Race against time to save New Zealand’s heritage seeds

We need your help to save New Zealand’s largest organic heritage or heirloom Seed and Tree collection by 6th June 2014. We are asking for your support for this campaign to secure the land the New Zealand organic heritage seed collection grows on before we lose it.

Background: 30 years of organic heritage seed saving

Koanga Institute founded by Kay Baxter has spent 30 years building up a living library comprising of hundreds of heritage fruit and vegetables that are in danger of extinction and being lost. These seeds are either from New Zealand or brought here from England, Scotland, Croatia, Germany, France, South Africa, pacific islands and other parts of the world with our ancestors when they settled in New Zealand. Some of the seed lines do not exist any longer in their country of origin.


Kay says ‘Old people who sent us in their sacred seeds 30 years ago understood the sacredness of their seeds, that had been in their families for generations. The next generation was the generation that stopped gardening and they had no body to pass their seeds to.

We were all over the TV and media at that time Country Calendar etc and they saw us and their seeds began flowing into our mail box , with their stories and recipes in wobbly hand writing… we felt so humbled.


In 1994 the UN estimated that 94 percent of vegetables and 85 percent of apple varieties have already been lost and a further 3% of the remaining biodiversity was lost every year after that. Our ecologists tell us and we can see that life as we know it on earth is dependant on our biodiveristy and all the connections. With way less than 10% of the food plants we had 100 years ago we are on a knife edge right now!!

The Koanga Institute a registered charitable trust in New Zealand has saved 800+ seed lines and 400+ fruit trees and berries varieties. Some of these lines have international importance, particularly the corn collection, which is one of the largest collections not affected by genetic engineering, came here with our ancestors. This collection has many ecological and nutritional characteristics that will be invaluable for the future of regenerative agriculture and our health in New Zealand and potentially worldwide.  The home for this collection is in Wairoa, Northern Hawkes bay on leased land.  3 years ago Koanga Institute found the right land to literally and figuratively plant our roots. It took 5 years to find this land. This land has:

  • good soils and  water, a great climate for growing seeds
  • 3+ years of investment in the soil minerals and biology for growing nutrient dense seeds
  • enough area for our collections, growing areas, forest gardens, isolation gardens ( super important) and nursery,
  • isolation from horticulture and GE crops,
  • a large farmhouse, and several sheds, enough area to add several small cabins for interns and staff accommodation in the future,
  • a supportive community around us, the potential to develop a full campus to train future seed savers and gardeners to care for the next generations of heritage seeds and support regenerative agriculture in other communities, using the many models on our demonstration site to do that

Why are the seeds in danger on the 6th of June?

Koanga Institute does not own the land its organic heritage seed and tree collection is located on, it leases it. The current owners and mortgage holders want to sell it now. If Koanga Institute wants to buy the land it must come up with the funds by the 6th of June or be evicted with its heritage seed and tree collection on the 16th of July.

Whilst Koanga Institute can sustain its operational activities through seed sales and educational offerings, it does not have the capacity for such a large capital investment. The land asking price is NZD $705,000 (USD 609,000). Initially we were given to the 29th of June to raise the funds. This deadline has now been moved forward to the 6th of June. If we do not pay on the 6th of June we will be evicted on the 16th of July.

We are doing everything in our power to raise funds from national speaking tours, national workshops, online crowd fundraising, looking for business sponsorship, offering memberships, but we need your help.So far we have raised USD129,000

Why are heritage or heirloom organic seeds so important?


We know from taste, our feelings and from science, that our heritage food plants contain the potential for providing us with far more nutrition than modern industrial food plants could. We can see the direct link between nutrient dense food and health, and between highly mineralized soils and health. Seeds before industrialization… were selected for

•  Local soils and environment, they did well in our own garden situations

•  Selected to nourish people

•  Selected to disease resistance and health in local environment

•  Taste, and usefulness in the kitchen

•  These seeds were all an amazing collection of genetic material, that nourished us, grow well in our soil and climate area, had the genetic blueprint to survive climate change.

•  Industrial system has selected for production, shelf life, toughness, harvesting all at once, and many other reasons. The responsibility of the system is to the shareholders, it is all about financial returns, they are not responsible to you and I and our health.

The implications of this are

•  Most of our seeds produce fruit, vegetables that are flavorless and uninviting. so they process it and add loads of fillers, homogenizers, colors and flavors and preservatives to make it taste better and sell better and make money

•  Many of our seeds contain enzyme blockers which mean they cannot pick up key minerals from the soil anymore, they can never be nutrient dense and we don’t get key minerals in our bodies i.e. manganese. Most hybrid seeds are like this. Organic food grown from hybrid seed (not organic or heirloom or heritage seed) will not contain these minerals any more than non-organic food

•  we cannot save our own seeds from these seeds

•  seeds bred and selected in the industrial system are bred to need industrial inputs

•  The implications of using seed that has been grown in soils that have been treated with round up or seeds that are RoundUp Ready GE seeds are large  and not life affirming. The latest information shows us that seeds grown in systems where glyphosate has been used carry the glyphosate in the seed, and the food grown from that seed, a for generation after generation and (glyohosate is patented as an anti microbial/ anti life  product). The implications for our health are enormous.

