Growing a Regional Seed Producers network in the Rogue Valley, Oregon

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2015: $23,203.00
Projected End Date: 11/09/2018
Grant Recipient: Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Eric George
Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: Vegetable seed: many species and varieties
  • Additional Plants: Herb and flower seed: many species and varieties


  • Crop Production: plant breeding and genetics, organic seed production
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: Seed post-harvest systems economics
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, social capital, social networks

    Proposal summary:

    The Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association (SOSGA) was founded in 2013 with the mission of enhancing Rogue Valley seed quality, improving sustainable seed farm viability, and educating the public and other farmers about seed stewardship in sustainable agriculture. At this time SOSGA has a basic web page ( and operates crop pollen pinning maps that growers use to coordinate seed crop isolations. Following the numerous meetings that lead to the association’s formation, the SOSGA Board of Directors now convenes every two months and scheduled its second annual General Membership meeting for February 2015. SOSGA is expanding and ready to pursue development opportunities on behalf of its member-growers and regional seed system stakeholders. This grant project will strengthen the community of seed growers in Southern Oregon through two means: *  educational and networking opportunities through the creation of a Seed Growers Network; a website and GIS mapping system for Southern Oregon seed growers; a seed mentor program; and an annual seed exchange. *  producer-driven investigation and analysis of 6-10 case studies of seed processing systems on small- and medium-scale sustainable Western seed farms, in order to inform capital investments and farm layout decisions for different scales of seed production. Farmer-to-farmer networks have been documented as having positive impacts of producers, including developing a sense of camaraderie, increased market opportunities and business sales, and increased access to relevant knowledge and skills (Matthewson, 2012). This project will launch a Seed Growers Network, based on educational needs of local seed growers determined by the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association (SOSGA). Some of the educational needs currently identified include best practices and locally specific planting dates for biennial seed crops; on-farm plant breeding under organic and sustainable growing conditions; small-farm appropriate stock seed maintenance; and investing in postharvest seed processing efficiency, among other proposed topics. Seed Grower Network meetings will take place every other month for three years on various seed farms in Southern Oregon. The meetings will include farm tours, demonstrations of seed planting, culling, pollinating, breeding, harvesting and cleaning (depending on the season and type of crop), discussions on relevant topics, and exchange of information and resources. The technical advisor Maud Powell will identify and provide publications with useful information on the topic at hand. The Network will also travel to the Willamette Valley in the fall of 2015 to tour three larger-scaled seed farms. Additionally, veteran seed farmer Don Tipping will act as a mentor to new seed growers by providing technical advice and farm visits. Seed producer Chris Hardy will organize an annual regional seed exchange to bring together seed savers and farmers in order to heighten the level of awareness of seed being locally produced and swap favorite varieties. Finally, seed farmers Eric George and Chuck Burr will revamp the existing Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association website to become the go-to website for regional seed producers. The website will act as a clearinghouse of information, educational resources and research on seed production and marketing, as well as a channel for community outreach and documentation of local seed events and opportunities. George will also improve the association’s pollen mapping capabilities by migrating the current Google Maps-based pinning program over to a true GIS platform (QGIS), which will allow the organization to measure isolation distances and create high quality regional pinning maps. Finally, over the 2016 and 2017 seed harvest seasons, Eric George will travel to visit six to ten different seed farms to develop a range of sustainable farm case studies that document farmer seed cleaning systems. He will characterize the farms through a mix of quantitative and qualitative attributes and interview the seed growers about how they design their processing spaces, how they developed their seed equipment and tools collection, how their procedures for postharvest processing has evolved over time, and which areas they prioritize as gaps remaining in their systems. Many publications cover the basic principles of seed cleaning and where processing equipment can be useful. However, the literature lacks materials that outline how these elements fit together within individual seed farmers' operations to provide coherent, full-process seed cleaning systems that work for self-financing sustainable growers. Existing seed production publications fail to provide detailed benchmarks that growers can use to vet different avenues of "tooling up" for professional seed production. Case studies fill exactly this niche, while simultaneously promoting successful sustainable seed farmers through their respective farm profiles (quantitative and qualitative), interview responses, and on-farm photographs. The chosen cases will span different classes of seed operations - from smaller scale and beginning seed farmers to higher-volume, more experienced seed producers. The new entrants want to know what tools to get started with and how the older growers sequenced their investments to get started. Meanwhile, profiles of veteran seed growers' processing systems will address more advanced topics in seed processing efficiency and quality, addressing, for example, subjects like finish cleaning innovations, avoiding processing bottlenecks, refurbishing older equipment, and automation for small- and medium-scale specialty seed operations. By characterizing these 6-10 seed farms and documenting innovations at range of different scales of seed production, this research collects wisdom from the field on the core elements of any successful processing strategy while also yielding concrete examples of integrated cleaning systems. The final publication will help both practiced and prospective seed farmers to design better processes and invest wisely to succeed in their essential their roles as seed suppliers for sustainable agriculture.

    Project objectives from proposal:


      1. Maud Powell will convene and facilitate 18 bi-monthly Seed Network meetings around southern Oregon, hosted by farmers and accompanied by an on-farm workshop, presentation, or demonstration (May 2015 – December 2017).  Six field events for 2015 have been proposed, to be confirmed by seed grower association members at 2015 general membership meeting (February 2015):

        a. Chris Hardy, Mindful Earth Farm: political advocacy, Oregon seed policy, and social media
        b. Tom Powell, Wolf Gulch Farm: biennial seed crops and planting dates
        c. Sebastian Aguilar, Chickadee Farm: seed cleaner operation, and farmer investment in seed processing tools
        d. Jonathan Spero, Lupine Knoll Farm: on-farm open pollinated sweet corn improvement
        e. Don Tipping, Siskiyou Seeds: creating and maintaining genetically diverse varieties
        f. Giffin Gates, Middle Rogue Farm: value-added seed crop by-product processing infrastructure.
        g. Willamette Valley seed tour: SOSGA members will travel to the Willamette valley for two days to visit three seed operations



    The six seed grower events for the 2016 and 2017 calendars will be voted on during annual SOSGA general membership meetings (February 2016 and 2017).



      1. Don Tipping will mentor three beginning seed growers during the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons. He will visit each grower two times per season, offering practical advice and feedback to mentees (May 2015 - November 2016)


      1. Chris Hardy will plan and host two spring regional seed exchange events (April 2016 and April 2017). He will coordinate and moderate a public Rogue Valley seed farmer panel on the history of open-pollinated plant breeding and seed production in the Rogue Valley.  Hardy will promote the seed exchange and panel to the public and farmers through six Facebook groups, with event page and follow-up materials reaching 50,000-200,000 online readers


      1. Eric George will upgrade crop pollen mapping system to open source GIS platform (free), to enhance SOSGA's pinning map quality and enable the measurement of isolation distances and new spatial quantitative data analyses (April - June 2015)


      1. Eric George and Chuck Burr will improve the SOSGA website and increase the organization’s online presence. Projects will include a thematic bibliography for seed production, breeding, and business skills, as well as current news and research. George will collect key references for the bibliography form SOSGA members (November 2015 – March 2016)


      1. Eric George will research seed cleaning set-ups and systems for different-scaled operations and produce a written report. George’s publication will be posted on the SOSGA website and presented in person to prospective and experienced seed farmers at the Eco-Farm Conference in January 2017 (December 2015 - January 2017). 


    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.