Farm gradually progressed to grow 12 native plant species that would help restore native flora on the Landmarks.
 
The Native Seed Farm has expanded immensely in the past ten years. It has moved to a new, specialized facility location and produced an abundance of seed and plant materials. By 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 approximately 1,000 pounds of seed every year, while also growing and nurturing over 50 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. In 2014, Irvine Ranch Conservancy developed the Farm Steward and Farm Docent volunteer programs that allowed volunteers to become more heavily involved in the day to day management of the Native Seed Farm. Additionally, the Farm Stewards and Docents play a huge role in connecting the public with the Farm by hosting a variety of stewardship activities that help educate the public on restoration and encourage them to take a more active role in caring for local wildlands.
 
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. Reflecting on the past ten years, the Native Seed Farm has truly been a necessary and successful resource used to support restoration efforts across the Landmarks.
 
“We hope the Native Seed Farm can serve as a model for other organizations looking to create a native seed farm to support their own restoration efforts,” said O’Connell. “We are so pleased with how far the Native Seed Farm has come and can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!”
 
For more information about Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s Native Seed Farm and volunteering opportunities, visit LetsGoOutside.org/activities. To learn more about the Native Seed Farm, visit LetsGoOutside.org