The Power of Partnerships
From Our Executive Director
Growing Future Seed Stewards
Our National Role
Major Funders, Partners, and Business Members
from our executive director
Staff and Board of Directors
We invite you to explore the quantitative and qualitative highlights of OSA’s 2017 work in this annual report. Here are a few snapshots of what’s inside:
We began fiscal sponsorship of the Student Organic Seed Symposium and the Society of Organic Seed Professionals to support the next generation of organic seed leaders and advocates
We established new research and education staff in the Intermountain West and Midwest
We advocated for stronger actions and policies to support organic seed systems
We educated more than 4,000 farmer, gardener and public program participants
We strengthened California Seed Hubs with new equipment and more trainings
We collaborated with 29 research partners and eight universities on public plant breeding and variety trial improvement projects in five states.
The cumulative effect of our 2017 research, education and advocacy accomplishments edges us close to achieving a sustainable path for our food supply. While much work lies ahead, all of us at OSA are heartened to know that our mission matters to you and to the future of food.
Table of Contents
Our Farm Collaborators
How do we measure progress when our broadest goal is to change the way we grow seed and food on this planet? A short answer is this: one farmer at a time. In 2017, OSA educated dozens of new organic seed growers in the field, classroom, and via live webinar. Our programming during field days, workshops, conferences, farmers markets, and other food and farming events engaged the general public more than ever before. Through vigilance and responsiveness, our advocacy team addressed outside pressures without losing ground on constructive policy proposals that will expand organic seed systems at the regional and national level. Vegetable varieties, improved through research and participatory plant breeding, edged into the culinary spotlight and are on their way to a table near you. All of these efforts support a sustainable food future built on a foundation of organic seed, and you – our supporters and funders – made them possible. For that, we offer our profound thanks.
Mission and Vision
What can’t be seen in the charts…
OSA funded $39,995 in scholarships for multicultural participation in the 2017 Organicology conference and for the next generation of plant breeders to attend a seed economics training at U.C. Davis.
$43,916 went to farmers participating in USDA-funded variety trials or variety improvement projects.
OSA spent only $2,859 on out-of-pocket fundraising
expenses in 2017.
Organic Seed Alliance advances ethical seed solutions to meet food and farming needs in a changing world.
Organic Seed Alliance envisions organic seed systems that are democratic and just, support human and environmental health, and deliver genetically diverse and regionally adapted seed to farmers everywhere.
Seed is part of our common cultural heritage —
a living, natural resource that demands careful management to meet food needs now and into the future. OSA works to address seed industry consolidation through regional seed programs and networking that result in transformative change at the national level. Our collaborative research projects emphasize diversity, ecology, and shared benefits. Our educational efforts build the base of knowledge necessary for stewarding seed, enhancing genetic diversity and producing seed economically. And our advocacy work promotes the benefits of organic seed while simultaneously confronting threats.
OSA is grateful to everyone who contributed financially to our mission in 2017. OSA received $846,612 in income on a cash basis during the year, which more than covered expenses of $798,643. OSA’s financial cycle is influenced by our biennial conference held in even-numbered years; sponsorship and registration income received in 2017 was reserved for our February 2018 conference.
Government grants, awarded for organic seed research and education programs, accounted for 61% of total income as it did in 2016. Individual and business donations were slightly higher this year, and foundation grants and program income were slightly lower compared to a conference year.
R&E and advocacy payroll — dedicating more than 2/3 of our total expenses to programming is important to us. General operating wages and benefits totaled 18% of expenses. Office, facilities and business expenses totaled 12% while fundraising expenses were once again the smallest component at less than 2%.
Farmer Gryphon Corpus lives in a vibrant seed community in rural Virginia where she manages variety trials and produces seed for Common Wealth Seed Growers and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Gryphon holds a deep appreciation of seed and skills in managing a healthy agroecosystem. Her exceptional value as a farmer-research partner also draws upon her background in science, including prior professional experience in genetics and medical research. Gryphon, born in Austria, now farms in the dramatically different climate of the Southeast U.S. where disease resistance and crop tolerance of the hot, humid summers is crucial in the selection of varieties for food production and the ability to produce seed. In 2017 she partnered with OSA and the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project to host variety trials. Gryphon will continue the trials and explore techniques to save carrot seed on the farm each year, enabling on-farm participatory breeding to develop new Southeast adapted varieties.
our farm collaborators
Organic Seed Alliance works to embrace the full potential of organic seed – from farm to fork – through collaborative research projects that closely engage farmers, university researchers, and food and farm organizations and businesses.
Our 2017 national research projects included: Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC), Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA), and Tomato Organic Management and Improvement (TOMI). OSA also had regional research projects in California, the Pacific Northwest, the Southeast, and Intermountain West.
We conducted plant breeding and other research in the following 17 crops: cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, quinoa, spinach, tomatoes, dry beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans, jalapeño peppers, sweet corn, sweet peppers, Swiss chard, winter squash, purple sprouting broccoli.
Engaged with 29 farmers in plant breeding projects in 5 states throughout the U.S.
