Seed Growers' Handbook: Producing Vegetable Seeds for Sustainable Agriculture

Final Report for LNE03-186

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $62,925.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
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Project Information

Summary:

The weakest link in the burgeoning organic agriculture movement is the seed that is used by the farmers. While organic production standards are closely monitored and controlled by USDA certification standards the use of non-organic seed is used in greater than 95% of all organic production and permitted by organic certifiers. This is due to a shortage of certified organically grown seed in all crop types. And the biggest reason for this situation is a lack of qualified organic seed growers. Most organic farmers have little or no expertise in the methodology of seed production and most experienced seed farmers have little knowledge of organic cropping systems. Indeed seed production in many crops, especially in vegetables, is quite different from producing the crop for market. Learning the ropes of seed production is not easy as there has been very little published information in the last 50 years. The last comprehensive text on vegetable seed production was published in 1954 and the USDA or state agricultural agencies have not published any bulletins on the subject since the early 1980s. The only published literature on organic vegetable seed production currently available is by the Organic Seed Alliance and largely came from research supported by this grant. The book that will be published from the work performed in this grant will be the first comprehensive text ever done on organic vegetable seed production.

The key components of this project over the last five years are essentially three fold; 1) Gathering all pertinent information on vegetable seed production at an appropriate scale for diversified, organic farmers. 2) Hold workshops and field days around the country where this information on production techniques is disseminated. 3) Gather feedback from farmers interested in producing seed by, a) enlisting “Target Growers” in Vermont and the Pacific Northwest for comprehensive feedback, complete with extension visits and documentation of their progress, and b) post-workshop questionnaires with detailed questions designed to understand the needs and deficiencies of the farmers in seed production knowledge. I have learned as much from these growers as I have taught them and all of this will be reflected in the final product – the manual. The real goal of all of this is of course producing a highly accessible manual on organic seed production that will definitely meet the growers’ needs and be used in the field. The final test of our success in this endeavor will be the feedback that is gathered from a survey that will be given to the first 1000 readers of the book.
It is important to note that this project is being continued under a new grant agreement LNE07-266. The final work on this book was delayed due to illness and couldn’t be completed by the end of the contracted grant period. However, the project leader will complete the writing of the manual which will be published by Chelsea Green under this new grant agreement.

Introduction:

The growing of vegetable seed is becoming more common across the American landscape. The vegetable seed industry is going through a transformation that is leading to a healthy diversification in both the varieties of vegetables that are available and the growers who are producing the seed. There is a burgeoning demand for organic and specialty market seeds that has many farmers trying to grow a commercial seed crop for the very first time. But most growers that are interested in growing seed do not have adequate information on the fundamental farming practices needed to produce high quality seed profitably. Most of the modern information on vegetable seed production is highly technical and is dispersed widely in research publications. Alternately, growers interested in growing organic seed are often frustrated with recent publications advocating “seed saving” on a backyard scale, as it doesn’t provide information for larger scale production. The profile of specialty and organically produced seed is increasing monthly and demand for high quality organic seed far outstrips the current supply. The key remains “quality” as there are many less than professional contracts being grown by organic farmers that still have no single, truly useful manual to guide them.

The objective of my work with this grant has been to produce a seed grower’s manual with detailed practical information for small to medium-sized farmers on the techniques of producing appreciable quantities of vegetable seed using sustainable/organic production farming techniques. This seed guide will explore all of the most important seed production practices that are appropriate for a diversified farm. I have gathered practical information on growing seed under sustainable systems, and have involved our crop of budding seed growers for input and guidance.

Input from farmers has been gathered through a series of workshops, questionnaires, and extension contact with farmers. Extension personnel in Maine and Vermont reported feedback from “Target Growers” over the first two seasons of this project (and as noted in the 2004 and 2005 annual reports I filled in on this role with Pacific Northwest growers because Mark Hutton, Maine extension specialist, ran into resistance with growers in Maine). This feedback was very insightful and has been incorporated into several elements of the manuscript that will be incorporated into the manual. I have also gathered extensive practical feedback since the inception of this project from many more farmers than I would have thought possible. Workshops funded through two other SARE projects (see Materials and Methods) have been an excellent forum for interacting with farmers already growing seed or interested in developing their seed growing skills. It has directed me as to the depth and the extent of the explanation that will be necessary in many of the key subjects of the book. Feedback via questionnaires has also supplied us with information on their level of understanding, needs, and perceived deficiencies.

