Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and partners will host four organic seed trainings for farmers throughout Western Washington over the next eight weeks. These events are co-hosted by Greenbank Farm’s Organic Seed Project.
Growing Spinach, Chard, and Beet Seed | August 31, 2015 | Greenbank, WA
OSA and Greenbank Farm will host an in-depth course on growing spinach, chard, and beet seed in the Pacific Northwest region on August 31, 2015. These are three crops ideally suited to our Northwest Maritime climate. Participants will learn production methods from planting to harvest, including timing of planting, horticultural management techniques, and timing and tools for harvest and post-harvest cleaning. The event will be held at Greenbank Farm located at 765 Wonn Road A201 in Greenbank, Washington, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register for this event here.
The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) will host a two-day classroom and field based course on plant breeding next month. Nationally renowned plant breeders from University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, Oregon State University, and Organic Seed Alliance will lead a Fundamentals of On-Farm Plant Breeding course at Colorado State University on September 11-12, 2015. Participants will learn basic principles to evaluate, develop, improve, and maintain plant varieties for their farm. Instruction will include how to conduct variety trials, set breeding goals, develop breeding plans, and choose parents. Participants will also learn techniques and examples for breeding cross-pollinating and self-pollinating crops.
NOVIC plant breeders are developing new varieties to serve the needs of organic farmers. This national team of researchers is also teaching farmers how to save seed and breed new or improved varieties on their own farms through accessible, field-based breeding methods. Knowledge of plant breeding empowers farmers to develop varieties that are adapted to their local growing conditions, perform well under organic production, and hold superior market qualities, like flavor and beauty to appeal to their consumers.
Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) released a report today that details variety trial results for purple sprouting broccoli grown in Oregon and Washington. Purple sprouting broccoli is an ideal crop for winter food production in the Pacific Northwest, and is gaining popularity as a produce item distinct from traditional broccoli. The project is a collaboration with Oregon State University, Washington State University, and Organically Grown Company.
Purple sprouting broccoli is planted in the summer and then overwinters, providing a harvest in the late winter and early spring, typically February or March, at a time when little diversity in fresh produce is available in the region and storage crops are waning.
This is the first multi-state variety trial to focus on how different varieties perform in organic production systems. Currently the lack of organic seed options and data on how different varieties perform is a barrier to expanding the availability and production of this nutritious crop. This project aims to fill these gaps, while encouraging growers to extend their growing season and add economic value to their farm.
It’s hard to believe that summer is upon us. As you watch the growing season unfold, do me a favor and ask yourself a question: What do I wish I knew right now about seed production, plant breeding, or the politics of seed? Regardless of what you call yourself — a seed producer, plant breeder, student, organic certifier, food processor, or policy advocate — OSA wants to know your answer to this question, which will inform our next Organic Seed Growers Conference happening February 4-6, 2016. Our call for input and proposals is open through July 15, so please tell us what you’d like to see on the agenda. Your ideas help to grow this seed stewardship movement.
Read the full summer newsletter here.
The USDA announced in March that it was ditching a 2008 proposal that would have updated its regulations for genetically engineered (GE) crops. Following the announcement, the department initiated a new public comment period that we hope will lead to new and better regulations. The USDA continues to regulate GE crops under outdated regulations that don’t adequately protect farmers, the public, and the environment from the negative impacts of GE crops.
Submit comments today. The deadline is June 22.
Quick background: The USDA is one of three agencies that regulate GE crops (along with the EPA and FDA). When these engineered crops landed in our fields and grocery aisles, the U.S. government chose to rely on a patchwork of existing laws, some of which predate the technology, instead of creating a new law to oversee biotechnology. This resulted in a mishmash of agency interpretations for regulating GE organisms. This patchwork approach has left holes: the absence of mandated contamination prevention practices, post-market monitoring, and a mechanism for compensating those harmed by contamination, to name a few. Lacking a robust regulatory framework, the organic and broader non-GE community has shouldered the costly burden of trying to protect their seed, crops, and markets from GE material, and dealing with contamination when it happens.
You can help! Submit comments today, and tell the USDA to develop new regulations that protect farmers, the public, and the environment.