Organic Seed, Soils, and Sustainable Business: Three Intensives and an Online Tutorial

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $76,712.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Micaela Colley
Organic Seed Alliance

Annual Reports

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, cooperatives, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Organic farming continues to grow at an estimated rate of 20% per year. The states of Washington and Oregon rank 3rd and 8th respectively in the number of certified organic farms nationally (USDA-ERS, 2006). Farmers are increasingly looking to university Extension and other agricultural professionals for current information on organic and sustainable practices. However, many Extension agents lack expertise in this area or would benefit from continued education and tools to help them address the current needs of their organic farming constituents. This project brings together farmers, Extension, and organic specialists to deliver three separate day-long intensives on organic seed, soils, and sustainable business practices; topics of high priority for farmers and agricultural professionals in the Pacific Northwest. It also delivers an online tutorial on organic seed production providing agricultural professionals the tools they need to help farmers in the region lead in this burgeoning agricultural market. Intensives will be offered at the Organicolgy conference in February 2011 in Portland, OR. Organicology: “Studies for Sustainable Success in the Organic Foods Trade”, is a conference with an interactive educational format designed to meet the diverse needs of the rapidly expanding organic food trade in the Northwest. The event is co-hosted by four organizations: Oregon Tilth, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), Organically Grown Company, and the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association (FSTLA). These organizations have strong expertise in the topic areas of seeds, soils and sustainable business; and strong partnerships with farmers and Extension in Oregon and Washington States positioning them to deliver high quality educational products. Organic seed production, soil and fertility management, and sustainable business were ranked as the topics of highest priority in past Organicology evaluations. In addition to offering day long intensives on these topics, this project will extend access to information beyond the conference by creating an online tutorial on organic seed production and conducting trainings on tutorial access and usage. The tutorial will be housed and distributed through eOrganic/ This project will result in positive short- and long-term outcomes for sustainable agriculture. The short-term outcome of this project will be that agricultural professionals will have more knowledge of organic seed, soil management, and sustainable business practices. The longer-term outcomes will be the dispersal of this information to farmers through Extension personnel and other agricultural outreach providers. This will be accomplished in part by using an existing network of Extension agents (Small Farms Teams) in both Washington and Oregon as the outreach venue. Outcomes will be evaluated through attendance and written evaluations of the three intensives and the tutorial training sessions, as well as through a post-event survey of intensive participants. In addition, usage and hits to the organic seed production online tutorial will be tracked.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Intensive workshops:
    We will create day long intensives (trainings) on seed, soils, and sustainable marketing which will be offered concurrently on the first day of the three day conference. Participants will have an option of just attending the intensive trainings as a single day event or registering for the intensive along with the following two-day conference.
    The seed intensive will provide practical field-based knowledge and current research on organic seed production practices. The intensive will target farmers with previous seed production experience who want to improve their skills, learn advanced techniques such as hybrid seed production, and gain knowledge of recent research on organic seed production and seed treatments. Topics will include advanced seed production; hybrid seed production; managing isolation and genetic contamination; organically approved tools for horticultural management in seed production; organic disease management and seed treatments; and seed maturation, harvesting, cleaning and handling information. Presenters will include experienced organic seed producers, organic seed specialists from the OSA staff, and experienced seed industry professionals.
    The soils intensive will focus on practical organic soil management tools for farmers and the research principles they are based on. Topics covered will include on-farm composting, understanding soil microbiology, cover cropping, understanding carbon sequestration and building soil organic matter. Specific tools that will be presented for estimating fertility contribution of cover crops, monitoring soil quality, and managing and assessing on-farm compost quality. A combination of researchers, farmers and independent soil specialists, including Nick Andrews of the OSU Small Farms Team will present and coordinate the intensive.
    The sustainable business intensive will focus on defining “sustainability” as it relates to organic businesses and providing practical guidance to help businesses communicate about and improve their social, environmental and economic impacts from seed to plate. Topics to be covered include foundations of sustainability, addressing climate change, smart energy use, zero waste, farm labor and ethical trade programs, and communicating with stakeholders. This will be a follow-up from the well attended and highly acclaimed Sustainability Intensive held in 2009, helping businesses apply the concepts presented there and take concrete action to make a difference for people, planet and organic businesses. Speakers will include representatives from successful businesses from farm to retail that have instituted sustainability practices, representatives from non-governmental organizations, key researchers and industry experts.
    Online Tutorial:
    This project will create an online tutorial on organic seed production based on the information and materials from the seed intensive. The intensive will be filmed and video highlights of the speakers presentations will be inserted into the tutorial. Additional video clips, created prior to this project, of field activities including field roguing, seed harvesting, and seed cleaning, will be incorporated into both the intensive and the tutorial. The tutorial will not have long segments of lectures, but will utilize print, pictorial, video, and additional resources identified by OSA staff and intensive speakers. Jared Zyskowski of OSA will coordinate the creation of the tutorial, working with speakers and OSA staff to gather materials for content. He will attend the seed intensive, record detailed notes, and subsequently create the tutorial. He will use Moodle, a course development program, and work with the eOrganic technical staff to launch it through eOrganic and post it to
    Tutorial Trainings:
    Trainings on how to access and use the online tutorial will be held through eOrganic (as a webinar). Trainings will also be presented at NW agricultural conferences including the Organic Seed Growers Conference, Focus on Farming, and the OSU and WSU Small Farms Team Annual Retreats.

    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.