Report from OSA’s Grain & Seed Field Day in Humboldt County

Kevin Cunningham, co-owner of Shakefork Community Farm, talks about his grain production at OSA's Grain and Seed Production in Humboldt County field day last weekend.

OSA hosted a grain and seed field day at Shakefork Community Farm in Carlotta, Humboldt County, CA this past weekend.  OSA’s Jared Zystro lectured on seed saving basics, commercial seed production, and the basics on on-farm plant breeding.  Farm owners Kevin and Melanie Cunningham, who produce an array of grains for their grain community support agriculture program, gave insight on local grain production.

It was a sunny but breezy fall day for the over twenty farmers and gardeners who came to hear about how to produce seed. Participants came for a variety of reasons.  Some came to learn about new production opportunities, some expressed interested in promoting a system for local seed production and distribution, and others came looking to expand their knowledge into new areas of agriculture.

During the three and a half hour field day, Kevin Cunningham covered production basics for a variety of grain crops including wheat, oats, rye and barley. He taught participants about the equipment he uses for his grain production and gave some specific tips for growing grain in Humboldt County. For example, Cunningham will plant spring wheat in the late fall or winter (between November and January) because of the limited dry windows for planting and harvesting in the area.

Zystro also spoke about OSA’s successful Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) project that focuses on on-farm plant breeding.  He shared the story of OSA’s work with Humboldt County farmer Bill Reynolds’ “Dark Star” zucchini project (which you can read more about here).  Cunningham was inspired after hearing about the basics of plant breeding and now wants to begin breeding a pumpkin that is well suited to his pumpkin patch.

OSA contributes to a healthy organic seed system through education outreach at field days like this by helping build farmers’ capacities to successfully produce and market seed.  Field days also help gardeners and the general public “look beyond the seed packet,” learn about the importance of an ethical and diverse seed system, and better understand the challenges currently faced in maintaining healthy organic seed systems.

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