The coronavirus has changed so much in our world, but it has not stopped OSA’s work to meet the seed needs of growers. In response to the pandemic, OSA has expanded outreach efforts to farmers in need and donated seed and produce from our research projects to classrooms and communities. Since the pandemic began, we have delivered:
- Over 400 pounds of lettuce, spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes to the Jefferson County Food Bank, Nadine’s Soul Food Kitchen, and the Jefferson Healthcare hospital near our research farm in Chimacum, WA.
- 1,000 ears of sweet corn and the first contribution toward 1,000 pounds of a tomato donation to the Food for the People Food Bank in Eureka, CA from our research plots in Northern California.
- Seven pounds of vegetable and flower seed mailed or delivered to elementary classrooms, lunch delivery programs, farm education programs, and the WA state Immigrant Relief Fund.
Spotlight on support: Milpa Seed Blanket project
As the pandemic set in, demand for seed skyrocketed, depleting retail resources and straining food supply chains. The Washington State University Food Systems Team, a small scale, sustainable agricultural food group of WSU faculty and staff and partnering organizations, created the COVID-19 Hub, a weekly meeting to share information and assess needs in real time.
During a Hub call focused on indigenous programs, Valerie Segrest of the Native American Agriculture Fund showed an example of the Resiliency Gardens project from the Flower Hill Institute in New Mexico, where food security needs were being met during COVID with a milpa seed blanket, a traditional companion planting used by native communities in the Southwest to improve soil and grow food. Linda McLean, Director of the WSU Extension Colville Tribe, along with other partners at Viva Farms and WSU San Juan County, were interested in finding a way forward. Aba Kiser of the WSU Food Systems team put a call out to OSA to ask if we had a source for seeds to develop this project, and OSA rose to the occasion.
OSA’s Micaela Colley met with Linda to identify the best seeds for the Colville Tribe, located outside of Spokane, WA, to grow using this historic practice of broadcast planting a diversity of seeds in a medium of humic organic matter. The two moved forward with a pilot project of a salad bowl seed mix, putting together bags of organic matter with chard, lettuce, and kale seed that OSA donated. The project was a success! Linda reported that over 50 participants picked up seed blankets at the initial drive-through distribution event with a dozen more sent in the mail. Other tribes and nonprofit groups are also reaching out to adopt this program.
Thank you to those who donated to these efforts during our GiveBIG campaign in May. We are committed to meeting these ongoing needs and welcome donations to continue this work.