Just Released! State of Organic Seed, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 8.21.39 AMWe’re proud to announce our first five-year update on the status of organic seed in the US. The report, State of Organic Seed, 2016, is part of an ongoing project to measure progress in meeting the organic seed needs of farmers.

Organic farmers produce food differently, and that means they need different seed for the crops they grow: seed developed to thrive without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and adapted to their local climate and soil conditions.

“Organic seed adapted to our region is of highest importance to our success as an organic farm,” says Richard Moyer of Moyer Family Farm. “Our growing conditions in the Southern Appalachians are very different than other parts of the country and even other parts of the Southeast in terms of humidity, variable temperatures, and the crops we can produce.”

Organic seed is also a regulatory requirement. The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) requires the use of organic seed when commercially available. As demand for organic food grows – sales in 2015 reached $39 billion – so does demand for organic seed. State of Organic Seed, 2016 shows that supply gaps remain, as most organic farmers still rely on seed that isn’t organic.

But the situation is improving. OSA arrived at this and other conclusions through a number of surveys targeting stakeholder groups, a detailed analysis of organic seed research investments, and listening sessions at organic farming conferences in 2014 and 2015.

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Learn How to Breed Crops in Montana


Adrienne Shelton discusses ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ sweet corn with Doug Baty of Wild Plum Farm in Dixon, Montana — one of the September field tour sites.

Join the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) for a two-day classroom and field-based course on plant breeding from September 13 – 14, 2016.

NOVIC is a multi-state partnership between farmers and researchers to address the plant breeding needs of organic agriculture in the Northern U.S. The collaborative includes more than 30 organic farmers and nine researchers.

These nationally renowned organic plant breeders from the University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, Oregon State University, and Organic Seed Alliance will lead this course at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana, and on five participating farms in Western Montana’s Mission Valley: Fresh Roots Farm, Polson; Good Egg Farm, Moiese; Foothill Farm, St. Ignatius; Wild Plum Farm, Dixon; and Deluge Farm, Camas Prairie. A full schedule will be published soon.

Participants will learn basic principles to evaluate, develop, improve, and maintain plant varieties for their farm. Topics of instruction include: conducting variety trials, setting breeding goals, developing breeding plans, choosing parents, and breeding cross-pollinating and self-pollinating crops.

The course is intended for farmers, researchers, and agricultural students. Prior experience in basic seed growing is recommended. Participants are encouraged to review Organic Seed Alliance’s online tutorials on seed saving and production before the course.

Registration is required and will open in July. Contact OSA’s Kiki Hubbard with questions.

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OSA’s Brook Brouwer to Join WSU Extension

brookOrganic Seed Alliance is pleased to announce that Research and Education Associate Brook Brouwer will soon join Washington State University as its Director of San Juan County Extension.

In his new position, Brouwer will continue to support OSA by collaborating on current and pending pulse and grain research, while working to bring OSA’s expertise in organic seed production research and education to stakeholders in San Juan County. OSA’s outreach in San Juan County has helped expand seed growing and variety trials on the islands in recent years and Brouwer’s new position is an opportunity to further develop regional seed systems in San Juan County and Western Washington.

Brouwer’s expertise in breeding small grains and his passion for organic seed has brought great value to OSA’s programs. This past winter he led a regional symposium on organic plant breeding in the Pacific Northwest. A report on the outcomes of this event will be released in June.

“Working for OSA was the ideal transition from graduate school into the working world of organic seed,” says Brouwer. “I had the opportunity to connect and work with a national community of organic seed producers, plant breeders, and seed and food companies. No other organization acts as such a dedicated convener in the organic seed community.”

Brouwer says he looks forward to building on these partnerships to support the growth of organic seed production in San Juan County and beyond. He starts his new position June 6th, 2016, and can be reached at brook.brouwer@wsu.edu.

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‘The Seed Garden’ receives major book award

The Seed Garden with seal largeThe Seed Garden – the Art and Practice of Seed Saving has been named one of the top five gardening books published in North America in 2015. The award is given annually by the American Horticultural Society (AHS).

The Seed Garden, a collaboration between Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), was five years in the making and details the seed saving practices for more than 70 crop types. The book was written with the backyard gardener in mind. Seed Savers Exchange published the book, which was authored by OSA’s Micaela Colley and Jared Zystro, and edited by Shanyn Siegel and Lee Buttala. The book was published by Seed Savers Exchange.

“This is a tremendous honor for those of us who are dedicated to protecting our gardening heritage through seed saving,”  SSE Executive Director John Torgrimson said. “This book provides the tools to save heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, a skill that many of us have lost over the years.”

Other 2016 award recipients include:
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Spring Newsletter: Back to the field

mic-conferenceWhat an event! Thanks to those of you who made it to Corvallis, Oregon, last month for our 8th Organic Seed Growers Conference. Participants were diverse, representing 34 states, 10 countries, and 20 universities. In the words of one participant, it was “the most wonderful and inspiring conference I’ve attended in my life!”

And thanks again to our sponsors and co-hosts Oregon State University, Washington State University, and eOrganic.

If you missed our biennial national conference, you can still benefit from the tremendous breadth of knowledge shared there through the conference proceedings and webinars.

Read our newsletter for more highlights from the conference, as well as the latest in OSA’s research, education, and advocacy work.

Happy planting!

Read the full spring newsletter here.


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