Organic Seed Alliance recently asked one of our partners what he enjoyed most about collaborating with us on seed projects. Marko Colby of Midori Farm responded:
“The empowerment that comes from knowing we can improve seed varieties to work better in our regions and organic systems.”
Marko is one of 1,000 farmers who engaged in OSA’s research, education, and advocacy this year. Just as seed is the foundation of a healthy food system, farmers are the foundation of a healthy seed system. Farmers like Marko remind us of this each day.
We are humbled by the demand and praise for our work. And it’s not just from farmers. University researchers, seed businesses, organic certifiers, and food companies commend our unique approach to organic seed systems, where collaboration with diverse members of the organic community is central to our success.
Thank you for supporting OSA. Your partnership has allowed us to expand into new regions –educating more farmers, developing more organic varieties, and impacting more seed policy. We have you to thank for our successes.
Next year OSA celebrates a landmark anniversary. After ten years of advancing the ethical development and stewardship of seed, we’ve established a track record of fostering seed systems that ensure the future sustainability of food production. And to build on that record, we are asking you today to include us in your holiday giving.
In 2012 alone we achieved these successes:
Drawing more than 500 participants to our 6th biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference Our conference provides a unique opportunity to trade knowledge, strategies, and techniques that strengthen the larger organic seed community.
Breeding new organic varieties in collaboration with four universities We made significant progress in breeding new varieties through the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative and Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture projects.
Launching Organic Seed Finder We helped guide the design and implementation of a new organic seed database to support farmers and the organic seed trade.
Developing regional seed systems We conducted an organic seed assessment in the Southeast that is steering an OSA-led working group in the region. Our work in California continues to expand, reaching more than 1,300 farmers, gardeners, students, and seed professionals.
Representing the organic seed community in timely policy discussions OSA delivered a number of public comments this year to USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology (AC21), the National Organic Standards Board, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and members of Congress on organic seed availability and integrity issues.
Co-authoring the first textbook on organic plant breeding Three OSA staffers are among the impressive authors of Organic Crop Breeding, a comprehensive review of the latest efforts to develop improved varieties for organic production.
To be sure, there are troubling trends to address:
– Concentration in the seed industry reduces choice.
– Restrictive patents and licensing agreements prohibit seed saving.
– Genetically engineered traits are harder to avoid in at-risk crops.
– Certified organic seed is not always available for specific needs and regions.
OSA is engaged in these policy discussions to protect the rights of farmers and the integrity of the seed they sow. Advocacy is an important avenue for cultivating change, but it is best coupled with a proactive response to these challenges — models for managing, improving, and distributing seed in a manner that ensures the resource is safeguarded for future generations while stimulating innovation. We can achieve both, and the best part is that we don’t have to wait for decision makers in Washington, DC, to deliver farmers seed that meets their diverse and regional needs.
Six years ago, Marko Colby decided to join OSA’s work because he saw an opportunity to be part of the solution –to help grow a healthy seed system in his region. Today Marko is still engaged because his involvement has resulted in positive change on Midori Farm through improved seed varieties and new skills to help his business succeed.
As we head into 2013, OSA is more confident than ever in our approach to organic seed system development and the role farmers play as seed stewards.
Micaela Colley, Executive Director