Tasting Cabbage and Talking Seed

IMG_2666OSA hosted a variety tasting and discussion as part of last week’s Farmer-Fisher-Chef Connection (F2C2) in Seattle, Washington. OSA convened food growers, buyers, and eaters at the event to taste test six varieties of winter cabbage and discuss breeding and seed needs of the Pacific Northwest.

Taste test participants provided input on flavor, texture, and overall eating qualities of several overwintered cabbages varieties. Tasters reported varieties varied on a spectrum from spicy/mustard, sweet, bland, crunchy, and soft. Discussions focused on increasing education about the source of seed and promoting regionally adapted varieties to customers.

The farmer who grew the cabbage for the tastings, Sam McCullough of Nash’s Organic Produce, shared with the group why on-farm variety trials are important in their operation and what they are looking for in a high-quality cabbage. McCullough emphasized that the Pacific Northwest is one of the best places to grow cabbage on earth, but it is hard to find a good open-pollinated varieties from which growers can save seed.

The event was the first in a series of farmer-chef networking and tasting events OSA is hosting over the next three years with support from Washington State Department of Agriculture and Oregon State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops grants.

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California Organic Wheat Variety Trial Results Available

2013_CA_North_Coast_Organic_Wheat_TrialsOrganic Seed Alliance released a new report today with results from its 2013 organic wheat variety trials conducted in California. Helping growers identify appropriate varieties is key to increasing the production and profitability of organic wheat on the North Coast of California. This region-specific resource is the first of its kind.

The 2013 California North Coast Organic Wheat Trials report is available for free download here.

Organic wheat is a rapidly expanding specialty crop in California. According to the 2009 organic survey from the USDA Economic Research Service, organic wheat acreage increased 50-fold in California between 1997 and 2008, from 727 to 36,115 acres, respectively. The demand appears to only be growing.

The report also includes results from a grower survey conducted to inform the 2013 variety trials and easy-to-use scorecards of each variety studied in the trial. The analysis includes data on data on plant height, yield, moisture, protein, and other characteristics, as well as informal baking trials on harvested wheat.

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New Survey: Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination

canolaflower110203_ARSWe know contamination is a huge problem for farmers who don’t grow genetically engineered (GE) crops. With one day left for the public to submit comments to the USDA on “coexistence”Food & Water Watch in partnership with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM) has released survey results that clearly show contamination from GMO crops is happening and it’s non-GMO farmers who are paying the price.

Read the survey results: Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination (opens to PDF).

The survey of farmers across 17 states, but primarily in the Midwest, is an effort to fill the data gap that was used to justify an inadequate policy recommendation by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). Heavily weighted with biotech proponents, the committee gathered for a series of meetings in 2011 and 2012 to establish a protocol for coexistence and to design a compensation mechanism for farmers who are economically harmed by contamination from GMO crops. Unfortunately, the committee was unable to estimate the costs associated with GMO presence on non-GMO and organic farms due to a lack of data. Their final suggestion for a compensation mechanism was a form of crop insurance that included, in one proposal, a premium to be paid by producers of non-GMO crops.

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Upcoming Seed Workshops in North Carolina

9402748609_67859dd1a2_bWe’re excited to announce a series of workshops in North Carolina next month co-hosted by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. John Navazio of Organic Seed Alliance and Washington State University will lead three workshops, titled: On-farm Variety Trials, Seed Production, and Plant Breeding — A Primer for North Carolina Organic Vegetable Growers. (See below for dates.)

Learn more and register today.

Participants can expect to learn the following at each workshop:

• Principles of designing, conducting and evaluating on-farm variety trials using basic scientific methods.

• How to choose appropriate varieties, including which crop traits to consider for assessment, and how to integrate these trials into current production.

• Basics of reproductive biology, harvest timing and seed cleaning using vegetable crop examples that are best suited for seed production in the varied climates of North Carolina.

• Classical breeding methods to enhance variety adaptation to cultural practices and environmental and/or market challenges.

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Community Reading with John Navazio in Port Townsend

Navazio_bookJoin John Navazio of Organic Seed Alliance and Washington State University at the Port Townsend Public Library for a discussion about the ongoing work to grow food locally with seed developed for the PNW region. John will also be speaking about his new book, The Organic Seed Grower.

March 5, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Port Townsend Public Library
Free community event

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

Detailed profiles for each of the major vegetables provide users with practical, in-depth knowledge about growing, harvesting, and processing seed for a wide range of common and specialty vegetable crops, from Asian greens to zucchini.

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