The 9th Organic Seed Growers Conference drew more than 600 participants last weekend, with more than 400 participants attending the event in Corvallis, Oregon, from February 14-17, 2018, and an additional 200 people joining the conference via live webinar. Participants represented 31 US states, 9 countries, and 18 universities. Conference co-hosts included Oregon State University, Washington State University’s Food Systems Program, and eOrganic.
The biennial conference is the largest event focused solely on organic seed in North America. More than 70 experts presented on topics ranging from organic seed growing, plant breeding, seed economics, policy, and more. This year’s conference theme – Synergy that Sustains – recognizes that the organic seed community is diverse and growing, and that differences in approaches, regions, and stakeholders are a strength if actions focus on what connects the community – on synergism.
“Celebrating seed and the community that sustains it is such a privilege for the team at OSA,” says OSA Executive Director Cara Loriz. “We hope that the information shared and the meaningful connections made give renewed energy to this important work.”
Congressman Peter DeFazio returned to his district to join conference participants as the event’s keynote speaker. Congressman DeFazio has long been a champion for organic farmers, including introducing the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established the statutory foundation for the national organic standards. “We won against all odds,” he told conference participants, reflecting on that time. He went on to talk about the Farm Bill and the importance of policy that advances a more sustainable food and farming future.
The Organic Seed Growers Conference is always a celebratory event – an opportunity to recount successes and honor the relationships necessary for achieving our shared vision of a healthier people and planet, beginning with seed.
“We are grateful to the inspiring speakers who shared seed resources and stories from our own backyards and from around the world,” Loriz adds.
To meet the demand for education on the economics of commercial seed production, the conference opened with a day-long intensive on the subject funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency. Beginning and experienced seed growers learned how to use enterprise budget tools to evaluate capital investments, expand operations, and assess market opportunities. The 80 farmers attending learned from real-world case studies of contract seed growers, who were on hand to answer questions, and worked directly with agricultural economists from Highland Economics and Oregon Tilth to test their production scenarios. Seed company representatives offered perspective on market gaps, best practices and quality issues.
More than 100 participants loaded buses to visit a variety of seed production and plant breeding locations throughout the Willamette Valley, a tour sponsored by Oregon Tilth. OSA and university colleagues also offered an all-day organic plant breeding intensive featuring OSU’s facilities and barley breeding lab.
In conjunction with eOrganic, six sessions were offered free and open to the public as live webinars. The recordings will be available in the coming weeks here. Proceedings from the conference are available here.
OSA thanks the many businesses and organizations that sponsored the conference, including Platinum Sponsor United Natural Foods, Inc. and Gold Sponsors The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, Clif Bar & Company and Oregon Tilth. Organic Seed Alliance advances ethical seed solutions to meet food and farming needs in a changing world. Learn more at seedalliance.org