Autumn 2011 Newsletter

Saving and replanting seed defines agriculture. Our farming ancestors and their communities stewarded our seed from season to season, trading with neighboring and distant communities, and passing seed on to the next generation. In other words, community in its largest sense yielded the foundation of seed that we rely on today.


Organic Seed Alliance recognizes that we have lost community-based seed knowledge and infrastructure as quickly as the crop genetic diversity on which agriculture depends. Consolidation in the industry, and inequitable constraints on how farmers and researchers manage seed, has eroded a foundation that once met the diverse needs of farmers.


We may never return to the day where most farmers save and improve their own seed. But we believe that protecting our ability to feed ourselves in a manner that honors both people and planet means returning to the roots of agriculture: community seed systems.


That is why our 2012 Organic Seed Growers Conference – Strengthening Community Seed Systems – emphasizes strategies and techniques for rebuilding community around seed. Workshops provide education in organic plant breeding – from selecting seed on your farm to updates on university projects – and organic seed production, regional marketing and distribution, timely policy issues, and so much more.


Please join us in strengthening community seed systems by registering today.

Together, we hold the power to create healthy seed systems that meet the needs of farmers, eaters, and our changing planet.


Warmest regards,

Micaela Colley

Executive Director



Register Today for the 2012 Organic Seed Growers Conference!

Registration is now open for the Sixth Organic Seed Growers Conference: Strengthening Community Seed Systems. On January 19-21, 2012, the organic community will gather in Port Townsend, WA, for the nation’s largest conference focused solely on organic seed. Come learn from experts in the fields of organic plant breeding, organic seed production, marketing, distribution, and policy. The agenda suits a range of experience levels and interests, and provides renowned keynote speakers, local musical guests, a community seed swap, and a menu featuring the Northwest’s best. A pre-conference tour, co-sponsored by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, features regional organic seed businesses and projects. Click here to learn more and register.



Don't Miss the Organic Plant Breeding Workshop Series

Martin Diffley has been growing sweet corn for more than 30 years, but this year he saw something new. In a field trial on his farm, he sampled row after row of delicious high-quality sweet corn - sweet corn that he had bred. Four summers ago, Martin began working with Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the University of Wisconsin - Madison to breed an open-pollinated sweet corn that tasted as good as his best hybrids and still emerged in cold, wet soils. Four years later, the new variety is nearly ready...Read more.

OSA Takes Mission to Washington, DC


Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) advocates for policies and procedures that support the expansion and integrity of organic seed systems. Our work typically addresses four needs toward fulfilling these ends, which are:


  • Rebuilding public breeding programs to better support organic plant breeding;
  • Protecting the genetic integrity of seed used in organic systems;
  • Challenging concentrated market power and ownership in the seed industry; and
  • Increasing the availability and use of organic seed.


We recently provided public comments at a USDA listening session focused on the agency’s priorities and activities related...Read more.



Heirlooms of Tomorrow

OSA is often asked which seeds are appropriate for the new agricultural systems that many of us are developing: systems that foster conservation, diversity, resiliency, and true sustainability. This article aims to answer that question while clarifying the principles guiding our plant breeding work. OSA has always believed that building a healthy, sustainable agriculture future requires farmer-centric seed systems at the regional level – where farmers and the communities they serve consciously choose which crop genetic resources they use and how they are controlled. In fact, the main goal of OSA’s Education and Research Programs is to empower farmers interested in creating these systems by teaching them how to produce the best quality seed to meet their farm needs and those of their communities. Read more.


OSA Recieves Award for Excellence

OSA was recently honored during an El Pomar Foundation Awards for Excellence ceremony in Black Hawk, Colorado. We received the Robert V. Menary Award for Excellence in Environmental Issues for our “outstanding work and commitment to the community.” Thanks to the foundation for their generous support and kind recognition. Read more.



OSA Board Member Receives National Award

OSA board member Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture will be honored by the James Beard Foundation next week for his lifelong work to further sustainable food and farming practices. The ten recipients of the Leadership Award are recognized as “game-changing pioneers who have inspired positive action to improve our country’s food system.” First Lady Michelle Obama and Alice Waters are among those being honored with the national award. Thank you, Fred, for your ongoing commitment to organic seed and food systems!



Organic Seed: Your Questions Answered

Why is there a limited supply of certified organic seed? Why is it important to have seed bred for organic agriculture? What’s a hybrid? These are just a few of the questions Organic Seed Alliance fields on a regular basis. For answers to these and other questions, visit our new Frequently Asked Questions webpage.



Exhibit Those Goods: Trade Show Registration Now Open

This is your business or organization's best opportunity to showcase your products and work, while networking with conference participants throughout the weekend. Our conference location at Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center in Port Townsend, WA, provides unique networking opportunities for trade show participants. Booths are clustered in high traffic areas throughout the main halls and inside workshop rooms, allowing for extensive exposure. Click here to learn more and to register.



Upcoming Events

Hood River, OR: Kristina Hubbard presents on a non-GMO panel at the Provender Alliance conference, October 7, 2011.


Fullerton, ND: Jared Zystro and the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative host Organic Seed & Plant Variety Improvement class October 15, 2011.


Durham, NC: Jared Zystro and Kristina Hubbard present at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 2001 Sustainable Agriculture Conference, November 11 - 13, 2011.


Port Townsend, WA: Sixth Organic Seed Growers Conference at Ft. Worden State Park on January 19 - 21, 2012.

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"Organic Seed Alliance has been an indispensable resource for our farm, from conducting field trials to producing seed. Organic seed is the cornerstone of our vegetable production. Without varieties that have been bred and selected for organic growing conditions, we would be left with low-vigor crops adapted to high-input farms."


Jim McGreevy

Cloudview Ecofarms

Royal City, Washington