Summer 2016 Newsletter
State of Organic Seed Now Available!
Thank You for Giving BIG to OSA
Talking Organic Seed in Washington, DC
Stand Up to Seed Industry Consolidation
Webinar Series: How to Produce Organic Seed
Summer Sowing for Winter Harvests
Swiss Chard Breeding is Looking Bright
Breeding Better Tomatoes for Organic Farmers
California Hubs Focus on Organic Seed Education, Networking
Southeast Collaboration Already Yielding Results
Organic Seed Trainings in Montana
Featured Publication: Conduct Variety Trials on Your Farm
Save the Date: OSA's Annual Research Farm Field Day is Sept. 26th
Staff Enjoys Spring Retreat
Get Ready for Organicology!
Tribute to Larry Robertson
Read All About It: OSA in the News
We’re proud to release State of Organic Seed, 2016 -- the only comprehensive assessment of organic seed in the US. Our findings show that organic farmers are planting more organic seed and that they're happier with the results of the organic seed they're using. Investments in organic plant breeding have increased tremendously, and collaborative research is resulting in new varieties that have been developed by and for organic farmers. Still, most organic farmers rely on conventional seed for at least part of their operation and barriers remain for making faster progress in building organic seed systems. State of Organic Seed provides a roadmap to guide research, education, and policy work for the next five years to ensure organic seed needs are met. Read the report! And then get involved.
OSA was proud to participate in this year's GiveBIG campaign hosted by Seattle Foundation. The annual one-day fundraising event included over 1,600 Washington-based non-profits who received individual donations that were then "stretched" by the foundation, resulting in matched donations. We'd like to thank all of you who supported us with a donation this year -- we couldn't accomplish organic seed research, education, and advocacy without you!
OSA just returned from an inspiring National Organic Coalition (NOC) membership meeting in Washington, DC, which included a day on Capitol Hill educating members of Congress on a number of organic policy topics. Among several messages delivered was the need to increase research funding that results in more public plant varieties adapted to organic farms and regional climates. We also discussed the costs and burdens associated with GMO contamination in organic seed and other crops. NOC includes more than a dozen organizations and businesses representing organic farmers, processors, consumers, certifiers, researchers, educators, retail businesses, and policy experts. Learn more about NOC here.
The seed industry is already one of the most consolidated sectors of agriculture -- and it could get worse. The agrichemical-seed industry is trying to consolidate even more power, which will inevitably lead to fewer seed options for farmers, less crop diversity in our fields, and a tighter grip on our food supply. OSA has partnered with Seed Matters on a letter addressed to the US Department of Justice asking for action to stop further consolidation in the seed industry. Please sign this letter and then share with your friends.
OSA is partnering with Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) and eOrganic for a six-part webinar series for organic seed growers and their interns throughout the 2016 growing season. Each webinar is led by OSA and other organic seed experts, and focuses on basic skills needed for growing and producing organic seed. These free webinars are open to the public and appropriate for farmers, interns, students, and other agricultural professionals. Pre-registration is required (see link below). Webinars are held at 11:00 a.m. Pacific (12:00 p.m. Mountain, 1:00 p.m. Central, 2:00 p.m. Eastern) on the third Tuesday of each month through November:
• July 19th | Webinar Series #2: Trials and Selection
• August 16th | Webinar Series #3: Diseases and Pests, Case Study
• September 20th | Webinar Series #4: Seed Quality, Harvesting Techniques, and Equipment
• October 18th | Webinar Series #5: Cleaning and Record Keeping, Case Study
• November 15th | Webinar Series #6: Seed Contracting, Economics, and Policy
Producing food for year-round harvests requires planning ahead. By June most farmers feel like they're caught up with spring planting, but now is the time to source seed for crops that will extend the harvest into fall, winter, and early spring. At our research farm in Chimacum, Washington, we plant kale and other hardy greens in June and July for fall and winter harvest; we plant chicory in July for winter and spring harvest; and we plant purple sprouting broccoli in late July to early August for a winter and spring harvest the following year. Planting dates will vary by region, so check with your seed company, extension service, or other farmers to select the ideal date for your climate. And consider planting a variety trial to identify the best performing organic varieties for your farm. We've expanded our variety trials focused on season extension thanks to support from the Oregon and Washington State Departments of Agriculture Specialty Crops Block Grant Program. See our 2015 purple sprouting broccoli variety trial report. A report on onion, cabbage, and chicory varieties will be released later this year.
