Pro Specie Rara is a non-profit organization, preserving the genetic and historical-cultural diversity of cultivated plants and farm animals, with the will to secure and enrich food sustainability for future generations.
It was founded in Switzerland in 1982. Its team of around 25 people, is spread over three sites (Basel, Geneva and San Pietro), and works in collaboration with a national network of volunteer multipliers and breeders, throughout Switzerland. Its actual Director is Béla Barta.
Pro Specie Rara is a member of the European Coordination Let's Liberate Diversity!
Pro Specie Rara aims at protecting rare plant varieties and animal breeds from extinction.
It promotes the enhancement of biodiversity, within the respect of sustainable development, by engaging its own seed saving and animal breeding activities and by sharing knowledge and experiences.
From its beginning, the organization has been working on creating connections within the sector, developing a large scale of national and international projects in collaboration with others biodiversity keepers.
In 2005, the organization created a label, guaranteeing the “Pro Specie Rara origin” of varieties and breeds.
It also publishes a magazine called “Rara”, four times a year (in German, French and Italian), which presents its activities, announces the events and principal news around biodiversity. You can subscribe to the magazine for one year and without obligation, by sending an email.
Pro Specie Rara works with a vast network of around 650 private volunteer gardeners and farmers who conserve and multiply varieties on their lands and send some back to the organization.
The seeds are collected and stored in the Pro Specie Rara’s seed library (la séminothèque), located at Basel. This library allows their conservation before they can be re-distributed.
In addition to these private and professional seed savers, Pro Specie Rara opened in 2018 a seed production center, where it produces its own seeds. It is specialized in the professional propagation of vegetable and ornamental plant species, whose multiplication is particularly complex and requires space, such as allogamous plants.
Pro Specie Rara also launched specific programs to preserve and regenerate local varieties of plants, like vine peaches and ancient potatoes. It keeps a “red list”, including some of the most endangered fruit varieties that have to be urgently saved.
Many of the varieties produced by and/or for Pro Specie Rara, are hardy and produce crops over a long period of time. There are mainly ancient and traditional varieties, participating to revitalize Switzerland traditional foods, uses and agricultural history.
Pro Specie Rara maintains a collection of more than 4.700 plant varieties: 1,400 vegetable and field plants, 500 varieties of berries, 1,900 varieties of fruits, 800 varieties of ornamental plants and aromatic plants.
The organization publishes and updates its seed catalogue online, including short information needed to cultivate and reproduce each variety.
One of the most important challenge for Pro Specie Rara is to see rare varieties flourish again in as many gardens as possible, so that not only plants remain alive, but also knowledge of their culture and use. Its motivations are beyond commercial and its seeds are not only to sell, but to donate, distribute, grow, multiply, return and exchange. The organization counts on its members and customers to actively participate to the enhancement of biodiversity by engaging in sustainable gardening and share their experiences.
You can get seeds from Pro Specie Rara in two ways:
Either you are a member and can order a few portions of seeds from different varieties free of charge, to the foundation's private distributors that constitue its conservation network. Or you can buy some Pro Specie Rara varieties, from several commercial partners that distribute its seeds.
Depending on the variety, one or two options are possible.
Some varieties are not (yet) available for donation or sale, because there are not enough seeds or plants.
Everyone is able to support Pro Specie Rara's work of conserving genetic ressources, by donating.
Becoming a member will cost you between 70 and 120 Swiss franc a year (35 for a junior subscription). You'll automatically receive the Rara magazine and will be able to order a few portions of seeds for free, from a selection of over 800 rare varieties, every year.
Once you are a member, you can start seed growing experiments in your garden, ordering a trial set with vegetable varieties of seeds easy to multiply and available in sufficient quantities. Culture instructions are provided with the set trial and members are welcome to take part to seed multiplication classes, designed to train future variety keepers. As a member, you will benefit from reductions on these classes' prices.
Pro Specie Rara also offers a sponsorship program. As the godfather or godmother of a ProSpecieRara plant or animal, you make a direct contribution to the conservation of endangered breeds and species. You also have the option to offer such sponsorship to a third party, as a gift! Your sponsorship is tax deductible and can be terminated at any time. You receive a payment certificate for your tax return.
Another way to help the organization is to come on threshing day, when seeds are cleaned, packaged and labelled, to do some physical work!