Marko Colby and Hanako Myers
Port Townsend, Washington
When Marko and Hanako started Midori Farm, both had a strong interest in seed. They understood well the importance of having seed that is adapted to their region and growing conditions, and early on integrated seed production into their farm and business plan.
“We needed consistent access to varieties that are economically important to our operation,” Marko says.
Marko is especially interested in the open-source seed movement, and says that as a farmer, he’d like to become less dependent on large firms that have consolidated the market and aren’t interested in delivering seed that is appropriate for organic production systems.
OSA submitted comments this week to the Oregon Department of Agriculture in opposition to its proposed rule to expand canola production in the Willamette Valley, putting at risk the genetic integrity of commercial specialty crop seed projects, businesses, and on-farm breeding, including organic.
OSA is a proud co-host of Organicology, an interactive conference designed to meet the diverse needs of our rapidly expanding trade. The conference offers educational and networking events that enhance the understanding and skills of our diverse organic community, from seed producers and farmers, to distributors, retailers, researchers, chefs, policy activists, and eaters.
OSA is leading a series of workshops, intensives, and roundtables that focus on current seed issues. See below for details, and register today.
We hope you’ll join us February 7th – 9th, 2013 in Portland, Oregon for this unique conference!
On a sunny October day last week, over thirty farmers, seed company representatives, and students gathered to see the results of OSA’s vegetable variety trial on Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista, California.
John Navazio of OSA and Washington State University, and Jared Zystro of OSA, led the variety trial field day. Participants compared over sixty varieties of green beans, lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, and broccoli. Participants also learned how to set up trials on their own farms and the simple steps required to get good information from trials. The day continued with lively discussions in the field as participants were able to see how, for example, not all strains of ‘Fordhook’ Swiss chard or ‘Lacinato’ kale are created equal.
For those of you unable to make the field day and interested in the trial results, the data will be posted to OSA’s website and included in eOrganic’s Organic Variety Trial Database once they are all collected. If you are interested in conducting your own variety trials, check out our On-farm Variety Trial: A Guide for Organic Vegetable, Herb, and Flower Producers publication.
This work was made possible by the efforts of Coke Farm and through the generosity of Columbia Foundation.
I just returned from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, where OSA was invited to give a formal presentation on the topic of organic seed. The meeting provided an important opportunity to share data from our State of Organic Seed report and updates from our working groups, including formally introducing the board and audience members to Organic Seed Finder, a new seed database for the organic community.
If you follow NOSB discussions and decisions, you know that seed is just one of many issues the board attends to, yet it’s a critical one that must remain a priority. Why? Because the NOSB advises the National Organic Program (NOP) on how to implement and enforce rules, including the organic seed requirement. This means the NOSB provides recommendations on how the NOP can better support growth in the organic seed sector, help farmers identify appropriate seed for their operations, and address enforcement issues. The NOP has yet to publish its final guidance on the organic seed requirement, and OSA continues to advocate for the inclusion of these recommendations.
When organic seed is available to meet diverse needs, organic farmers succeed – and so does the larger organic industry. OSA recognizes that increasing commercial availability of organic seed demands consistency in enforcing the rule, further investments in organic seed, producer and certifier education, producers’ willingness to trial new varieties, among other efforts. We are making progress in all areas.
Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) will host a daylong Seed Production 101 workshop on November 3, 2012 in Ojai, California.
Participants can expect to learn fundamental skills to develop and adapt seed varieties for their organic farm conditions. OSA California research and education specialist Jared Zystro will discuss:
▪ the biology of seed production,
▪ seed harvesting and cleaning,
▪ choosing appropriate seed crops for your system and climate,
▪ maintaining the genetic integrity of varieties with appropriate population sizes and isolation distances,
▪ conducting variety trials, and
▪ basic on-farm breeding techniques, such as mass selection and progeny testing.
Prior experience in basic seed growing is recommended.
This workshop is being offered free of charge thanks to support from Columbia Foundation and Gaia Fund. Workshop hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The event will take place at Mano Farm located at 999 Fairview Avenue, Ojai, California. Directions are available at http://g.co/maps/p2xb.
Pre-registration is required. Please email Cathleen McCluskey at Cathleen@seedalliance.org to confirm your place.
Half of the Willamette Valley is in danger of being opened up to canola production. Canola is a serious threat to several thriving agricultural industries in this region of Oregon, including vegetable and clover seed producers, fresh vegetable producers, and especially organic producers. Canola is a host to four diseases and two insect pests that threaten vegetable producers. Making matters worse, most canola is genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides, making it even harder for farmers (especially organic farmers) to eradicate. Canola also readily cross-pollinates with other brassicas like turnip and broccoli, making the seed from those plants unmarketable. The Willamette Valley is one of the last five remaining areas of the world where vegetable seed can be commercially grown and this revised rule threatens to cripple this $50 million industry and ecological treasure.
In August of this year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) issued a draft proposed rule that would open up 1.7 million acres of the formerly protected 3.6 million acres to canola production. At a public hearing in September, dozens of farmers took time off from work during their busiest season to tell ODA just how much economic and environmental harm this would cause.
You can help! Sign the online petition or submit your comments to the ODA before the comment period ends on Friday, November 2nd.
Click here to sign the online petition.
Email comments to: email@example.com
For more information, see Friends of Family Farmers’ website.
Nellie McAdams is the iFarm Program Director & Policy Liaison for Friends of Family Farmers, an organization working to promote and protect socially responsible agriculture in Oregon.
Join us on November 16, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. PST for an eOrganic webinar introducing a new eXtension online course created by Organic Seed Alliance.
The Organic Seed Production Tutorials include instructions on producing beets and chard, brassicas, carrots, lettuce, onions, and wet-seeded crops. The tutorials also cover climatic considerations, and seed disease and quality. The tutorials combine text, images, audio, and video to teach professional techniques for organic seed production.
To register for the webinar, visit http://www.extension.org/pages/65533/using-the-eorganic-organic-seed-production-tutorials-webinar.
For more information, contact Cathleen McCluskey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 472-0247.
Last week OSA submitted comments to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) on the issue of organic seed integrity. The comments were in response to a discussion document on seed purity developed by the NOSB’s GMO ad hoc subcommittee. OSA’s director of advocacy and communications, Kristina Hubbard, will make a formal presentation to the NOSB on the issues of organic seed availability and integrity at the next NOSB meeting on October 15 – 18, 2012, in Providence, Rhode Island.
Read OSA’s comments to the NOSB issue of organic seed integrity here (opens PDF).
Learn more about the upcoming NOSB meeting by visiting the NOP’s website.
OSA’s Dr. John Navazio has written a new book on vegetable seed production. The book is published by Chelsea Green and will hit bookstores on December 3, 2012. You can pre-order your copy today.
The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seed 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.
Read more and place your order here.