Upon completion questionnaires will be placed in the first 1000 books to be distributed. After distribution and use of the handbook, if growers can report back that they’ve grown seed with better vigor, less disease, higher yield and better quality then we’ve succeeded.

Performance Target:

A) Farmers incorporate improved practices learned at workshops for seed production.
We have certainly achieved this target as we have seen many of the farmers we have worked with over the last 5 years incorporate many of the practices that we have taught and demonstrated in our classes and workshops. This has been very evident in at least three ways. First of all in the first two years of this grant we had extension agents Tom Stearns and Mark Hutton (I replaced Mark) visit farmers growing seed crops and they witnessed from 12 to 14 farmers who were using these techniques with some degree of success. Secondly, through the aforementioned SARE grants and work with OSA we have had field days with cooperating farmers at their farms and have seen at least 15 marvelous examples of farmers that were incorporating these techniques, achieving what we had hoped would be the change we were seeking. This was true not only at the farms where the workshops were held, but we would always take side trips during each field day and visit other interested seed growers in the area and be very pleased at their progress as well. Lastly, we always had farmers fill out questionnaires at all seed growing workshops and would often have 30 – 40 % of the farmers as repeat attendees. From these repeat attendees were many of our best students and their comments were invaluable in learning just which techniques they did indeed incorporate into their production practices. It was also great for the development of the book and to determine all of the techniques that would indeed be incorporated into the manuscript.

B) Farmers keep track of % vigor, seed yields, severity of disease, flowering dates and times. We achieved this target with work done during the first two years of the grant. By organizing 15 “Target Growers” from Vermont and the Pacific Northwest (they were replacements for the original Maine growers) we were able to monitor the amount of seed they grew (seed yields), extent of crop and seedborne diseases, and the percent change in the vigor of the seed they’d grown from one cycle to the next. Much of this was possible due to the good fortune of having Tom Stearns as “lay extension” in Vermont and the fact that he was already working very closely with the good growers who had taken at least one of the Restoring Our Seed (LN02 – 160) classes. As someone running a seed company he was already monitoring yields, incidence of disease, and the germination and vigor of seed lots he was buying. I was able to do the same with western growers who were working with seed companies like Seeds of Change and Territorial Seed Company. As far as monitoring “date of flowering” and “days to flowering” (flowering time) we did fall short and we were only hit or miss on actually monitoring and attempting to improve the seed crops on these traits.
C) Farmers incorporate seed cleaning practices to improve time spent and % of their harvestable yield. Yes, this goal was achieved in a significant way for almost all of our Target Growers. In fact, several of our growers went beyond what we initially envisioned when teaching them how to clean seed. We were very fortunate to have Tom Stearns in Vermont as he not only taught the growers in his region many of the seed cleaning methodology but was instrumental in exposing them to the appropriate technology to improve the time that they spent cleaning seed. Also, several of the seed workshops we held in the Northwest were at either Don Tipping’s farm or Nash Huber’s farm, both of whom have small scale threshing, winnowing, and cleaning equipment and were instrumental in teaching our growers efficiencies in their seed cleaning.

Research

Materials and methods:

There have been three main components to the work that has been executed in the past 5 years. First, the most fundamental step has been to gather the basic, time-tested knowledge of how to grow seed of the economically important vegetable crops. This was accomplished in two very traditional ways; through my study of the written literature from the USDA and state agricultural extension bulletins in university libraries (most of it is not available electronically due to its age) and through my ongoing professional interaction with seed growers. This is the necessary background information that was essential to the execution of the preliminary writing and teaching of the workshops.

The second component we used in our approach to prepare and write a useful text for seed farmers was to interact with farmers interested in seed in a series of workshops and classes. This has included workshops for “Restoring Our Seed” (NESARE – LN02 – 160), “Producing Organic Vegetable Seed – Farmer Education Project” (WSARE – SW04 – 115), and a host of seed growing classes I have taught for the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), a non-profit in Port Townsend, Washington, that has held at least 12 field workshops and 7 three day intensive classes since 2003. Workshops included both a class segment and an outdoor selection and evaluation component with a number of model crops. Our good fortune in all of these workshops has been to have a number of experienced seed growers who were willing to host workshops, use their seed crops for demonstration purposes, and even allow participants to select and transplant the best individuals in the field for the eventual seed crop. This second, hands-on component has been essential in our discovery process in learning what elements our growers need in order to cater the content of the manual to these farmers.