About Koanga Institute

Kay Baxter realised the trees and seeds hold our stories, they tell us who we are! She began saving New Zealand heritage seeds after the nuclear disaster in Russia Chernobyl, when she realised our absolute vulnerability being almost totally dependant here in this land on seed from countries in the Northern hemisphere ( at that point under a nuclear cloud).

SKay with partner Bob Corker founded Koanga Institute. ‘We were simply acting on our gut feelings however after 25 years of living with these seeds, of growing them in our food gardens, and of them being all our children and now grandchildren know in their lives we have come to understand just ho every critical they are for our future’.

The F.A.O told us all 20 years ago that we had 10% of the vegie varieties left that we’d held in the world 100 years before that. They are still being lost at a rate of 3% a year,  that means in our estimation we’re really lucky if we have 3% left. Our ecologist tell us and it’s easy to see stat life as we know it depends upon diversity and integration. If we only have 3% or less of our for plants left  we’re not doing well and the implications are enormous. The knew science of epigenetics is also now showing us that our own heritage food plants communicate with our DNA more clearly than somebody else’s food , and that for our DNA to remain intact and not deteriorate we need certain levels of minerals and vitamins etc. The only food plants we have that were selected and held and grown to nourish us are those we co evolved with, our heritage food plants. They are our ancestors gift to us, they are our most precious Toanga (sacred treasure).


What others say about us

“Kay Baxter is a true eco-hero, I am a huge admirer of the work she has pioneered with the Koanga Institute to save and protect our seeds. Koanga Institute is a really unique trust; there is no other seed bank with organic heritage seeds like this in New Zealand.”

– Malcolm Rands (Ecoman), founder and director of EcoStore.


“Kay Baxter Founder of Koanga Institute is one of the very best gardeners I have ever met and has made the most thorough detail study of heritage fruit trees and food plant seeds having been very active in saving local seed and fruit tree varieties, her knowledge through practical experience, and major achievements that have built a huge wealth of knowledge is way beyond anybody I know.

-Geoff Lawton, internationally recognised permaculture consultant, designer and teacher from Australia


Listen to what Joel Salatin (Polyface farms) and Nick Ritar (Milkwood) have to say  about saving the heritage seeds


Our latest Press

Heritage Seeds- Good Morning TVNZ, 20 August Famous foodie Peta Mathias reveals why she’s joining forces with the Koanga Institute’s Kay Baxter to help save our heritage seeds...see more

Saving our seed for the future – Seven Sharp TV1 15 November 2013 Modern produce has been bred for shelf life not taste, but there is a group of kiwis trying to bring back the… see more

Kiwis missing out on heritage food – Firstline TV3, 19 March 2014 Kay Baxter, director of the Koanga Institute, is on a mission to save New Zealand’s heritage seeds… watch

Feeding the nation: Are all fruits and veges created equal? – Element, NZ Herald 31 Jan 2014 In the final part of a three-part report on nutrition and poverty in New Zealand, experts weigh in on keeping pesticides to a minimum… see more

Plant your veges and watch savings grow – Hamilton News 8 June 2013 Sustainable gardening advocates the Koanga Institute say science supports what our tastebuds have been telling us: home-grown “heritage” vegetables are nutritionally superior to pesticide-ridden store-bought produce… see more

Gardening: Core of good health – Herald on Sunday 20 May 2012 Visit the supermarket and you’ll find only three or four types of apples to choose from at any given time, but New Zealand research of heritage varieties proves some older cultivars are worth holding on onto… see more

Kay Baxter on food foresting – Radio Live 25 JanuaryKay Baxter from the Koanga Institute talks food foresting with Tony Murrell… listen

Koanga Institute and Heritage Seeds – Radio NZ 24 November 2013 It isn’t widely known that a large proportion of the heritage fruit and vegetables on the planet have either passed into extinction or are rapidly headed that way… listen

A New Home for Koanga Institute and Gardens – Radio NZ 15 July 2011 For the past 25 years Kay Baxter and her husband Bob Corker have been saving New Zealand’s heritage fruit trees and vegetables at Koanga Gardens in Kaiwaka. But five years ago they decided they needed a new place to live so have found a new home near Wairoa where they’re developing a Community Land Trust which they hope will support up to 30 families…listen

How you can help

Share our campaign: think about passing it on to others who may wish to support it. We need your help. This is a matter of profound national significance – please join us in this vital investment in our food future! This IS a race against time. We would be honoured if you would help us promote our crowd fund raising campaign to your community and friends through e-mail, newsletters, blogs, facebook,  other social media or contacting the media to tell out story.

Donate via this site as part of a crowd fundraising donate


Contact us via email and let us know how you can help: can you run a fund-raising event, sponsor us, become a business member, or anything else that may help. Contact emma@koanga.org.nz


  • What happens to my money once I have donated? The money will be put into a secure trust account and only used for the purpose of buying the land.
  •  Is my donation tax deductible? Koanga Institute is a registered charity in New Zealand and donations are tax deductible.
  •  What are Koanga Institutes plans for the future? In addition this land will be used for research and the educational activities of the Koanga Institute to proactively promote the development of other seed saving organisations, community groups and train New Zealand’s future heritage gardeners and guardians.