Graduate students working in organic systems gathered top research professors, seed advocates and business leaders to build on the shared knowledge, camaraderie and mutual support that is unique to this community of people passionate about organic seed.
The seventh annual Student Organic Seed Symposium (SOSS), held July 26-29 at Oregon State University in Corvallis, celebrated individual and cooperative research in support of organic seed systems. The event is organized each year by a committee of student volunteers, and is remarkable for its candid conversations, meaningful guidance and generous intellectual spirit.
With a theme of “Grassroots Plant Breeding,” the symposium embraced the contributions of independent breeders, regional seed companies and local trailblazers of the organic seed movement while fostering a culture of openness and inquiry. Tours of Bejo trials, Wild Garden Seed, Carol Deppe’s breeding projects, Adaptive Seeds, the National Clonal Germplasm Repository and OSU student projects and barley program enlightened and informed, as did presentations on seed policy, the art of plant breeding and the intersection of sociology and seed work.
Two panel discussions provided compelling insights into the organic seed movement and life as a plant breeder or seed producer. Former students on the post-grad transition panel offered frank advice to prepare current degree earners for the challenges of carving out a career in this field, and encouraged them to cultivate relationships within this cohort. To the grassroots plant breeder panel, a student asked what values they embrace in their work, values that go beyond the organic label. Frank Morton, Andrew Still, Don Tipping and Carol Deppe talked about the passions and open-source principles that guide them. The discussion closed with Frank summing up the distinguishing value of the organic seed movement as “sharing.” These breeders are excited to share the results of their work, share their germplasm, share the success that can only come when people work together toward a common goal.
The students and seed leaders of the 2018 SOSS gathering are doing more than talking about a future of food that puts people and planet first. This organic seed community is making that noble goal their life’s work.