The third and last major component was to elicit feedback from the growers who are the target audience for this book. The feedback garnered from farmers producing vegetable seed has been pivotal in this effort and has come in a couple of different forms. In the first two years of this project we identified 15 target growers from both Vermont and the Pacific Northwest (they were replacements for the original Maine growers) who were actively growing commercial quantities of vegetable seed for the blossoming organic seed market. Through monitoring their progress before and after taking workshops and classes with me, through the various venues available, we were able to consider a number of measurable “outcomes” of real improvement in their seed growing activities. These outcomes were verified and mediated by the extension agents that I originally recruited, Tom Stearns in VT and Mark Hutton in ME. As I reported in the 2004 annual report Tom did an exceptional job mentoring the growers and reporting the results while Mark met with real resistance in Maine. I therefore recruited a number of Pacific Northwest growers that I had trained and worked with as their replacement. We were able to monitor the amount of seed they grew (seed yields), extent of crop and seedborne diseases, and the percent change in the vigor of the seed they’d grown from one cycle to the next. We found improvements in all of these areas with these growers and many of them are still benefiting from their interaction with our programs as was in evidence this winter (Feb. 2008) at the 5th Biennial Seed Growers Conference in Salem, Oregon where a number of these growers attested to their success in this field.

We have also gathered much valuable feedback and innovative techniques from the farmers I have been working with through this grant and the other SARE grants I have been associated with in the past five years. All workshops and classes that have been held in association with seed production techniques have had a very strong emphasis on feedback from all participants. Farmers are always asked (and most comply) to fill out comprehensive questionnaires that gauge their experience and knowledge of seed growing. They are then asked to describe and rank the usefulness of the various kinds of information that they’ve received in our workshops. In all of these workshops we also have taken a lot of time to interact with the attendees, both in the classroom and especially in the field. And as all of the workshops have been held at farms of some of our most progressive seed farmers we have had ample interaction with these farmers. By interacting with these participant growers it is possible to gauge their level of understanding of the materials being taught and therefore determine which material is most appropriate for a seed grower’s manual for organics. This enabled me to garner lots of useful feedback as to what many farmers know, need to know, and are able to conceive in the realm of commercial seed production. This information has been very useful while teaching many of the core concepts that make up major chapters of the manual.

Research results and discussion:

Overview: The last 18 months to two years has been very important for advancing the work that was originally conceived when stating the original Milestones for this project. The most exciting occurrence has been the increased exposure that many of our growers are receiving from the seed companies that are increasingly selling the seed from growers that have been trained through our outreach and through the work of our extension personnel. High Mowing Seeds in Vermont continues to increase the amount of organic seed offered that is grown by many of the “Target Growers” described in my annual reports. Another organic seed company, Seeds of Change, is now able to “source” enough organic seed from some of our best growers to be able to offer large enough quantities to satisfy the needs of commercial organic farmers that are their customers.

Seeds of Change also did wonderful profiles on several of our best growers in their 2007 catalogue with wonderful pictures and portrayals that really tell a story of the independent organic seed growers that make their business thrive! It was very gratifying to see several of the growers that we have worked with, both as workshop sponsors and as students in these workshops, as model growers that are doing such a great job.

Another positive result is that the WSARE sponsored seed growing workshops held in the Northwest were extremely well attended. In fact so many university researchers attended a workshop in Corvallis, Oregon (they were all interested in new avenues of research and heard that organic seed production is the next big thing) that they almost out-numbered the farmers! Also in February of 2008 we had a National Seed Growers Conference in Salem, Oregon that for the second time had over 200 attendees. A large number of the people attending this year’s seed grower’s conference were from outside of the Northwest with representatives from over 20 states, plus Canada, the Netherlands, France, and Mexico. Indeed many of the presenters at this conference were for student farmers who have achieved a certain amount of knowledge and success in the production of vegetable seed and are now spreading the word on how and why it is such a good idea for other growers to explore on their farms.

