Conference Sessions and Speakers
Participatory Plant Breeding is a highly effective on-farm breeding method that involves a close collaboration between farmers and researchers. Learn from three programs focused on participatory models of plant breeding. Speakers will share their successes and advice in developing breeding projects that involve multiple stakeholders.
Speakers: Frank Kutka, Farm Breeding Club; John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance; TBD, Bauta Initiative; Edith Lammerts van Bueren, Wageningen University, Netherlands
The scientific field of organic plant breeding continues to expand. This session will give an overview of innovative organic research being conducting today in small grains and sweet corn. Hear reports from six researchers and participate in the question and answer.
Speakers: Hannah Walters, Seed Matters Graduate Student, Washington State Unviersity; Brook Brower, Seed Matters Graduate Student, Washington State University; Jonathan Spero, Lupine Knoll Farm; Amadeus Zschunke, Sativa Rheinau; Lisa Kissing Kucek, Cornell University; Adrienne Shelton, Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin - Madison
There are exciting advancements in breeding vegetables for organic production systems. This session will give an overview of innovative organic research being conducting today in vegetable crops. Hear reports from six researchers and participate in the question and answer.
Speakers: Phil Simon, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Laurie McKenzie, Organic Seed Alliance; John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance; Lori Hoagland, Purdue University; Michael Mazourek, Cornell University
Learn about the philosophy and methods of breeding efforts from U.S. and European biodynamic seed companies and a non-profit breeder. Issues to be discussed include: the biodynamic approach, developing the capacity of perceptive judgment, the archetype of the species, how to breed, examples of breeding for specific crops, biodynamic preparations, planting times, hybrid vs. open-pollinated or both, certifying breeding programs and breeds based on the European biodynamic model, testing for quality using conventional and picture forming methods, seed multiplication, and models of commercialization.
Speakers: Walter Goldstein, Mandaaman Institute; Amadeus Zschunke, Sativa Rheinau
This session will focus on breeding strategies to improve crop nutrient use efficiency. Julie Dawson of University of Wisconsin - Madison will speak about breeding for nutrient use in organic systems, including ecological approaches to understanding nutrient use efficiency and implications for product quality. Edith Lammerts van Bueren will provide an overview of the current state of the art in breeding for nutrient efficiency, including the results of the Organic and Low-input Agriculture of Eucarpia 2013 conference in Goettingen-Germany focusing on the question “Where do we go next with R&D into nutrient use efficiency?” Learn about current projects including developing breeding strategies for “below ground” traits, such as nutrient efficiency in spinach, cabbage and potato, and what role root architecture plays for lettuce.
Speakers: Edith Lammerts van Bueren, Wageningen University, Netherlands; Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin - Madison
While F2-offspring from reproduction of F1-hybrids can normally not be directly reused for commercial growing, they present a valuable source of breeding material. Populations from the last decade offer a greater chance to develop populations or lines that meet the demands of modern organic farming compared to starting with heirloom varieties or landraces alone. Learn about applied breeding methods used to develop new varieties out of F1 hybrids and how to introduce and maintain biodiversity in F1-derived varieties.
Speakers: Amadeus Zschunke, Sativa Rheinau; Frank Morton, Wild Garden Seed
Learn fundamental skills for developing and adapting varieties to your organic farm. Topics of instruction include 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.
Speakers: Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance
The challenges to growing biennial crops for seed, especially in the face of climate change, are multifold. These crops require perception of a full winter but not overly severe cold, many of them cannot tolerate heat during flowering and seed set, and most of them require a long season to mature seed – during which various diseases can take hold. These challenges can be met by means of an unheated high tunnel. Learn about the benefits and challenges of growing seed in this new system, as well the specific timing and needs of crops, including broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, mustards, onions, carrots, chard, and beets.
