Organic Seed Alliance puts the power of seed into the hands of growers. Our work promotes
an abundant and diverse supply of organic seed, tended in perpetuity by skilled,
diverse, and interconnected communities of seed stewards.
To advance this mission, we serve growers working with seed across the U.S. through three
program areas: 1) collaborative research on crop improvement and seed production for
organic systems, 2) education on the agronomic, economic, and socio-political elements of
seed work, and 3) legal and cultural advocacy toward policies that support organic agriculture
and farmers’ rights to save seed. Our approach emphasizes relationship building and network
development across program areas.
Seed grows an equitable, abundant, and resilient future of food.
Organic Seed Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that puts the power of seed into the hands of growers. Our work ensures an abundant and diverse supply of ecologically grown seed, tended in perpetuity by skilled and diverse communities of seed stewards. To advance this mission, we serve growers working with seed across the US at any scale through participatory research, practical education, policy advocacy, and network development. We prioritize partnerships with organizations and individuals aligned with our values, and we convene spaces where divergent viewpoints can be expressed and explored. In all our work, we ally ourselves with and embrace opportunities to amplify movements for community sovereignty, racial equity, and social justice.
OSA’s programs are woven of technical expertise, rigorous methods, practical experience, and deep reverence for seed work. We are in awe of the processes of life, and root our organizational systems in the wisdom of ecology. We continually seek input from growers working with seed, ensuring that we are directed by, and accountable to, the people we serve.
Each year, OSA educates thousands of farmers and other agricultural community members through on-farm and online events and resources. Our research program involves organic plant breeding and seed production research, and our advocacy efforts focus on policies that strengthen organic seed systems. Our most recent State of Organic Seed report (2022) is part of an ongoing project to monitor the status of organic seed nationally and provides a roadmap for increasing the diversity, quality, and integrity of organic seed available to US farmers.
CONFRONTING SEED CONSOLIDATION
Over the last four decades, the seed industry has rapidly consolidated. Much of our commercial seed is now owned and managed by a small number of transnational firms. Intellectual property practices (e.g., utility patents on seed) stand out as a major cause. This control has stifled innovation in plant breeding and has created barriers to improving the availability and integrity of organic seed.
OSA works to address consolidation through regional seed networks that result in transformative change at the national level. Our collaborative research projects emphasize diversity, ecology, and shared benefits. Our educational efforts build the base of knowledge necessary for stewarding seed and enhancing diversity through on-farm plant breeding and seed production. And our policy advocacy work promotes the benefits of organic seed while simultaneously confronting threats to genetic integrity and growers’ rights.
Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) was founded in 2003. OSA evolved from Abundant Life Seed
Foundation (ALSF), a non-profit seed company established in Port Townsend, WA in the
1970s, which closed its doors after a fire destroyed ALSF’s office and much of its seed.
This loss of stored seed emphasized to OSA’s founders that the strongest way to preserve
seed in perpetuity is to support seed keepers who maintain and adapt varieties through
a network of seed farms, gardens, and companies. While several non-profits were already working to preserve heirloom seed, OSA was founded to fill a gap in formal instruction
about organic seed improvement and production; to ensure that seed skills and knowledge
are enhanced and passed on over time.
OSA was founded at a critical juncture in the organic farming movement. In late 2002, the
National Organic Program (NOP) rules around organic seed became active, strengthening
requirements that certified organic farmers use organic seed. Relatively little certified
organic seed was available at the time, and many farmers had concerns about the lack of
varietal choices, the quality of organic seed, and the price. OSA’s three program areas – research, education, and advocacy – were grounded in the desire to increase the quality and
quantity of organic seed available to organic farmers by developing networks and connections
between seed growers, seed companies, university researchers, policy advocates, and
other seed organizations.
Over the last 20 years OSA has worked to grow knowledge and power by nurturing these
interconnections. On a national scale, OSA has advanced policy priorities that dramatically
increased federal funding for organic research and cultivar development, supporting a blossoming of university organic plant breeding programs and breeding collaboratives. Regional
and farm-based seed companies have proliferated, in many cases due to the community
and learning opportunities generated at OSA’s biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference.
OSA’s research program has collaborated in the trialing and breeding of plant varieties with
over 200 farms throughout the U.S. and internationally. In the 2010s, OSA responded to
calls to strengthen its support for regions outside of WA and OR, establishing staff and/or
hosting events in the Southeast, Midwest, and California.