Autumn 2012 Newsletter

Through our autumn newsletter we’d like to introduce you to the inspiring projects and people that OSA’s involved with throughout the year to improve organic seed for farmers and the broader organic community.


As OSA witnessed at the recent Student Symposium on Organic Plant Breeding, the interest in breeding for organic systems is growing. We know that further investments in organic seed will result in improvements that support the environment and address regional food and agriculture needs. This means training in field-based, organic system breeding is more important than ever.


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and our land grant university system. Reflecting on the founding missions of both entities provides an opportunity to examine the state of plant breeding and seed, and reinvest in an infrastructure that provides the next generation of breeders genuine opportunity in the field of public plant breeding.


Since this infrastructure was established, certain policies and practices have undermined these founding missions, such as patents on plant genetics and the privatization of research.


Trying to reverse these trends is a daunting task. But confronting such challenges also demands proactive models that forge a better path for managing and improving seed.


And that’s precisely why OSA’s work is so important. Our research and education is resulting in working models where farmers and researchers guide research goals together -- where managing seed as a public resource is seen as central to the success of agriculture. And where organic agriculture has an opportunity to create its own path for seed system development.


Don’t miss our updates on CIOAOrganicology 2013NOSB, and Organic Seed Finder.


Best wishes,

Micaela Colley
Executive Director


Remembering the 'People's Department'

This year marks the 150th anniversary of two laws that significantly transformed U.S. agriculture. The first law launched the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which President Abraham Lincoln, in his last address to Congress, called “the people’s department.” He placed the farmer’s interest above all others. The second law, the Morrill Act, established our land grant university system, intended “to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture.”


The new infrastructure established through these laws aimed to expand U.S. agriculture for the sake of prosperity and security – to further research, education, and innovation, and make advancements accessible to all.


In important ways these laws were about sowing seeds, literally and figuratively. But today, their intent has been undermined by policies and practices that collectively leave farmers with less access to what was once a public resource. Read more



OSA Provides Comments to NOSB on Seed Integrity

This 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 issue of organic seed 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 to PDF).

Learn more about the upcoming NOSB meeting by visiting their website.



Vegetable Seed Production Tutorials

OSA has created new multi-media seed production tutorials for beets and chard, brassicas, carrots, lettuce, onions, and wet seeded crops, along with tutorials on seed climatic considerations, seed disease and seed quality. These tutorials combine text, images, audio and video to teach you professional techniques for organic seed production. The tutorials are based on presentations given by organic seed experts at the 2011 Organicology conference and are funded through Western SARE. Access the tutorials here



Field Updates from OSA’s Organic Carrot Breeding

OSA researchers have been busy in the field the past month with our organic carrot breeding work. We are involved in two major organic carrot breeding projects –the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project and the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). While both projects include organic carrots, research and breeding objectives vary between them.


CIOA is a long-term breeding project in its first year that addresses the critical needs of organic carrot farmers by developing orange and novel colored carrots with improved disease and nematode resistance, improved weed competitiveness, and improved nutritional value and flavor. Last week, CIOA project researchers looked at thirty-six carrot populations in replicated field trials in central Washington. The trials are under both organic and conventional production. Read more



Organicology 2013 Conference

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. We've developed a dynamic seed and breed track including a Seed Production 101 intensive, an organic integrity workshop, and breeders roundtable discussion.


The 2013 conference will take place in Portland, Oregon February 7-9, 2013. Registration opens soon! Please visit the official conference website to learn more.



New Organic Seed Database Announced

Next month, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) will launch Organic Seed Finder, a free on-line tool for farmers, certifiers, and others looking to source certified organic seed.

Organic Seed Finder will go live on October 1, 2012, at


The database aims to facilitate the growth and success of the organic seed sector, and support farmers in meeting the National Organic Program’s organic seed requirement. Organic remains one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. food production.


Users can search by crop type for certified organic varieties in the marketplace and receive reliable seed availability information. The database will continue to expand with more seed vendors and varieties in the coming months. Read more



The Organic Seed Grower Published by Chelsea Green in December 2012

OSA's senior scientist Dr. John Navazio's new book on vegetable seed production is due out on Chelsea Green December 3, 2012. 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. Read more



Seed Broadcast Highlights

Canola in the Willamette Valley: Comment by Oct. 5
If you can’t attend today’s public hearing in Salem, OR, you can still weigh in with your comments by October 5, 2012. Find instructions and talking points below, and help ensure the Willamette Valley remains one of the best places in the world for growing and supplying specialty seed. Read more


Faces of Public Plant Breeding: Brook Brouwer
Brook Brouwer grew up on a small sheep farm on Lopez Island, WA. He graduated with a B.A. in Biology from Colorado College in 2008. In January 2012 he began working toward a PhD in Crop Science, in Dr. Stephen Jones’s lab at Washington State University, Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center...Read more


Faces of Public Plant Breeding: Michael Mazourek
Michael Mazourek is the Calvin Noyes Keeney assistant professor of Plant Breeding in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University. Dr Mazourek works on the genetic improvement of peppers, cucurbits and snap peas for disease resistance, organic production and regional adaptation. In addition to...Read more