Our accomplishments were indeed well represented by the milestones that we set and have largely met during the 5 years that we have worked on this project. The only major course correction that we had to make along the way was with one of the extension staff positions. Mark Hutton, an extension agent in Maine, was going to gather feedback from seed growers in his area and document their successes and failures as beneficiary milestones. As it turned out he encountered resistance in incorporating and expanding on the techniques taught at workshops (in essence they wanted to remain quite small-scale, using home garden scale techniques) and so I personally had to replace Mark, gathering feedback from the progressive growers we have been working with in the Northwest. The number of participants did develop as planned and indeed in some cases went way beyond what we originally expected or planned for. In the following paragraphs below I will explore the specific impacts in meeting our milestones. This is a step-by-step breakdown of the accomplishments made in meeting milestones that were laid out in the original grant proposal.
A) The first Milestone of announcing our workshops was easily met as we have continued support from alternative agricultural publications such as Growing for Market, Mother Earth News, New Farm (on-line), and the Capital Press. The Organic Seed Alliance website has also been a very valuable way to disseminate information as the visitation to this site is steadily rising. We also had a very nice feature story done in the Oregon “Tilth” newspaper on the OSA seed growers conference that generated much interest in all other activities for the year. The combination of all of these publications (several with a national scope) means we easily reached thousands of potential interested parties, far surpassing the 500 people that we originally concerned ourselves with reaching!

B) My second Milestone was again easily met. We easily had 150 people register and attend workshops in years 1 – 4. We have had excellent attendance for one day workshops in the past 2 years. This was true in 2006 at Nash Huber’s Farm in Sequim, WA for a spinach seed training (40+ people), at Frank Morton’s Farm in Corvallis, OR for a lettuce and brassica seed training (50+), at Bill Reynold’s Farm in Eureka, CA for a zucchini seed training (30+), and at Don Tipping’s Farm in Williams, OR for a radish seed training (40+). In 2007 we had excellent turnout (35+) at the Mt. Vernon Extension Facility for a two day seed workshop for Skagit Valley crops and a very successful day (50+) at Nash’s farm and lots of farmers and researchers (50+) at Frank Morton’s seed operation in Oregon. The crown jewel in 2006 and 2008 was the Seed Grower’s Conferences in Oregon with 200+ people for 3 days both times with lots of workshops, panel discussions and presentations from academics and successful farmers alike!

C) The third milestone of gathering 150 questionnaires was again easily met as we have become fanatical about getting all participants in all our workshops to fill out questionnaires. By now we have many experienced growers attending our workshops and their input into our programs and ultimately into the content of my book is taken very seriously. Much of this information that we have gathered helps shape the classes and workshops that we are providing. It also is an incredible guide in helping to shape the content and areas that will be stressed and given the most attention in the book.

D) The fourth Milestone was set to document the successes and failures of 15 of the most progressive farmers identified by the two extension agents (Tom Stearns and Mark Hutton) in New England who could work closely to monitor their progress. As I reported in the 2005 annual report the Maine growers working with Dr. Hutton did not work out and I replaced these growers with 8 Pacific Northwest seed growers that I had a good working relationship with. As to Tom Stearn’s commitment to report on the cadre of Vermont growers that formed part of this original group of 15 growers was excellent. These relationships supplied us with a lot of excellent feedback for the book.

E) Indeed the fifth Milestone concerned our growers incorporating at least 2 of the cultural practices learned in workshops. Certainly this was true of our Target growers and indeed from repeat attendees we frequently would get feedback where indeed they had used practices learned in previous workshops. We continue to collect questionnaires at all OSA seed workshops and classes and I am always reviewing them for insights into the extent of material that needs to be represented in The Seed Grower’s Manual. The very positive news that I can report is that we continue to see the kinds of improvements that we were monitoring for in addressing the fifth Milestone whenever we interact with farmers who are growing seeds. A sizeable percentage (at least 75%) of the growers that we trained in various forums are actively selecting for improved traits in their seed crops. This same percentage of growers has increased the population size and the isolation distances since learning about these techniques from our work. At least half of these growers are also monitoring for seed born diseases and selecting for plants with some level of Horizontal Resistance to any diseases that may be present.

