Autumn 2013 Newsletter

This year, OSA celebrates a landmark anniversary. It's hard to believe that after ten years we have already established ourselves as the primary organization in the U.S. working to expand a national organic seed system through regional models of collaborative research, education, and advocacy.

Our anniversary reminds us of our origins and the ongoing urgency for the preservation of seed knowledge that led to our birth.  On August 4, 2003, a fire consumed the offices of Abundant Life Seed Foundation in Port Townsend, Washington. Lost was a seed collection of more than 2,300 varieties that had been built and preserved over the course of three decades. The fire left the community and staff heartbroken.

Though most of the seed collection was destroyed, the foundation still had the network of farmers who helped develop it. In fact, those farmers had about 150 varieties in their fields when the fire hit. And that network represented an important truth: that protecting seed diversity also requires protecting the knowledge necessary to grow and steward seed. In 2003 Abundant Life was already striving to fulfill the need for education on seed production and farmer-based plant breeding. The fire brought the organization to a tipping point. Within months, this realization led to the founding of Organic Seed Alliance. Today we partner with several seed preservation organizations, bringing the seed knowledge necessary to carry seed diversity forward.

We're proud of our fiery roots and accomplishments, which include teaching hundreds of courses, publishing more than a dozen professional seed guides, hosting the nation's only organic seed conference, and influencing critical policy.

In light of our anniversary, we've launched a new website that makes it even easier to download our guides, register for events, receive timely news, and more. Take a look, and let us know what you think. And don't miss our anniversary timeline that highlights some of our accomplishments.

I'm also happy to announce that registration for our 7th Organic Seed Growers Conference is now open. We hope you'll join us from January 30 - February 1, 2014, in Corvallis, Oregon, to trade knowledge, techniques, and ideas that strengthen our rapidly growing organic seed community. Our theme, Innovation in the Field, is woven throughout agenda sessions focused on plant breeding, seed production, policy and advocacy, and the economics of seed production and enterprise development.

After ten years, we remain true to our mission, and farmers are still at the heart of our work. As our founders were reminded through the 2003 fire, seed is best managed in the hands of many, not in the hands of a few. Please join us in creating the alternative, which includes building regional seed models that support farmers in operating as seed innovators.

We wouldn't be celebrating ten years of success without the support of our community, which is why we hope you'll join us for our anniversary celebration on October 26, 2013, in Port Townsend. In honor of our ten-year anniversary, attendees will receive a packet of 'Abundant Bloomsdale' spinach seed. It's our first official variety release. And it's a small thank you for helping us grow not just seed, but a thriving organization.

With gratitude,

Micaela Colley

Executive Director



Happy Birthday, Organic Seed Alliance

10-Year Anniversary Celebration, October 26th, Port Townsend, WA

Plant Breeders on the Hill: USDA Plant Breeding Working Group

Winter Wonderland: New Project to Increase NW Year-Round Vegetables

We Believe the Students Are Our Future: Teach Them Well

Spud Selections: New Potato Breeding Manual Now Available

Searching for Organic Seed Varieties: Organic Seed Finder

Businesses, Groups Call for Better Oversight of GE Field Trials

Registration for the 7th Organic Seed Growers Conference Now Open

Seed Broadcast Highlights

Read All About It: OSA in the News



Happy Birthday, Organic Seed Alliance
This year marks Organic Seed Alliance's 10-year anniversary. In the last 10 years OSA has established itself as the leading organic seed institution in the U.S. Have a look at this timeline highlighting milestones throughout our exciting journey.

Today we have so much to be excited about -- from our growing biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference to finishing our new strategic plan. The organic seed community continues to grow and strengthen, and Organic Seed Alliance will be there every part of the way to empower farmers as seed stewards through our research, education, and advocacy work. Thank you for your ongoing support, and here's to the next 10 years!