Speakers: Jodi Lew-Smith, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Patrick Steiner, Stellar Seeds; Jen Cody, Growing Opportunities Farm Community Cooperative
Understanding seed cleaning, and accessing appropriate equipment, can be a barrier for seed producers who wish to start, or scale up, an operation. In this session seasoned growers will discuss how to refine your seed cleaning skills. Break out discussions will cover the basics of small-scale, hands-on, and low-tech seed cleaning, in addition to large-scale seed cleaning.
Speakers: Beth Rasgorchek, Canyon Bounty Farm; Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance; Andrew Still, Adaptive Seeds; Hank Keogh, Avoca Farm, Wild Garden Seed; Sam McCullough, Nash's Organic Produce
Not all small farmers can or should start their own seed company, but by incorporating seed production into their farm plan they can enhance the adaptability and also the profitability of their operation. At one time, the empirical knowledge of saving good seed was an important tool for all farmers, large and small. With a little encouragement and motivation, it can be again. Learn how to get value from as many production stages as possible, practical strategies for integration and farmer-to-farmer cooperation, as well as marketing ideas and instruction.
Speakers: Michelle Smith, North Wind Farm
This session will support organic seed producers with the latest science-based information on maximizing crop yields through the conservation of native pollinators, while at the same time helping them to reduce the risk of outcrossing with non-organic crop varieties. Specific topics include the ecology of specialty seed crop pollinating insects, foraging behaviors and flight range of key native bee groups (and the impact of those foraging ranges on crop isolation), bee-friendly farming practices, development of pollinator habitat on working farms, accessing USDA technical and financial resources for pollinator conservation, and more.
Speakers: Eric Mader, The Xerces Society
The backbone of a thriving organic seed system is the availability of robust organic varieties adapted to regional needs. Hear from breeders about regional organic variety research happening today in the Northwest, Northeast, and Midwest.
Speakers: John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance; Michael Mazourek, Cornell University; Tom Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Petra Page-Mann, Fruition Seeds; Bill Tracy, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Organic seed that meets the diverse agronomic challenges and market needs of organic farmers is fundamental to their success and the food system they supply. The organic community has seen tremendous progress in the expansion of organic seed availability. Still, most organic farmers are planting non-organic seed. This session will focus on improving access to, and the use of, organic seed. Topics will include the importance of organic seed in the context of organic integrity and the principle of continual improvement, the 2013 NOP guidance document on organic seed, and demonstrations of new tools and resources.
Speakers: Theresa Podoll, Prairie Road Organic Seed; Erica Renaud, Vitalis Organic Seeds; Zea Sonnabed, CCOF and National Organic Standards Board; Chet Boruff, Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA)
This session will educate seed producers and industry members on how to avoid and test for contamination by genetically engineered (GE) traits in organic and other non-GE seed. Learn about existing testing methodologies being used by the organic seed industry and the facilities and costs involved.
Speakers: Lowell Rheinheimer, Organic Valley; Holli Cederholm, OSGATA; Mac Ehrhardt, Albert Lea Seed House
This session will outline the current challenges in protecting the integrity of organic from four core perspectives: the farmer, business, legal, and public interest communities. There is a need to more clearly define the challenges and strategies moving forward. This includes a more organized and cross-sector approach. Presentations will be provided on recent legal activities, legislative initiatives, and policy discussions on the topics of GMO contamination, labeling, seed purity, and public plant breeding.
Speakers: Michael Sligh, RAFI-USA; Dag Falck, Nature’s Path; Bob Quinn, organic grain farmer; George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety
Last year the National Organic Program (NOP) clarified its position on the use of cell fusion in organic seed production, drawing attention to an ongoing debate involving what should and should not be an excluded method in the organic standards. This session will include both technical and philosophical discussion on the current use of cell fusion in organic seed development, the NOP’s current policy, and what different breeding methods mean for the organic movement and biodiversity.
Speakers: John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance; Jodi Lew-Smith, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Jim Myers, Oregon State University; Zea Sonnabend, CCOF and National Organic Standards Board
Seed industry consolidation and the imposition of intellectual property rights are widely recognized as serious constraints on the exchange of seed and the development of new cultivars by public breeders and small seed companies. An Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) has been launched by a working group of plant breeders, farmers, NGOs, and sustainable food system advocates. One goal is to encourage and reward the sharing rather than the restriction of germplasm, to revitalize public plant breeding, and to integrate the skills and capacities of farmers with those of plant scientists. This panel discussion will outline the motivations, goals, activities, and prospects of OSSI.
