A sustainable food system depends on a seed system that is decentralized, robust, and responsive to farmers’ needs. Over the last 100 years, seed systems have become consolidated and corporatized, with 3 global companies now owning over 65% of the world’s agricultural plant genetic resources (State of Organic Seed Report 2016). Farmer-driven plant breeding, coupled with local seed production and marketing, relocate control of seed in farmers’ hands. This project engages Minnesota vegetable producers in demonstration, experimentation and education on seed production and marketing, with the goals of understanding which seed crops are practical to produce and market locally, and growing the community of skilled seed producers.
This project will assess the viability of commercial seed production of five economically important vegetable species on six partnering organic (certified and non) farms in Minnesota. The selected varieties were bred or successfully trialed on farms in the upper Midwest, but have not been evaluated for seed quality or economic feasibility. The project builds farmers’ capacity to produce high quality seeds though consultation with seed production experts and hands-on demonstration. The five farmer partners will use project results to launch a collaborative seed marketing enterprise led by project farmer-partner Zachary Paige.
Project objectives from proposal:
1) Build farmers’ capacity to produce high-quality seed of regionally-adapted crops for commercial contracts and on-farm use
2) Build farmers capacity to track labor and inputs to inform future contract negotiations
3) Understand which seed crops are most practical for Minnesota farmers to produce through enterprise budgeting, on-farm observation of seed crops and seed quality testing
4) Develop farmers’ ability to grow and save seed of culturally important crops, particularly for farmers in ethnic and socially disadvantaged communities.