OSA has been breeding Swiss chard in collaboration with organic farmers on the Olympic Peninsula for seven years. The project is focused on breeding red chard varieties with more bolt tolerance, which remains a major production challenge for organic farmers. We're also developing a vibrant magenta chard variety (see photo). These plants came out of a population developed collaboratively by OSA's current research team; our co-founder, John Navazio; and farmers Marko Colby of Midori Farm, Sebastian Aguilar of Chickadee Farm, and Nash Huber of Nash's Organic Produce. We'll be working with organic seed companies to commercially release this magenta variety within the next few years.
OSA is a partner in the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement (TOMI) project, a multi-state breeding initiative focused on developing disease-resistant tomatoes that have exceptional flavor. Partners include Purdue University, North Carolina State University, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Oregon State University, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Variety trials and taste tests are being conducted this year in Oregon, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Indiana -- all states where there’s intense late blight disease pressure. OSA is producing seed from the breeding lines this summer in our greenhouse located at our Washington research farm (see photo). This project highlights the value of national collaborations where researchers representing different regions work to achieve a shared goal. The benefits include having data from variety trials in multiple states and coordinating breeding activities to maximize time, resources, and expertise. This project is made possible through support from the USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).
OSA's California activities are in full swing, with organic plant breeding, variety trials, and educational workshops happening throughout the state. In five regional hubs -- the Northeast, Northwest, Bay Area, Sierras, and far South -- we're focused on activities that help California growers share seed cleaning equipment and solve organic seed production challenges. We're also hosting or participating in a number of workshops this summer, including a field day at an OSA research site in Gilroy (August 14th), a field day at Redwood Seed Company's farm outside of Manton (September 18th), and a seed production workshop in Santa Cruz (October 16th). Keep checking our events page for updates and details. We also have scholarships available for farmers to attend UC Davis's seed production and seed business courses. Email OSA's Leyla Cabugos for more information about participating in a regional hub.
OSA is collaborating with universities and organic farmers to address Downy Mildew pressure on cucurbits in the eastern part of the US. The project takes a participatory plant breeding approach and spans five states (New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama) and includes three universities (Cornell, Auburn, and North Carolina State). Michael Mazourek of Cornell is the project lead and recently published variety trial reports for 2014 and 2015 on eOrganic. This trial data helped the project team identify varieties with strong resistance to Downy Mildew. Regional seed companies quickly responded to these findings by making some of the most promising open-pollinated varieties available to growers.
In the field right now are melons, cucumbers, and squash plots. Clemson University will feature some of these trials as part of a field day on July 11th focused on managing cucurbit diseases and pests in organic systems. Learn more by contacting Kelly Flynn Gilkerson. Additional field days are planned for August in North Carolina. Contact OSA's Tony Kleese for more information.
OSA is working with farmers in Montana to develop regionally adapted varieties that meet the needs of organic agriculture in the state. As part of this work we'll be hosting an organic seed production workshop on Sunday, September 11th, in Whitefish, Montana, at Terrapin Farm (more details coming soon). This workshop is supported by a Montana Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant. Following this workshop, the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) will teach a two-day classroom and field-based course on organic plant breeding in Pablo, Montana. More details for the NOVIC event are here. Registration for both events opens at the end of July.
Variety trials are important because they allow farmers, plant breeders, and seed companies to evaluate the performance of seed options available. When you conduct a variety trial on your farm, you're able to see which varieties perform best in your climate and have the quality traits that you value most. Investing a year in a scientific variety trial can minimize the risks of planting a variety you're unfamiliar with on a large-scale, and can help certified organic farmers identify the best organic seed options available on the market. Variety trials also help farmers, plant breeders, and seed companies find the best varieties to grow out as a seed crop -- to increase seed quantities for on-farm use or to sell commercially -- and use in breeding projects. Variety trials are a core activity of our research program and a fun way to explore and celebrate crop genetic diversity. OSA's publication, On-farm Variety Trials: A Guide for Organic Vegetable, Herb and Flower Producers, is the go-to resource for planning, planting, and evaluating a variety trial on your farm.