10-Year Anniversary Celebration, October 26th, Port Townsend, WA

Please join us in celebrating and supporting OSA with a 10-year anniversary dinner, art show, and fundraiser. Local food, live music, and art will make this an event not to miss! The evening will include a look at OSA's roots as Abundant Life Seed Foundation and the advancements we've made since our launch. Come sit side-by-side with our plant breeding partners, including the farmers who grew the food for our meal. We're proud of our accomplishments, and want to share our 10-year vision for the next generation of organic seed research, education, and advocacy.


  • When: Saturday, October 26, 2013, 6:00 p.m.
  • Cost: $75.00 per plate
  • Location: Port Townsend, Washington at the Northwest Maritime Center
  • Have questions? Please contact us at (360) 385-7192


Reserve your place today


Seed: Potential and inspiration, an exhibition of local art, will grace the walls at the anniversary celebration event. We are honored that so many Port Townsend artists are contributing art to support our work with farmers to develop regionally adapted, organic seed for our local food system. It all starts with seed!

Preview some of the art here and check back often to see what new art has been contributed.



Plant Breeders on the Hill: USDA Plant Breeding Working Group

On August 15, 2013, OSA's Kristina Hubbard participated in a listening session hosted by USDA's Plant Breeding Working Group. We're grateful that USDA hosted this day-long event that invited comments and discussion from different stakeholders: from public and private plant breeders, to farm groups and forest scientists. For those who couldn't attend, USDA collected written comments. If you're wondering what's next, the agency's blog reports that: "this input will be valuable for USDA's strategy on where to place ever more scarce plant breeding resources, and it will hopefully generate a forward-looking dialogue in the community that will enable it to be more responsive to future needs of plant breeding in an ever-changing and ever more populated world." We hope this strategy takes seriously the concerns of OSA and many in our community who believe we have fallen behind on delivering public cultivars that meet the diverse, changing, and regional needs of U.S. farmers. These concerns have led to congressional initiatives supported by more than 100 farm organizations, businesses, nonprofits, and scientists, as we wrote about here. Read OSA's comments to USDA's Plant Breeding Working Group here.



Winter Wonderland: New Project to Increase NW Year-Round Vegetables

Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) is proud to announce that it has received a Washington State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant to address the high demand for year-round availability of locally grown vegetables in Oregon and Washington.

Farmers in Oregon and Washington experience similar agronomic challenges and climates. Both states are also home to buyers that demand superior culinary qualities in their produce. OSA’s project is a multistate partnership with Oregon State University and Washington State University.

“OSA has a ten-year track record in delivering high-quality seed research and education to farmers and their buyers in the region,” says Micaela Colley, OSA’s executive director. “This project builds on the successes of other participatory plant breeding projects in the region by strengthening a regional network of farmers and produce buyers who are creating new production and sales opportunities for the region’s food and agriculture community.”

OSA’s project focuses on four priority crops for which there is much interest and potential in expanding year-round production in Oregon and Washington. These crops include overwintering chicories, overwintering sprouting broccoli, winter cabbage, and storage onions. OSA will evaluate the agronomic and culinary qualities of these crops with farmers and produce buyers, including chefs and distributors. The project also includes a number of tastings and networking events to promote these crops, and helps farmers identify the most appropriate seed varieties for the region...Read more



We Believe the Students Are Our Future, Teach Them Well

Organic Seed Alliance is honored to have participated in this year's Student Organic Seed Symposium in Mount Vernon, Washington. We led participants in field tours of organic seed producers throughout the Olympic Peninsula. Many thanks to our local businesses for their generous donations, especially Nash's Organic Produce, Mt. Townsend Creamery, Finnriver, and WSU.

Organic Seed Alliance's Kristina Hubbard delivered a keynote address at this year's Student Organic Seed Symposium in Mount Vernon, Washington. Below are a few words from her reflections on participation in this innovative symposium of the future organic seed leaders:

"I had the privilege of attending an event this summer called the Student Organic Seed Symposium. This is a symposium initiated and organized by and for plant breeding graduate students interested in future careers in plant breeding and interested in supporting organic agriculture through their research. Spending three days with 30 smart, motivated, and passionate graduate students was one of the most inspiring experiences of my career. Here is a group of students organizing themselves to learn about cutting edge plant breeding, to learn about the organic seed industry, and to learn how they can engage in reinvigorating public research and education.

