Training Seed Producers and Increasing Local Markets for Seed Production

Project Overview

OW17-008
Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2017: $49,750.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Maud Powell
OSU Extension

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, plant breeding and genetics, seed saving
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Abstract:

    Southern Oregon is becoming a nationally recognized organic vegetable seed growing region with at least fourteen farmers in the area are already selling commercial seed on contract for regional, national and international seed companies. While the climate of Southern Oregon is well-suited to seed production, growing seed is complex and challenging and requires significant training and education. The goal of this project has been to increase the number, capacity and success of organic vegetable seed producers in Southern Oregon in two ways; 1) through a comprehensive seed training program for both beginning and established farmers interested in growing seed and 2) conducting research on the barriers and challenges to developing a regional market for local seed producers.

    The Seed Growers Training Cohort (now called “Growing Seed Agripreneurs”) took place at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC), which is part of Oregon State University. Ten individuals, many of whom own small farms, attended the course which met weekly on Thursday evenings for 3 hours from April 5th through October 18th, 2018. A 29-class curriculum was developed and presented that covered the planning, field preparation, growing, harvesting and cleaning of seed crops as well as seed business and marketing concepts. It included 6 field trips to regional seed farms and collaborated with Rogue Farm Corps on several of the classes and field trips. In addition, the members of the cohort created and managed a seed garden on the Teaching Farm for a hands-on learning experience. One-third of an acre was planted to various crops for seed harvest including lettuce, onion, tomato, pepper, bok choi, basil, cosmos, zinnia, beans and radish. All seed crops were harvested, threshed and cleaned by the course participants.

    Two half-day workshops on seed harvesting and cleaning techniques were held at Chickadee Farm (8/30/18 and 9/30/18) and open to anyone interested in seed production. Total attendance was 39.During both workshops, participants were guided through the seed harvesting and cleaning process including the demonstration of applicable small-scale tools and equipment and during one of the workshops, four commercial seed growers participated in a Q&A panel.

    For the research into the barriers and challenges to developing a regional market for local seed producers, contact was made with both seed producers and produce farmers (seed buyers) to solicit their opinions on the subject. Both group surveys and individual phone conversations were used to gather information on seed issues and the results of these outreach efforts are detailed below.

    Finally, a variety trial of six fall crops was planted in 2019 at OSU SOREC and a report detailing the trial was produced. Crops trialed included curly and russian kale, romaine lettuce, beets, turnips and radishes and varieties were selected from both national and regional sources based on feedback from local farmers. Farmers and the public were invited to a field day to view and self-evaluate the trials and 12 people attended. The trial report was promoted regionally via farmer lists serves and will be posted on two webpages.

    Project objectives:

    This project worked to increase the number, capacity and success of organic vegetable seed producers in Southern Oregon through the following objectives:

    1. Trained 10 beginning seed farmers through the Growing Seed Agripreneurs program, held at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC) in Central Point Oregon including the 1-acre organic Teaching Farm. The training program was held weekly, for three hours on Thursday evenings, for seven months and included both lecture-based classes and hands-on work in the seed garden of the teaching farm.
    2. Conducted two workshops demonstrating seed harvesting and cleaning techniques open to area seed producers and the public. 39 producers attended.
    3. Assessed local markets for Southern Oregon Seed Producers
      1. Contacted 15 commercial vegetable producers and seed producers to discuss challenges and barriers to purchasing seed from regional seed producers and inquire on seed purchasing criteria and desires.
      2. At the Teaching Farm, trialed seed varieties from local seed producers alongside varieties commonly used by Southern Oregon vegetable producers. Six crops and 22 varieties were assessed in a triple-replicated trial.
      3. Conducted a field day for vegetable producers showcasing the variety trial in October 2019. 12 people attended.
      4. Produced a publication detailing results from the trials which was distributed to Southern Oregon producers and posted at the SOREC and Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association websites.
    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.