Partnered with 8 universities on state- and USDA-funded projects
North Carolina State University
North Carolina A&T State University Oregon State University
Participated in 60 seed education events, trainings, and field days in 12 states
Farmer Judy Owsowitz started saving seeds in the 1980’s in an effort to restore the short season ‘Karlo’ pepper, a variety that had inadvertently crossed with a hotter pepper and was no longer available. She quickly got hooked on seed and now grows a wide diversity each year for on-farm use and commercial sales as a founding member of the Triple Divide Organic Seeds Cooperative. Triple Divide, the ten-member Montana-based cooperative, is collaborating with OSA on research, education, and enterprise development through two projects funded by the Montana Specialty Crop Block Grants. The long-term goal of the projects are to ensure Montana grown and adapted seeds are available for regional farmers and gardeners. In 2017 Judy hosted on-farm cucumber variety trials to determine which varieties grow best for food and seed in the region’s short growing season. OSA partnered with eight Triple Divide growers, including Judy, to coordinate on-farm variety trials, deliver trainings on seed production, and support enterprise development. Farmers like Judy are important partners in conducting research and fostering regional food systems based on regionally adapted seed.
Gryphon Corpus Mineral, Virginia
2017 Research Program Deliverables:
University of California – Davis
University of California – Riverside
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Washington State University
In 2017, OSA partnered with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) for the second year of our Seed Internship Program, the first of its kind in the U.S. The program matches individuals who want to learn about seed production with experienced seed farmers. The six-month internships combine hands-on education, farm-based independent study, and classroom and online learning.
Each year a new crop of future organic farmers learn skills at the Organic Farm School (OFS) on Whidbey Island, WA, a school that embraces social, economic, and environmental goals. The applied internship program includes a strong seed emphasis and is led by farm manager Aaron Varadi who brings her experience as a commercial organic seed producer. OSA is pleased to partner with the OFS to co-teach seed-related education through on-farm variety trials, seed production, and breeding projects. In 2017 the farm produced a sizable plot of OSA’s Olympic Sweet Corn breeding population – a project of the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) – in addition to hosting chard and squash trials. The goal of the sweet corn breeding project is to develop a short season sweet corn adapted to the region’s cool maritime conditions while still tasting delicious. In 2017 the OFS farm interns, under direction of Varadi and OSA’s Micaela Colley, taste-tested their way through the plot of over 700 plants, choosing which ears to keep for seed for the next year. We’re grateful for the enthusiasm and collective eating efforts of these interns! After nearly a decade of partnering with the farm school, we love watching past interns go on to start their own operations or enter the field of farming, including our farmer friends at Deep Harvest Organic Seed and OSA’s Southern California Hub Coordinator Amber Keeny.
growing future seed stewards
2017 EDUCATION PROGRAM DELIVERABLES:
Photo credit: Shawn Linehan Photography
OSA teaches seed saving in a variety of forms, from basic backyard skills to farm-scale organic seed production. We teach farmers how to conduct organic plant breeding in their own fields, empowering them to adapt their crops to changing climates, environmental conditions, and market needs. In this way farmers maintain control over their seed, and are actively conserving and improving global crop diversity.
In August 2017, OSA became the fiscal sponsor of a new organic seed organization created by graduate students and young professionals. For the past six years, these volunteers have successfully hosted the Student Organic Seed Symposium, an annual event organized by and for graduate students across the country who are interested in organic plant breeding and sustainable agriculture. We look forward to their next symposium to be held at Oregon State University in Corvallis this coming July, with the theme “Grassroots Plant Breeding” to highlight the contributions of small-scale breeders. What’s next for them? Under the umbrella of our fiscal sponsorship, the fledging Society of Organic Seed Professionals launched their initial membership campaign at the end of 2017. Their mission is to grow a community of researchers and practitioners who are passionate about the advancement of organic seed systems. OSA is honored to support the efforts of a new generation of organic seed leaders.
Society of Organic Seed Professionals
Organic Farm School
3 new publications on the results of our research
California Organic Carrot Variety Trials
California Organic Onion Variety Trials
California Organic Sweet Pepper Variety Trials
22 seed and plant breeding workshops for growers in 8 different states and provinces: BC, CA, IN, NY, MT, OR, WA, WI
Public education on organic seed and varieties at 16 field days, farmers markets, and variety tastings
6 seed production webinars that reached 442 participants
OSA engages in policy actions, discussion, and research at the regional and national level, and convenes diverse members of the organic community to identify and address barriers to growing independent seed systems. Over the last four decades, the seed industry has consolidated, and much of our commercial seed is now owned and managed by a few transnational firms. In 2017, we witnessed three of the biggest seed industry mergers of our time.
Reducing the number of competitive players in the industry, which inevitably leads to less genetic diversity in our fields and marketplace, is simply bad public policy. Thankfully, many of us in the organic seed movement are working to train more seed stewards, support new seed businesses, grow genetic diversity in our cropping systems, and advocate for partnerships and policies that foster decentralized seed systems that serve the public good first.