Come join us at OSA's research farm in Chimacum, Washington, on Monday, September 26th, for our annual field day and autumn celebration. The event kicks off with a field tour showcasing our research projects, followed by a vegetable variety tasting accompanied by a no-host bar of Finnriver's handcrafted cider. Please join us to celebrate the bounty of the season and learn more about our collaborative organic seed research in the region.
In May, we enjoyed our annual staff retreat in Port Townsend, Washington. Time was spent updating our strategic plan and coordinating program activities for the year ahead. Staff walked the fields of two research sites: our research farm in Chimacum and Twin Vista Ranch, an organic research farm located on Marrowstone Island and managed by Washington State University. At Twin Vista Ranch, staff assessed magenta chard and purple sprouting broccoli. OSA's staff is strong and growing, and now includes 10 staff members and contractors spanning five states.
Since 2009, over 3,200 participants representing all facets of the organic food sector have attended Organicology. OSA and our co-hosts are excited to bring you new educational tracks, engaging keynotes, and great opportunities to network as we gather to discuss and create a sustainable food future. Join us from February 2 - 4, 2017, in Portland, Oregon, for this unique event.
Sponsor | Are you interested in becoming an Organicology sponsor? Learn more.
Trade show | Do you want to participate in one of the largest organic trade shows in the country? It's an incredible networking opportunity for your business or organization. Learn more.
Research poster session | Do you have research you'd like to share at Organicology? Consider participating in the scientific research poster session. Send the project title and brief abstract (approximately 150 words) to Cathleen McCluskey by August 19th.
The seed world is full of passionate individuals, but the late Dr. Larry D. Robertson was one of our most enthusiastic and inspiring seedsmen. We're sad to share that Larry passed away on June 21st, 2016, poetically just after summer solstice with many seed crops in full bloom. He was a founding partner of several initiatives that fostered collaboration between public plant breeders and farmers, including the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative, the Organic Seed Partnership, and the Public Seed Initiative. Larry served as Geneticist and Vegetable Curator at the USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) from 1998 - 2016, and was an adjunct professor in horticulture at Cornell University. He leaves a tremendous legacy, including working around the world on conservation and breeding focused on many crops, including tomatillo, buckwheat, fava bean, and others.
Most farmers and gardeners knew Larry as the seedsman at the Common Ground Country Fair in Maine. He traveled around the Northeast to teach seed saving through demonstrations of the mobile seed cleaning unit. His plant breeding colleagues knew him as the person to call to access public germplasm or to inquire about the genetic breadth of a crop.
"He was the man to go to for tomato and broccoli seeds, and unusual, I think, for a NPGS curator, in taking seed work to the public," says Dr. Jim Myers of Oregon State University. Dr. Michael Mazourek of Cornell University adds, "Larry was the spark that linked public plant breeding with organic growers in the Northeast and launched a movement. His legacy continues to grow with each generation of students that follow this path." Please keep Larry and his family in your thoughts this year by sharing your seed harvests and seed knowledge in his honor.
Good Stuff NW New Kid on the Block: Purple Sprouting Broccoli "It's known among veg-heads as PSB, and it's the new darling of chefs looking for unusual vegetables to tempt their customers. Purple sprouting broccoli, which is planted in midsummer and must overwinter prior to harvest in early spring..." read full article.
PCC Sound Consumer Breeding better organic produce locally "A plant-breeding team of farmers and researchers walked Nash Huber's extensive purple cabbage fields in winter 2014. Carrying flags on stakes across the farm's chilly Sequim acres, they were tagging the best specimens, selecting..." read full article.
PT Leader OSA's 'The Seed Garden' in top 5 gardening books "'The Seed Garden - the Art and Practice of Seed Saving,' a collaboration between Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) of Port Townsend and Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), has been named as one of the top five gardening books published in..." read full article.
Civil Eats A Missing Puzzle Piece For Farmers: Organic Seed "A new report out today from the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) underscores Bichsel's experience. It found that the supply of organic seed isn't keeping pace with the rising demand for organic products, which grew 11 percent between 2014..." read full article.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition New Report Highlights Need for Organic Seed Breeding "The fresh produce from your local grocery store or farmers' market may be certified organic, but anywhere from 25-80 percent of it might not have started out that way. A recent report from the..." read full article.
