OSA hosted the 4th Annual California Organic Seed Summit in Petaluma, CA, earlier this month. The summit is an important gathering of farmers, researchers, organic seed industry professionals, and policy advocates throughout the state. The retreat-like gathering focused on the current state of California organic seed – its challenges and successes – and provided an opportunity for California organic seed growers to share information and network. There were a total of 37 participants representing different farms, seed companies, university research departments, and non-governmental organizations throughout the state.
Several guest speakers participated in this year’s summit. Jacob Keszey from High Mowing Organic Seeds made the trip out from Vermont to talk to the group about the ins and outs of growing seed on contract. This was both a unique opportunity for people to ask questions directly, and for High Mowing Organic Seeds to expand their network. Brijette Peña from San Diego Seed Company spoke about niche markets and her experience with rack sales. Kristyn Leach from Namu Farm talked about Korean natural farming and holistic approaches to weed and pest management. Reoccurring themes throughout the weekend included productivity, seed quality, and addressing the importance of soil health and its ties to nutrition.
The focus of this year’s summit was to reflect on the last four years of progress and look ahead at strengthening the California organic seed community in the coming years. Participants focused on four areas: outreach, education, infrastructure, and networking. Outreach priorities included connecting growers to larger seed buyers and ways to expand diversity in the community. Education needs included holding regional seed cleaning equipment trainings and learning more about soil management for seed quality. Participants discussed creating infrastructure to share information across the organic sector, including varieties and breeding material. Networking priorities included ways to coordinate production with growers for multiple small seed companies. These four conversations will continue via conference call and email. Are you interested in participating in these conversations? Contact Amber Keeney.
The weekend was rounded out with a field trip to Coast Range Seed. Organic seed grower Eric George led a tour of his site, discussed soil health and its relationship to seed production, and shared his plans for expansion in the coming year.