Farmers have been at the heart of Organic Seed Alliance’s work since our inception. We rely on farm experience, knowledge, and land to inform each component of our work to build organic seed systems — from breeding to production to distribution. We believe the role of farmers in stewarding our seed must be promoted, protected, and propagated as vigorously as the conservation of seed itself.
Our Farmer Seed Stewardship initiative promotes farmers as seed innovators and recognizes this growing movement across the U.S. The initiative, which is a partnership with Seed Matters, is showcasing stories from the field to inspire a new direction for seed system development (see the Farmer Seed Stewardship stories in this issue).
We are building networks of seed stewards to enhance regional knowledge and shared expertise, ultimately improving access to high-quality, regionally adapted organic seed. And by expanding education, we are helping more farmers save, breed, and produce seed for on-farm and commercial use.
But we’re just getting started.
Prairie Road Organic Seed
Theresa and Dan Podoll
Fullerton, North Dakota
Theresa and Dan Podoll stand out as pioneers of organic seed production in the Northern Plains. Though they describe themselves as “isolated” in their region, farming near Fullerton, North Dakota, they are intimately engaged in the national community of seed stewards through research collaborations and seed distribution.
The Podolls say relationships with national organizations inspired them to integrate seed into their farming system, pointing to their involvement with organizations like Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), Family Farmers Seed Cooperative, and the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society’s Farm Breeding Club.
“Our farm has taken part in participatory plant breeding projects, where we’re working with plant breeders and collaborators like OSA,” Theresa says. “We have also taken part in studies and working groups organized by OSA to identify and address the needs of the organic seed movement. All of these OSA endeavors have served to further network our farm and our individual efforts with that of the wider organic seed community.”
Theresa and Dan’s work with seed is best described as a commitment to the principles of diversity, health, and sustainability. Underpinning the field work is a strong sense of moral imperative.
I grew up working and playing in the Oregon countryside next to fields of broccoli, corn, beets, and beans. Strawberry picking was my first job at age 12, as soon as I could get my social security card. I spent my high school years working in the canneries (I can still smell the beets). Later, while studying crops and soils at Oregon State University, I worked with the vegetable industry to develop Integrated Pest Management strategies. At that time, in the mid 1990s, I saw producers start to lose their “base acres” to producers overseas, as the regional vegetable row crop industry struggled to compete with international markets. Sadly, I watched the canneries shut down and the diversity of agriculture in the Willamette Valley diminish as the vegetable industry continued to move overseas.
The Willamette Valley, full of fertile land and a unique growing climate, is a precious natural resource. It saddens me to see farmers struggle to continue vegetable production, but another crop that holds great potential – specialty vegetable seed – is already adding great value to the region. The Willamette Valley is a premier location globally for growing certain species of vegetable seed, including several high-value Brassica seed crops. And it is a crop, unlike some commodities, where producers can compete in an international market, earning at times up to $10,000 to $20,000 per acre. The specialty crop seed industry, now valued at $50 million, has boosted the economic viability of Oregon’s agriculture and rural communities.
But, once again, a valuable sector of Oregon’s agriculture is threatened.
Senator Tester (MT) has introduced an amendment (#74) that strikes the “biotech rider” language (background here) from the continuing resolution. The amendment ensures USDA’s oversight of GE crops is not undermined and also avoids unnecessary interferences with the U.S. judicial review process.
Phone calls are still needed TODAY to support this amendment and critical organic program funding. Call your senators (find them here) with this message: Please fix the continuing resolution and support mandatory funding for the organic programs that were stranded in the Farm Bill extension. Explain to your senators why these programs matter to you (see list below). And tell them NOT to include the “biotech rider” language by supporting Senator Tester’s amendment (#74).
Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative, National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, Organic Production & Market Data Initiatives, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Value-Added Producer Grant Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers, Conservation Reserve – Transition Incentive Program
When members of Congress extended the old Farm Bill on January 1, 2013, they left out dozens of critical organic and sustainable agriculture programs. This means programs that advance organic agriculture through research (OREI), data collection, and cost-share programs (among others) are currently unfunded this year.
On Monday the Senate will take up a bill to fund government programs through the rest of 2013. Make sure your senators know that organic agriculture programs are important to you and that their funding must be restored.
Below are some of the programs currently left unfunded. Be sure to include specific programs when you call your senators’ offices. Find their contact information here.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
Value-Added Producer Grant Program
Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
Rural Energy for America Program
Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
Organic Production & Market Data Initiatives
Farmers Market Promotion Program
Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers
Conservation Reserve – Transition Incentive Program
Visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for more background and updates.