Many of these students will graduate soon and be looking for jobs. A common theme in my conversations with them was a very real concern that public plant breeding positions will not be an option for them. Many want to conduct field-based plant breeding in the public sector. Many want to fill gaps in minor crops and markets, such as organic, and many already, during their short time as students, see the barriers, including a general lack of funding for desired positions and areas of research. We must ensure that the next generation of plant breeders has the funding it needs to address our most pressing agricultural challenges. We must also ensure a place for them after they graduate within our universities if they wish to remain in the public sector."

Read the full keynote address.




Spud Selections: New Potato Breeding Manual Now Available

If you’re interested in potato breeding, take note of a new manual that was recently translated into English by a Dutch publisher. The manual, Potato breeding -- a practical manual for the potato chain, covers the history of potato breeding in the Netherlands, including background on the genetics and instructions for crosses and selections.

While geared toward potato breeders, the manual is also useful to farmers and consumers who are interested in the background of varieties. One aim of the authors is to stimulate an organic potato growers and breeders network, so the manual contains a separate section on the priorities of traits important for organic production systems. This is the first manual of its kind, and was written by Marjolein Tiemens-Hulscher, Jaap Delleman, Jacob Eising, and Edith Lammerts van Bueren.

For more information, visit, or contact Edith Lammerts van Bueren.



Searching for Organic Seed Varieties: Organic Seed Finder

Organic Seed Finder is celebrating its first year of success. Launched in October 2012, Organic Seed Finder provides an online tool that allows vendors to post their organic varieties in a central location where potential buyers can search for the varieties they need. It is also a valuable resource for organic certifiers who need access to documentation of organic seed availability. Already the website hosts thousands of organic variety listings representing thirteen seed vendors, and the website is expanding each month. Organic Seed Finder includes a link ("Couldn't find what you need?") that allows users to report which varieties they cannot find in a certified organic form. This has created a feedback loop to seed vendors, certifiers, and organic plant breeders. To learn more, visit



Businesses, Groups Call for Better Oversight of GE Field Trials

More than 150 farm organizations, food processors, millers, retail companies, bakeries, and seed businesses have signed a letter calling for improvements in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) oversight of experimental trials of genetically engineered (GE) crops. The letter comes after the USDA announced on May 29, 2013, that an Oregon farmer had discovered unapproved GE wheat in his field.

Wheat harvests are in full swing as the USDA continues its investigation into the Oregon contamination event. This chance discovery underscores the difficulty of completely containing GE crops and the inadequacy of U.S. policy to protect vulnerable markets that reject GE wheat.

"The economic impacts of the GE wheat discovery in Oregon were immediate," says Clint Lindsey, an Oregon wheat grower who sells to a grain exporter that serves Japan. Lindsey is one of many farmers whose shipments were temporarily put on hold after the unapproved wheat was found.

"Our customers are still asking us what measures we're taking to ensure our wheat doesn't include GE material," Lindsey says. "We are the ones who have to pay for testing, which increases our costs. The threat of contamination also undermines the credibility of our business"...Read more



Registration Now Open for the 7th Organic Seed Growers Conference

The biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference brings together hundreds of farmers, plant breeders, researchers, university extension, certifiers, food companies, seed production and distribution companies, and other organic stakeholders in two days of presentations, panel discussions, and networking events. Join us for this unique opportunity to trade knowledge, techniques, and ideas that strengthen our organic seed community - it's the only event of its kind!


This year's conference includes two days packed with sessions led by more than 70 leaders who are innovators in the field of organic seed. Sessions are focused entirely on organic seed, and include practical breeding techniques, organic seed production how-tos, timely advocacy issues in the organic seed community, seed economics, and more.


In addition to the practical sessions, the weekend will include a trade show, research poster session, roundtables, networking sessions, vegetable variety tastings, wine tastings, organic meals, and rocking live music both nights.


More information about sessions, speakers, and the pre-conference tour are coming soon.


