Advisory Services Key to Seed Cooperative’s Success

OSA offers a range of fee-for-service technical and advisory services to seed and food companies, farmers and organizations.

The most notable example of our advisory work is the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative (FFSC) established in 2008. FFSC is not part of OSA, but an independent, farmer-owned cooperative that has contracted with OSA’s for advisory services since 2007.

FFSC currently has ten members in six states (Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington). The co-op’s mission is to foster the development and improvement of open-pollinated varieties suitable to organic systems, and to produce and distribute high quality, open-pollinated, organic seed. Membership and production follows a “bio-regional hub” model where producers share equipment, manage isolations, and diversify production in seed production regions.

OSA provides technical assistance to FFSC in a number of ways. Our staff has helped establish a stock seed program; develop quality assurance trials and protocols; train members in plant variety improvement; and project financing. OSA also assists FFSC’s equipment sharing program, which is helping to resolve a major obstacle in quality commercial organic seed production. Through a series of USDA Rural Enterprise grants, OSA is purchasing approximately $100,000 worth of custom seed cleaning equipment to install in five growing regions in the western U.S. OSA leases this equipment to FFSC and the co-op in turn sub-leases the equipment to its members and other regional farmers.

FFSC will soon be a wholesale and retail supplier of open-pollinated vegetable and cover crop seed. The co-op’s initial inventory will include about 50 seed varieties, all of which will be trialed and approved. These varieties include mostly specialty vegetables but also cover crops and flowers. FFSC plans to market primarily to small- and medium-sized specialty fresh produce growers and companies specializing in organic seed. Internet sales will begin in fall of 2011.

The co-op’s annual membership meeting will be February 2011 at the Organicology conference in Portland, Oregon. This is an important opportunity for farmers and seed buyers to meet the members and learn about the cooperative.

OSA staff knows the seed business. We have extensive experience in developing farmer enterprises, delivering education and training programs, training new plant breeders, conducting on-farm research, and more. Our professional services are delivered in partnership with a broad network of organic seed growers, organic farmers, and professional plant breeders across the U.S. Past projects have already resulted in new or improved organic varieties sold by organic seed companies and used by organic farmers.

If you have a seed event or project in mind that fits our services, contact Dan Hobbs for a free consultation at 719-250-9835 or dan@seedalliance.org.

To learn more about FFSC, visit www.organicseedcoop.com.

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