New Seed Internship Program Announced

seed-screen-hand-smallOrganic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) are proud to announce the launch of the Seed Internship Program, the first of its kind in the U.S. The program matches individuals who want to learn about seed production with experienced seed farmers. The six-month internships combine hands-on education, farm-based independent study, and classroom and online learning.

“We’re excited to partner with MESA on this new tool for the organic agriculture community,” says OSA’s Executive Director, Micaela Colley. “MESA is an ideal partner for this project as their program and expertise focuses on facilitating internships. They also bring extensive experience in outreach to Spanish-speaking communities.”

The Seed Internship Program emphasizes training in organic seed production given ongoing gaps in the supply. Planting organic seed is a requirement of the national organic standards; however, certified organic farmers are allowed to use untreated, non-organic seed when availability is limited because the organic seed supply hasn’t caught up to meet demand. Organic seed production is a potentially lucrative opportunity for farmers, yet the specialized skill set required to grow high-quality organic seed currently serves as a barrier to entry for many farmers.

While demand for organic seed is high, there is currently a lack of trained organic seed farmers. Seed companies report that they struggle to find enough producers to fulfill their organic seed supply needs. The organic seed internship program aims to address this lack of training by growing a network of organic seed farmers who are willing to provide seed interns real-world experience in organic seed production, business planning, and other skills.

As part of this program, OSA will provide a webinar series for participating interns and curriculum for participating farms to provide structure to each internship.

“This partnership comes at a critical time,” says MESA Director of Programs and Development, Leah Atwood. “There is a growing need and demand for organic seed, the average age of farmers is still on the rise, and beginning farmers are seeking support networks. Since 1997, MESA has been connecting new and experienced farmers to support experiential learning and intergenerational mentorship. We’re thrilled to combine our experience with the robust network and extensive seed expertise of OSA.”

To learn more, and to apply to the program, visit https://apply.mesaprogram.org/osa/.

This project was funded in 2015 by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant, part of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Award #2015-70017-23934.

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