F) The last milestone concerns the feedback that will be collected at the time of publication. Originally conceived as a postcard that would be included in the first 1000 copies of the book that are sold, we now see it as a longer questionnaire with a phone survey to many of the people on our list who are connected to the local growers (i.e. extension agents or seed company field representatives) who can help get in touch with the primary growers who are most likely to respond.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Our educational outreach is elucidated in the list of milestones that we’ve achieved as stated in 5A & 5B in this document. The ultimate goal of this project is of course publishing a full-length comprehensive manual on vegetable seed production for organic farmers. No part of this upcoming book has yet been released and it is still in manuscript form. However, I have taken part in producing three related, crop specific, seed production manuals for the Pacific Northwest that are similar to the type of instructional style that will be used for the book. These three manuals, Principles and Practices of Organic Bean Seed Production, Principles and Practices of Organic Radish Seed Production, and Principles and Practices of Organic Spinach Seed Production, are all available online at the Organic Seed Alliance website at seedalliance.org. The readership of these bulletins as reflected in the number of hits that we’ve gotten in the past year and a half since these bulletins first went on line has been fantastic with several hundred per month during the growing season. There have also been several hundred printed copies of each which were quickly snapped up in several workshops and conferences last year. As to their effectiveness we have gotten lots of favorable feedback from both farmers and extension agents working with farmers letting us know how helpful these documents have been when growers are attempting to grow these seed crops for the first time or improve their methods if they do have previous experience.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

The impact of this work is far-reaching as there are several seed companies (High Mowing, Fedco, Southern Exposure and Seeds of Change) that now rely on many of the growers that we have trained to supply much of the organically grown vegetable seed that they carry. This may not have been possible without our trainings as many of these growers might not have the tools to do the great job that they are doing without the education that was gained from our workshops.
The number of farmers reached by this project was at least 150 people in each of the years that we have offered workshops and seed growing classes (see Milestone D above). We have also influenced a number of extension agents and university researchers (at least 15 total) in both the Northeast and the Northwest combined since the beginning of this work. This is important as these plant science professionals are now much more aware of the importance of producing quality organic vegetable seed for this important budding market and now know a number of ways that they can help farmers in their area. As an example, Heather Darby, who is now an extension agent for the state of Vermont first learned of this work when working for High Mowing Seeds soon after completing her graduate work in Oregon. She now is intimately involved with a group of farmers from Vermont who are learning how to identify good wheat varieties for Vermont, genetically maintain and select them for their organic production systems and produce seed for themselves and any other wheat growers in northern New England. Another example of extension staff being influenced by this work is Alex Stone at Oregon State University. Alex has attended several of our workshops and has had a number of Oregon farmers come to her for further help. She is now very interested in supporting the budding organic seed growing economy that is thriving in her area and has even published an on-line seed growers resource guide for the entire Pacific Northwest.

Another very important impact of this work has been a new awareness for some of the general public that supports local organic agriculture. There are a number of farmers now growing seed or purchasing seed regionally that are also producing produce for direct sales through Farmers’ Markets or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. These growers often have an ongoing dialogue with their customers and the customers often learn about the wonderful, regionally adapted crop varieties that the growers are supplying and where the seed comes from. The customers not only learn the names of certain regionally appropriate vegetable varieties as for the quality they offer, but they also embrace the connection between regionally produced (and organically produced) seed and the ability for their regional farmers to be able to produce these unusual specialty items. We know of a number of cases like this in different parts of the country where this ground swell of support for locally produced vegetables with an emphasis on local seed is occurring and only strengthening our effort.

Certainly the way to keep the momentum going on this interest in regional seed, both culturally and economically, is to have awareness by regional seed companies as to the importance of this and to have regional assistance for farmers getting going as seed producers. The regional support could come from regional seed companies needing a distinguishable regional focus and that are willing to support farmers in their region to produce as well as maintain and select regionally adapted vegetable varieties for their markets. Support can also come from state extension, which can give advice on the cultural, production and genetic aspects of raising a seed crop. The help of non-governmental organizations like the Organic Seed Alliance can also be a big help in this mission as well, with direct consultation with farmers through programs funded by grants by private foundations or governmental groups like SARE.

Economic Analysis

For farms to be viable over a long period of time it is generally agreed that they must be diversified. This means a diversity of crops and livestock and certainly a diversity of markets as no farmer ever knows when one of their markets may dry up. Also there needs to be diversity in the workload, type of work, seasonal work, and time of harvest. Many of the growers who have incorporated seed crops into the mix of the crops that they grow on their farm have done it for economic reasons, as the cash return per acre can be quite competitive if done correctly. Indeed the inputs can be considerably less for vegetable growers as the levels of nitrogen from compost or manure that are needed are lower in seed crops. Also seed crops, once established can be considerably less work than the constant attention of many vegetable crops. Seed crops can also be much less work per profit as they are harvested mechanically all at once at the end of the season.

