“As an organic grower I started growing my own seed because we were experiencing less choice as a result of consolidation in the seed industry. Now we also grow seed to ensure we have options that are organic, and to help address gaps in organic seed availability.”
– Dale Coke of Coke Farms in Aromas, California
California leads the nation in vegetable seed production, yet less than half of the vegetable seed planted on organic farms in the state is organic. This means that California’s organic farmers — like organic growers in other states — often plant non-organic seed due to a lack of variety options or insufficient quantities. With the right tools, California farmers can help fill the demand for more diversity, and increased quantities, in the organic seed marketplace.
That’s why Organic Seed Alliance is supporting California-based seed systems through educational events, research projects, and an annual seed summit. We are also managing “seed hubs” in five regions across the state to provide in-depth instruction on producing seed for the commercial market and maintaining the quality and integrity of varieties grown. These hubs also serve as equipment sharing networks and provide marketing assistance for seed producers.
As part of the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC), OSA is testing dozens of new organically bred varieties of sweet corn (both open-pollinated and hybrid varieties). Partners include College of the Redwoods, Camp Grant Ranch, and Clover Creek Farm.
As part of the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement (TOMI) project, OSA is managing a large breeding trial in California. We will be selecting segregating families of indeterminate round, red slicer type tomatoes for flavor, disease resistance, and productivity. Partners include College of the Redwoods.
OSA has been selecting and advancing selections from diverse quinoa populations developed by Blake Richards of Wild Rose Farm. In 2017, we will be testing dozens of new families and focusing on large seeded white varieties that are productive and disease- and pest-resistant. Partners include Gaia Fund and Wild Rose Farm.
Beans, tomatoes, and peppers
As part of UC Davis’s Student Collaborative Organic Plant Breeding Education project, OSA is managing on-farm trials of breeding material and commercial varieties of tomatoes, peppers, lima beans, and common beans. OSA is also facilitating farmer and organic seed industry involvement in the breeding process.
OSA is conducting variety trials of Swiss Chard, cabbage, beet, parsnip, tomato, pepper, and cowpea. This fall we’ll be continuing organic wheat variety trials. Partners include Gaia Fund.