- Crop Production: seed saving
- Education and Training: workshop, training, curriculum
Seed is one of the most critical inputs a farm relies on, and organic farmers are required to utilize organic seed when available. But seed is more than an input. Seed is a natural resource requiring broad and collaborative stewardship. The quality of seed and the suitability of a variety can make a very substantial impact on the profitability, environmental impact, and sustainability of the farming operation. Organic foods sales exceed 45 billion dollars annually, et organic farmers remain dependent on a highly consolidated, conventional seed industry to supply their genetics. Organic farmers in the Southern region are further challenged by a unique growing climate with high humidity, and low winter chilling, which limits the range of species suitable for production of high quality seed. Successful seed production requires knowledge of appropriate production practices, infrastructure needs, markets, agroecological implications, and the suitability of the crop for seed production in the local environment. Seed production education was identified as a top priority in Organic Seed Alliance’s Southeast Seed Needs Assessment. The proposed education program will build upon the momentum of regional collaborators. Delivering seed production education will empower farmers to expand organic seed production while addressing the risks and impacts on the whole farm system.
We propose to create an integrated curriculum to train Southern farmers in the fundamentals of seed production and variety improvement. The initial delivery of this curriculum will occur during the 2019 Southeast Seed Summit, a two and a half day conference for seed producers and other stakeholders. The seed summit will feature workshops on seed topics including seed production, plant breeding, variety trials, and seed enterprise development, as well as farmer to farmer information sharing, networking and listening sessions. It will be geared toward current and potential seed growers; however, seed companies, plant breeders, and other key stakeholders will also participate. It is anticipated that 100 attendees will participate in the summit, including 75 farmers and 25 other stakeholders.
The curriculum developed for the summit will be delivered across multiple formats with a long shelf life. All presentations will include written course materials that will be included in a book of proceedings and available online. Workshop sessions will be live-streamed to remote participants, and will be archived as online videos. OSA has found that this combination of live-streaming and archiving presentations has been successful in reaching farmers by allowing them to access content in a way and time of their choosing. It is anticipated that by the end of the project, we estimate that 200 additional farmers will access the content through the proceedings and videos, with substantial use beyond the project end date.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Increase Southern farmers’ skills and knowledge in organic seed production.
- Increase Southern farmers’ knowledge of the suitability of various crop species for seed production in their local climate and growing conditions.
- Increase Southern farmers’ knowledge of plant breeding and variety improvement to increase the number of regional adapted varieties.
- Build a Southern regional network of farmers, researchers, extension, seed companies, and other stakeholders to collaborate on organic seed production, research, education, and marketing efforts.