Speakers: Jack Kloppenburg, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Claire Luby, graduate student, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Frank Morton, Wild Garden Seed; Tom Michaels, University of Minnesota; Tom Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance; Michael Sligh, RAFI-USA
Production of high-quality, pathogen-free seed is particularly important in organic seed crops given the very limited chemical options available for certified organic production, and the risk of producing and distributing contaminated seed lots. Learn about managing diseases in seed production with various research examples from the vegetable seed crop pathology program at Washington State University, and hot water treatment for seed-borne diseases.
Speakers: Lindsey du Toit, Washington State University – Mount Vernon Research & Extension Center; Jody Lew-Smith, High Mowing Organic Seeds
Deciding how much seed to grow is a tricky question that comes up for every seed grower. The answer depends on your scale, capacity, infrastructure, and markets. Hear advice from several experienced seed growers and seed buyers who have struggled with this question firsthand.
Speakers: Daniel Brisebois, Ferme Coopérative Tourne-Sol; Tom Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Steve Peters, Seed Revolution Now; Don Tipping, Siskiyou Seeds
Learn about online tools that help the organic community source seed, learn about variety performance, and connect seed growers with buyers. A number of new tools have been created in the last two years alone.
Speakers: Melanie Cheng, FarmsReach; Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance; Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance; Kristina Hubbard, Organic Seed Alliance
Learn about organic seed movements happening across the globe. This panel includes organizers and seed stewards from China, Nepal, and Mexico who are working on innovative ways to strengthen organic seed systems in their regions.
Speakers: Yiching Song, Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Science; Yam Malla, JADE Enterprises/River Beach Eco-Center; Nereida Sanches, Los Eucaliptos Farm, Colibri Seeds, and Agroecológico el Jilote
A vibrant organic seed system relies on strong regional germplasm collections. These efforts ensure access to diverse genetic material. Hear from leaders who have made great strides in collecting and conserving germplasm.
Speakers: Laura Lewis, Washington State University – Jefferson County Extension; Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Bryan Stuart, Seed Savers Exchange; Joy Hought, Native Seeds SEARCH
Organic seed and vegetable production is on the rise in the Pacific Northwest, but what regional needs are still not being met? This listening session brings together produce purchasers, retailers, eaters, plant breeders, seed companies, farmers, and other stakeholders to identify gaps in varieties and seasonal organic production in the Pacific Northwest to inform organic plant breeding projects.
The organic seed industry is an exemplary model of innovation that includes many modes of seed business. Hear from seed business owners who are forging new paths for developing successful organic seed enterprises.
Speakers: Rowen White, Sierra Seeds Cooperative; Andrew Still, Adaptive Seeds; Chuck Burr, Restoration Seeds; Zachary Pickens, Rooftop Ready Seeds; Matthew Goldfarb, Fruition Seeds; Ken Greene, Hudson Valley Seed Library
Tom Stearns began gardening at an early age at his family home in Connecticut. He continued his love of gardening by learning to save seeds and completing a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from Prescott College in Arizona. High Mowing Organic Seeds was born when Tom began sharing seeds in 1996 through a small seed flyer in Vermont. High Mowing Organic Seeds has since expanded into one of the leading organic seed companies in the U.S., supplying both home gardeners and commercial growers. Tom’s vision has always been to create a company that would help support the re-building of healthy food systems. He has taught numerous workshops on many topics such as agricultural education, economics, community supported agriculture, genetic engineering, plant breeding, local food systems, sustainable business, and investing. In addition, Tom has served on the board of several agricultural organizations, most notably as the current president of The Center for an Agricultural Economy. Today, he lives on 50 acres in Vermont with his wife Heather and their two girls Ruby and Cora.