Faces of Public Plant Breeding: Adrienne Shelton
Adrienne Shelton is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, earning a Master’s and PhD with Dr. Bill Tracy. Her research includes analyzing the inheritance of genetic traits that confer high planting density tolerance in sweet corn and developing an open-pollinated sweet corn variety for organic growers...Read more


An Organic Farmer Responds to AC21s Proposal
The Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture’s draft recommendations add to the burden already carried by organic and non-GE producers struggling to deal with the aftermath of releasing an uncontrollable, patented agricultural technology into the environment. The report seeks to...Read more


OSA Delivers Comments to AC21 on Coexistence
Earlier this week OSA attended USDA’s latest (and maybe last) AC21 meeting in Washington, DC, to provide public comments and gauge where the current discussion on coexistence is headed. USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) was reconvened following...Read more


OSA Attends Student Symposium on Organic Plant Breeding
Plant breeders who develop new vegetable varieties for organic farming systems are far and few between. The same goes for graduate students who want to go in that line of work. They can feel rather isolated—even at schools with large plant breeding programs. Read more


The Context of USDA’s GE Sugar Beet Decision
You’ve probably heard that USDA recently deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets following a court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Organic Seed Alliance has written before about the threat this genetically engineered (GE) trait poses to the integrity of organic and other non-GE crops...Read more



Upcoming OSA Events

Variety Trial Field Day | September 29, 2012
Learn how to use variety trials as a tool for your farm or garden while seeing replicated trials of green beans, broccoli, and cucumbers selected to perform well in coastal Humboldt county. Join OSA's Jared Zystro at DeepSeeded Community Farm, Stewart Avenue and Wyatt Lane, Artaca, CA at 3:30 p.m. No registration is required - this field day is free and open to the public.


Follow Your Food: From seed to seed | October 10, 2012
Join OSA's Jared Zystro and Elizabeth Henderson of Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) at University of California, Santa Cruz for a talk investigating the culture of agriculture, food justice, and our responsibility of stewarding the seeds that sustain us. Presenters will discuss the role that the general public and farmers play in supporting a grassroots movement toward the regeneration and resilience of our food system. A focus will be placed on the importance of cultivating farmer-centric seed systems that devlope locally adapted and open pollinated varieties. For more information, please visit the event page or contact Elan Goldbart.


Bioneers Conference | October 19-21, 2012
Join OSA's John Navazio at this year's Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California. Bioneers Conference features seed saving skills, how to create community seed libraries, GMO labeling campaign and a seed exchange, all of which will help provide the resources, skills, and networks to become a seed steward and a biodiversity activist.

There will be a convergence of seed and biodiversity expertise on hand including John Navazio, Mathew Dillon and Sara McCamant of Seed Matters, Rebecca Newburn of Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library and Stacy Malkan of California GMO labeling ballot initiative.

Bioneers annual seed exchange is hosted by Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Tesuque Pueblo tribal farm, The Living Seed Company, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library and the Sustainable Seed Company. For more information or to register, please visit the officialBioneers Conference website.


Variety Trial Field Day | October 18, 2012

Join OSA's Jared Zystro and John Navazio and Dale Coke of Coke Farms for a Variety Trial Field Day at Coke Farms in San Juan Bautista on October 18, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Learn how to use variety trials as a tool for your farm while studying replicated trials of green beans, swiss chard, lettuce, broccoli, and kale selected to perform well in San Juan Bautista. This class is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required. Please emailCathleen McCluskey to confirm your space.


Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Agriculture Conference | October 26-28, 2012
Join OSA's Micaela Colley at the 27th Annual CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference this October. The event includes workshops on regional seed security, farm business, policy, hands-on techniques, and farm walks. For more information, please visit the CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference website.


Seed Production 101 | November 3, 2012
Join OSA's Jared Zystro at Mano Farm in Ojai, California to learn the fundamental skills to produce seed and develop and adapt seed varieties for your organic farm conditions. Topics will include the biology of seed production, seed harvest 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. This event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required. Please email Cathleen McCluskey to confirm your space.


Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference | November 9-11, 2012
Join OSA's Kristina Hubbard and Jared Zystro at Tilth Producers of Washington's annual conference in Port Townsend, Washington. Twenty-five workshops will be offered throughout the weekend by organic and sustainable farmers, researchers and agency educators. Included will be an OSA workshop on seed concentration and protecting organic integrity. For more information, please visit the Tilth Producers of Washington conference website.


Southern SAWG Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference | January 23-26, 2013
Join OSA for Southern SAWG's annual conference in Littlerock, Arkansas. The conference will include a seed track co-organized by OSA staff. For more information, please visit theSouthern SAWG Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference website.


Organicology Conference | February 7-9, 2013
Organicology is 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. The 2013 conference will take place in Portland, Oregon and continue to focus on sustainability, farming and seed issues, and a wide range of timely topics that impact the organic trade. For more information,please visit the official Organicology website.