Organic Seed Production Webinar Series #2: Trials and Selection | July 19, 2016 | eOrganic Webinar Join OSA, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), and other organic seed experts for the second of this six-webinar series on organic seed production providing training for seed growers and seed production interns throughout the 2016 growing season. Learn more and register.
University of California-Davis Research Farm Field Day | July 21, 2016 | Davis, California Join OSA's California research team for this summer field day at University of California-Davis from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Participants will tour tomato, pepper, Lima bean, and common bean variety trials and breeding projects at the research farm. The tour will begin at 6:00 p.m. and be followed by a social dinner. This event is free and open to the public.
Student Organic Seed Symposium | August 5-8, 2016 | Waterville, Maine OSA's Kiki Hubbard will present at this year's Student Organic Seed Symposium in Waterville, Maine. OSA is a proud sponsor of this annual event organized by and for graduate students across the country who are interested in organic plant breeding and sustainable agricultural systems. Learn more.
Intellectual Property Rights for Public Plant Breeding Summit | August 13-15, 2016 | Raleigh, North Carolina OSA's Micaela Colley and Kiki Hubbard will participate in this summit focused on developing mechanisms that facilitate the commercialization and use of publicly developed seed in both public and private breeding programs. Registration is limited. There are travel scholarships available for graduate students, non-profit organizations, and farmers. Contact Kiki Hubbard for details.
Organic Seed Alliance Field Day | August 14, 2016 | Gilroy, California Join OSA's California research team for our annual Gilroy field day from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 10385 Watsonville Road. The field day will feature variety trials, seed production, and breeding projects at our Bay Area/Central Coast hub, as well as results of our statewide seed hub development work and breeding projects. This event is free and open to the public.
Organic Seed Production Webinar Series #3: Diseases and Pests, Case Study | August 16, 2016 | eOrganic Webinar Join OSA, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), and other organic seed experts for the third of this six-webinar series on organic seed production providing training for seed growers and seed production interns throughout the 2016 growing season. Learn more and register.
Fundamentals of On-Farm Plant Breeding | September 13-14, 2016 | Pablo, Montana Join the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana, for a two-day classroom and field-based course on plant breeding. Nationally renowned organic plant breeders will lead this course. Details TBD. Learn more.
Organic Seed Production Webinar Series #4: Seed Quality, Harvesting Techniques, and Equipment | September 20, 2016 | eOrganic Webinar Join OSA, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), and other organic seed experts for the fourth of this six-webinar series on organic seed production providing training for seed growers and seed production interns throughout the 2016 growing season. Learn more and register.
Organic Seed Alliance Research Farm Field Day | September 26, 2016 | Chimacum, Washington Join OSA's Washington research team for our annual field day in Chimacum, Washington. The event will kick off with a field tour to showcase our projects and research, followed by a vegetable variety tasting accompanied by a no-host bar of Finnriver's delicious cider. Details TBD.
Organic Seed Production Webinar Series #5: Cleaning and Record Keeping, Case Study | October 18, 2016 | eOrganic Webinar Join OSA, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), and other organic seed experts for the fifth of this six-webinar series on organic seed production providing training for seed growers and seed production interns throughout the 2016 growing season. Learn more and register.
Organic Seed Production Webinar Series #6: Seed Contracting, Economics, and Policy | November 15, 2016 | eOrganic Webinar Join OSA, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), and other organic seed experts for the last of this six-webinar series on organic seed production providing training for seed growers and seed production interns throughout the 2016 growing season. Learn more and register.
Montana Organic Association Conference | December 1-3, 2016 | Kalispell, Montana
Join OSA for Montana Organic Association's 14th annual conference at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell this December. Learn more.
Organicology | February 2-4, 2017 | Portland, Oregon Join OSA for the biennial Organicology conference in Portland, Oregon. Organicology brings together stakeholder groups from all corners of the organic community to develop skills in their own areas of activity and gain exposure to the challenges and accomplishments of those in other areas of the trade and movement. Learn more.
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"Organic Seed Alliance has been an indispensable resource for our farm, from conducting field trials to producing seed. Organic seed is the cornerstone of our vegetable production. Without varieties that have been bred and selected for organic growing conditions, we would be left with low-vigor crops adapted to high-input farms."
Royal City, Washington