In 2017, our advocacy work included:
Two trips to Washington, DC, to educate members of Congress and their staff on the importance of investing in public plant breeding and organic research
Featuring our collaborative research at the first annual Capitol Hill Agricultural Research Exhibition and Reception in Washington, DC
Submitting recommendations to the USDA on its proposal to update the agency’s biotechnology regulations governing genetically engineered organisms
Laying the groundwork for the next Farm Bill by organizing around the Organic Agriculture Research Act and Seeds for the Future Act
Attending both National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings and delivering comments on organic seed, genetic integrity, and excluded methods
Submitting comments to the US Department of Justice on the Bayer and Monsanto merger, and co-sponsoring a congressional briefing on these concerns
Organizing against Senate Bill 155 in the Montana legislature, which prohibits local government authority over seed through sweeping preemption language
Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on policy actions so your voice is heard on these and other timely policy topics.
the power of partnerships
OSA engages in policy actions, discussion, and research at the national level. This includes bringing together diverse members of the organic community to identify and address barriers to breeding and growing more organic seed.
Policy work is essential to advancing organic seed as the foundation of a healthy food system, and to ensuring seed remains an open, public resource.
In 2017, OSA joined the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) as a represented member. NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. OSA joined NSAC to diversify our policy partnerships, strengthen our capacity to influence policy change, and bring our expertise to a broader coalition of food and farm advocates.
Just as our research and education programs are highly collaborative, so too is our advocacy program. Through our memberships in the National Organic Coalition, NSAC, and a new farmer-led group, the Organic Farmers Association, OSA is able to amplify our message and vision for resilient organic seed systems at the regional and national level.
We encourage you to check out the websites of our policy partners and sign up for their newsletters.
2017 business members
We partnered with 29 farmers to conduct research
in these 5 states
At Organic Seed Alliance, we work well beyond our headquarters in the Pacific Northwest. In 2017,
we brought our seed research and education activities to 20 states, reaching over 4,000 people. In addition to that, our publications were downloaded by growers in every state last year.
Blue River Organic Seeds
Bridges Organic Produce
The Good Seed Company
Harris Seeds Organic
Heath & Lejeune
High Mowing Organic Seeds
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Mountain Rose Herbs
Organically Grown Company
Osborne Seed Company
Port Townsend Food Co-op
Prairie Road Organic Seed
Sow True Seeds
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Turtle Tree Seed
United Natural Foods, Inc.
Vitalis Organic Seeds
Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (ASOSCA) – Organic Seed Finder
Bauta Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA)
University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of California–Riverside
Finnriver Orchard and Cider Garden
Cornell University – Eastern Sustainable Organic Cucurbit Project
Culinary Breeding Network
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA)
National Organic Coalition (NOC)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC)
Oregon State University
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Organically Grown Company
Sustainable Food Trade Association
Tomato Organic Management and Improvement Project (TOMI)
Oregon State University
University of Wisconsin–Madison
North Carolina State University
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
University of California–Davis
University of Wisconsin–Madison National Trial Network Project University of Wisconsin-Madison Seed to Kitchen Collaborative
Washington State University
in two National Organic Standards Board meetings held in these 2 states
We brought our education and outreach activities to these 20 states
Our Seed Internship Program had 13 host farms located in these 11 states
in over 60 seed education events
in these 12 states
major funders ($5,000+)
Foundations and Corporate Gifts
Clif Bar Family Foundation
I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation
Jefferson Community Foundation
New Belgium Brewing Company
New Field Foundation Seeds, Soil and Culture Fund (through RSF Social Finance)
USDA Program Grants
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)
USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI)
USDA Risk Management Agency - Risk Management Education Partnership Program
California Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Montana Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Washington State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
We partnered with
9 universities on research projects
in these 7 states
osa's national role
Cara Loriz | Executive Director
Micaela Colley | Program Director
Jared Zystro | Research & Education Assistant Director
Kristina "Kiki" Hubbard | Advocacy & Communications Director
Cathleen McCluskey | Communications & Outreach Associate
Laurie McKenzie | Research & Education Associate, Northwest
Jennifer Turney | Financial Manager
Steve Peters | Research & Education Associate, California
Leyla Cabugos | Assistant Regional Outreach Coordinator, California
Amber Keeney | Southern California Hub Coordinator
Tessa Peters | Research & Education Associate, Intermountain West
Kitt Healy | Research & Education Associate, Midwest
board of directors
PO Box 772 | port townsend, washington 98368 | (360) 385-7192
1385 8th St., Ste. 125 | Arcata, California 95521 | (707) 502-9984
117 W. Broadway AvE | Missoula, Montana 59802 | (406) 544-8946
205 S. Henry St., C | Madison, wisconsin 53703 | (360) 472-0247
Sebastian Aguilar | President | Chickadee Farm | Oregon
Adam Wagner | Vice President | Oregon Blueberry Farms & Nursery | Oregon
Adrienne Shelton | Secretary | Vitalis Organic Seeds | New Hampshire
Ken Greene | Hudson Valley Seed Co./SeedShed | New York
Amy Grondin | Sustainable Seafood Consultant | Washington
Ira Wallace | Southern Exposure Seed Exchange | Virginia
Zea Sonnabend | California Certified Organic Farmers | California