This past weekend OSA staff members attended the 8th annual Student Organic Seed Symposium (SOSS) in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Sixty people attended the event from all over the world, bringing their stories, scientific questions, and unique seed to share. We left feeling heartened and delighted by all the innovative work organic seed students and their mentors have underway.
SOSS was originally founded by graduate students in organic plant breeding who felt isolated in more conventional agronomy and plant genetics departments across the country. The small size and student focus of SOSS create a unique environment in which students can connect with each other and with leaders in the organic seed movement who may or may not work in academia. Past SOSS speakers have come from organic seed companies, non-profits, indigenous groups, seed farms, and advocacy organizations. The diverse mix of topics lends itself to lively discussion and authentic connection between SOSS participants.
SOSS featured talks from Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm and Kitazawa Seed Company, Jason Cavatorta of Earthworks Seeds, and Ken Greene of Hudson Valley Seed Company and SeedShed. We also engaged in a half day conversation, harvest, and food preparation adventure with local indigenous agriculture and food leaders Dan Cornelious, Yusuf Bin-Rella, and Elena Terry.
Too often, we engage with seed without proper consideration of the deeply-rooted food traditions our seeds represent. Cooking huge slabs of heritage cushaw squash and roasting beautiful bi-color corn on an open fire, the SOSS group felt grounded in our relationship to seed as the center of the food system. This hands-on, artistic, and symbolic engagement with seed provided an interesting balance and challenge to the conversations about the science of plant breeding and questions of seed ownership that wove the gathering together.
It seemed that each participant came away with a shift in perspective and new contacts for future collaboration.
SOSS is hosted by the Society of Organic Seed Professionals (SOSP), which OSA fiscally sponsors. To learn more about SOSP, and for information on SOSS 2019 and 2020, visit www.organicseedsociety.org.
SOSS is held in a different location each year, and conversations about the location of SOSS 2020 are already underway. If you are interested in hosting the symposium at your business or institution, please contact the organizers here.