The 7th Annual California Organic Seed Summit took place online this year. Over the course of a week, from March 22-26, participants Zoomed in to discuss a wide range of topics focused on California organic seed systems.
The California Organic Seed Summit has historically been a small, intimate roundtable discussion that takes place over a weekend at a retreat-like setting at revolving locations in California. Still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers grappled with the decision to either cancel this year’s Summit or take this highly participant-driven event to a virtual format. With participant safety as the top priority, how could the event shift to an online format without compromising quality?
Organic Seed Commons
To deliver vigorous virtual programs, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) developed an online networking platform called Organic Seed Commons an interactive web-based space for events, courses, workshops, regional seed hubs, forums, and more. The space is intended to act as a confluence of regional organic and sustainable seed activity, developed and driven by organic seed communities across the continent. Organic Seed Commons was opened to early adopters in its current BETA form in January 2021 and the California Organic Seed Summit was the first event held in this new meeting space. Access to this network is limited prior to its full launch, planned for February of 2022 when it will host the Organic Seed Growers Conference. Smaller, regional events, and educational courses are ongoing within the network. If you would like to join Organic Seed Commons BETA, contact Amber McConnon or register for one of our upcoming events.
Pivoting the California Organic Seed Summit to a virtual format opened the door to new possibilities and new connections. While this year’s Summit was a very different event than the previous six years, many positives emerged from this change in format. The Summit’s attendance more than doubled in 2021. What was traditionally a commitment to travel, lodging, and a weekend away from the farm in late winter was now two three-hour blocks of time per day over the course of a week that, with internet or cellular access, participants could join from anywhere. Financial barriers that had kept potential participants from attending were less of an issue and we heard from a wider range of voices on a wider range of topics.
Summit content covered seed production basics, plant breeding for organic systems, business and marketing for seed, seed processing and cleaning equipment, and more. With support from the Patagonia Foundation, OSA dedicated a day in the schedule this year to focus on California-based organic grain. Finding synergy between the worlds of organic vegetable seed and organic grain has been a long-standing goal of OSA. Thursday’s grain day included presentations from Allison Krill from UC Davis’s SCOPE project, Monica Spiller from Whole Grain Connection and California Whole Grain Initiative, and Rachel Britten from the Mendocino Grain Project. A strategic planning session focused on how small grain growers and vegetable seed growers stand to benefit each other through collaboration.
Recordings of the 7th Annual California Organic Seed Summit are available in the California Regional Synergy Space on Organic Seed Commons BETA. The California Organic Seed Summit is made possible in large part by the California Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.