Register today



Seed Broadcast Highlights

Seed Industry Consolidation is Still Out of Hand Dr. Philip Howard of Michigan State University has just updated his very telling graphics representing consolidation in the global seed industry. "Not surprisingly, acquisitions have continued," says Dr. Howard. "Despite the economic downturn since...Read more



Read All About It: OSA in the News

Reuters U.S. farm, food groups want better oversight of GMO field trials"More than 150 U.S. farm and food businesses and organization on Wednesday called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to strengthen its oversight of field trials of experimental, genetically modified crops. The group includes"...Read article

Capital Press Organic growers encouraged to grow their own seed "Organic farmers in the Pacific Northwest, which dominates U.S. vegetable seed production, are being encouraged by a national group to produce and save their own seed.Because of recent seed company consolidation"...Read article

The Washington Post Why perfect-looking produce can be less than ideal "Several weeks ago, my patient Mary brought me a bag of Gravenstein apples fresh-picked from her backyard tree. They were squat and mottled, and, from the occasional puncture hole, I could tell that the birds had enjoyed"...Read article

Cornell Chronicle Breeders, seed savers advance organics movement "Gardeners in search of the perfect, pesticide-free pepper - that can be grown organically under local weather conditions - are unlikely to find seeds in a shop. But they may soon benefit from a participatory plant breeding and"...Read article

Portland Monthly Breeding Seeds Worth Saving If you live in Portland, eat at restaurants, or shop at farmers markets, you’ve eaten a Gypsy pepper. They’re blocky, thick-walled, prolific growers setting an abundance of sweet red fruit on every plant. Farmers love Gypsy because it tastes great"...Read article

Edible Portland Promiscuous Plants This spring, as the discovery of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) wheat in Oregon’s Columbia Basin caused Japan, Korea, and other Pacific Rim countries to defer millions of dollars in future Oregon wheat contracts, another GM battle was brewing in Salem"...Read article



Upcoming Events
Growing Organic Seed in Washington On-Farm Training | October 19, 2013 | Mount Vernon, Washington Join Organic Seed Alliance and Viva Farms for a day-long farmer training on organic seed production at the WSU Mount Vernon Research Center. Learn fundamental skills for developing and adapting varieties to your organic farm. Pre-registration is required. Register today


Organic Seed Alliance Celebrates 10 Years | October 26, 2013 | Port Townsend, Washington

Join us in celebrating and supporting Organic Seed Alliance with a 10-year anniversary dinner and art show. Local food, live music, and art will make this an event not to miss! Secure your place today


Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's Sustainable Agriculture Conference | November 15 - 17, 2013 | Durham, North Carolina Organic Seed Alliance's Micaela Colley will present at the 2014 Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Carolina Farm Stewarship Association's annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference features top-notch speakers, hands-on intensives and tours, great networking opportunities, and famous local, organic meals. Learn more


Montana Organic Association Conference | December 12 - 14, 2013 | Kalispell, Montana Organic Seed Alliance's Dr. John Navazio and Kristina Hubbard will present at the 2014 Montana Organic Association Conference. Conference topics include the facts and fiction of GMOs, breeding and saving seeds for organic systems, cover cropping for weed and pest control, improving the health of the soil and other events and entertainment. Learn more


EcoFarm Conference | January 22 - 25, 2014 | Pacific Grove, California Organic Seed Alliance's Jared Zystro will present at the 2014 EcoFarm Conference. This flagship event brings food system stakeholders together for education, networking, and celebrating. Learn more


7th Organic Seed Growers Conference | January 30 - February 1, 2014 | Corvallis, Oregon The biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference brings together hundreds of farmers, plant breeders, researchers, university extension, certifiers, food companies, seed production and distribution companies, and other organic stakeholders in two days of presentations, panel discussions, and networking events. Learn more


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“Organic seed is the foundation of organic agriculture and sustainable food systems, and the only true response to GMOs. I support OSA because it provides the technical expertise and organizational structure to establish regionally appropriate organic seed systems.”


Tony Kleese

The Earthwise Company

Chapel Hill, North Carolina