On October 4th seed producers, seed company representatives, plant breeders, gardeners, and community members gathered in temperate coastal Pescadero for a California Field Day. Everyone had come to see examples of organic seed production, dry-farming, and tomato breeding, and share the flavors of regionally bred and grown varieties.
Co-hosted by Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and Seed rEvolution Now, the field day featured a range of seed crops being grown in dry-farm and minimal water conditions. In a Mediterranean climate with dry summers like California, “dry-farming” is the practice of growing crops using the residual moisture accumulated in the soil during the rainy winter season. In addition to reducing water demands during the time of year where water is at a premium state-wide, dry-farming can also reduce weed growth, allowing less cultivation. However, as was shown during the field day by seed grower and OSA outreach provider Steve Peters, some crops such as summer squash may be able to produce fruits under severe water restrictions, but will show reduced seed set compared to if they were provided ample water.
One of the challenges in commercial seed production is efficiently and thoroughly cleaning seed. In the last few years, many seed producer have been incorporating a new tool called the Winnow Wizard into their seed cleaning process. The Winnow Wizard was developed by seed grower and engineer Mark Luterra, and streamlines the winnowing process, a step in seed cleaning where chaff and light seed is separated from the desirable dense seed. Participants at the Pescadero field day were able to see the Winnow Wizard in action as it quickly winnowed a broccoli seed lot.
Later in the day, participants were able to sample some of the varieties arising from regional breeding and seed-saving efforts. An abundance of tomatoes were featured, including a range of emerging varieties from a breeding partnership between Steve Peters, tomato developer Kanti Rawal, OSA, and UC-Davis, as well as fruits from the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement project, and from Artisan Seeds and Quail Seed.