As for the economic viability that can be improved by using the strategies that we have been promoting in our workshops and that will be seminal information put forth in the book. We have already seen the result of farmers using some of this methodology among our target growers in both Vermont and the Northwest. Many of these growers saw seed yields increase; this was evident with several of the Vermont “Target Growers” including Jodie Lew-Smith, Thomas Case, Tim Sanford, and Bill Loscomb. It was also evident with several of the Northwest growers, including Beth Rasgorshek, Nash Huber, Fred Brossy, Bill Reynolds, and Randy Carey. Profits also went up in another way as both the Vermont and the Northwest growers improved their ability to clean seed with information gleaned from our workshops and classes. Farmers improving their seed cleaning included Asuyah, Bill Loscomb, and Tim Sanford in Vermont as well as Beth Rasgorshek, Fred Brossy, Steve Habersetzer, Randy Carey, and Don Tipping in the Northwest. Both of these outcomes definitely resulted in a greater economic gain for these target growers as well as for countless other farmers that we didn’t monitor, but who learned these skills at our workshops.

Farmer Adoption

The truly long term contribution of this work will be having a comprehensive seed growing manual that will be an everyday reference for all vegetable seed growers wanting to take a sustainable approach. The potential of it being equivalent to Knott’s Vegetable Grower’s Handbook, which is in its 3rd edition and is on almost every commercial vegetable grower’s bookshelf in America, is very real. There is no other text of this caliber available to commercial seed growers in the English language. There are a number of highly technical modern seed growing texts that are essentially “cook books” for hybrid seed production for the very large conventional seed grower. At the opposite end of the extreme are several “seed saving” manuals for the home garden or homestead farm, i.e. the small-scale hobby seed grower. The small or medium size farm that wants to produce a commercial seed crop for market currently only has the workshops that I have discussed throughout this document or the three online bulletins that I have mentioned in #8 from the Organic Seed Alliance website.

The long term benefit of a book like this will indeed be the kind of text that makes it possible for a farmer wanting to get into the seed market to have a source of information that will help them to minimize the risk when they are learning how to grow a particular vegetable seed crop. If the seed crop is grown right and they have a market for the seed it will definitely give them an economic advantage as seed crops when grown successfully can be very profitable. The other economic advantage will be for farmers wanting to produce seed of a particular vegetable crop that is important to them for their own market that they may not be able to otherwise obtain. This indeed would be on farm seed security. It is also a way to save money on your seed and would potentially give the grower something that they may not otherwise have that makes their produce unique to their customers. This seed independence is a strong testament for self-sufficiency or in fact “regional sufficiency.”

Regional sufficiency ultimately will rely on crop varieties that are indeed adapted to the environmental conditions as well as the cultural and market preferences of the region. This requires seed production in each region of the vegetable varieties most important to that region. This will strengthen the farm economy and will also strengthen the local economy as locally superior products will be sold at a premium and money for seed will remain in the local economy. This type of regional focus will also prove to strengthen the local community in any agricultural area as the more that people in any community support the local farms they are in fact supporting local businesses which always serves to strengthen the community.

Lastly regional seed production will always be concerned with adapting the genetics of the seed varieties to the environmental conditions of the region. If the production of the seed is done under organic practices for sales or use on organic farms then there will be a much greater chance of environmental stewardship in this production. Adapting the crop varieties we use for all local systems, sustainable farming practices, and environments when we select the seed locally will absolutely contribute to environmental stewardship of the region.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

As a scientist I believe that there is always a need for additional study in any area of research. The most important thing that we recognize is that we do not yet have enough information growing seed crops under organic cropping systems. This is something that can only gained through experience. Which specific areas of seed crop production that will need additional study are nearly impossible to know at this time. However, we do know that there is much that we can learn about seed cleaning at an appropriate scale for most of the small and medium size farms that we work with and we are keenly on the lookout for new seed cleaning methods (or old methods lost in the last 40 to 50 years of modern agriculture!)

The positive view is that I am committed to my work for many years to come with organic farmers wanting to grow vegetable seeds. I therefore will continue to teach growers everything I learn about growing vegetable seeds in a sustainable fashion. I plan on rewriting sections of the book as new and better information becomes known to the growers and myself.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.