According to Northwest author and grower, Carol Deppe, “All gardeners and farmers should be plant breeders. Developing new vegetable varieties doesn’t require a specialized education, a lot of land, or even a lot of time.” However, successful plant breeding does take the knowledge to discern which to plants keep for seed and why, along with some techniques to maintain purity.
To help northwest farmers and gardeners grow the best vegetables possible and save healthy, improved seed from season to season, WSU Snohomish County Extension is bringing the region’s foremost authority on organic plant breeding and seed saving to Everett for a one-day workshop.
We invite farmers, gardeners, and agricultural students to join us for a workshop on the Fundamentals of On-Farm Plant Breeding with Organic Seed Alliance Senior Scientist and Washington State University Seed Extension Specialist Dr. John Navazio and Michaela Coley, executive director for Organic Seed Alliance (OSA). The workshop will be held Wednesday, March 20, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in McCollum Park at WSU Snohomish County Extension’s Cougar Auditorium, 600 128th ST SE, Everett, WA.
You’ll learn how to improve vegetable quality through careful seed selection and improvement as well as how to select for reproductive fitness, yield, disease resistance, and improved performance under adverse conditions. Dr. Navazio will Continue reading
Student Organic Seed Symposium
Applications Accepted Through March 15
CONTACT Kathleen Wood, Student Organic Seed Symposium, (719) 671-3509, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mt. Vernon, WA – The Student Organic Seed Symposium organizing committee is proud to announce the dates for the second annual symposium, to be held August 4 – 7, 2013, at Washington State University’s Research Center in Mt. Vernon, Washington. The committee is now accepting applications from graduate students.
The Student Organic Seed Symposium provides a unique opportunity for graduate students interested in organic seed systems to share resources with one another and learn from leaders in the field.
Twenty-five graduate students will be selected by a committee to participate in the 2013 symposium. The committee welcomes applications from graduate students in diverse fields of study who demonstrate a strong personal interest in, or conduct research related to, organic or alternative agricultural systems. Activities during the symposium will include academic presentations, group discussions and field trips to local farms and organic businesses.
Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger
Sweet Home, Oregon
In 2006, Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger set out on a four-month journey spanning Northern and Eastern Europe. They dubbed this trip the “Seed Ambassadors Project,” where the objective of each stop was to connect with seed stewards and collect both seed and stories. Their travels took them to nine countries.
“The people we met on our journey inspired me,” says Sarah. “They were stewarding open-pollinated seed not only in a market of increasing hybrids, but doing this work in the face of highly restrictive European seed laws that often lock farmer-bred varieties out.”
After returning from their trip, Andrew and Sarah established Adaptive Seeds, a regional seed company based in Sweet Home, Oregon.
“We saw how different factors contributed to the erosion of agricultural biodiversity and the decline in quality, OP seed,” Andrew says. “And we realized that this was a problem that we could do something about.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2013
Kristina Hubbard, Director of Advocacy and Communications, (406) 493-6965, email@example.com
Organic Seed Alliance Publishes 2012 California Organic Variety Trial Report
Publication includes methods and results from nearly 100 organic variety trials
Port Townsend, WA – Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) announces the release of its 2012 California Organic Variety Trial Report to the public. The report is the result of variety trials conducted in 2012 by Organic Seed Alliance in Arcata and San Juan Bautista, California. Researchers evaluated close to 100 varieties, including varieties of broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, green beans, and Japanese cucumber.
Even though California produces the most vegetable seed in the U.S., many of the state’s organic producers find they don’t always have seed that’s optimal for their organic systems. OSA is working hard to address this need by establishing research and education networks in the state. These networks, including those that participated in the 2012 California Organic Variety Trial Report, aim to improve organic seed availability and quality through new models for collaboration and information sharing. Continue reading
Oregonians, mark your calendars: The next canola public hearing is this Wednesday, January 23rd, at 9:00 am Pacific at the Salem Fairgrounds.
The comment period on the latest proposed rule closes soon after, on January 25th, at 5:00 pm Pacific.
Email comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written comments should be mailed to:
Canola Hearings Officer
Department of Agriculture
635 Capitol Street NE
Salem, OR 97301
Here is a short analysis of the proposal from Friends of Family Farmers, complete with talking points and scientific studies. The Willamette Valley is one of the most appropriate and valuable areas in the world for producing specialty seed, including brassicas. Make your voice heard!