2018 annual report
Celebrating 15 Years of
Growing Seed for the Common Good
Staff and Board of Directors..........................................................................
Message from Our Director...........................................................................
Our Mission and Vision....................................................................................
2018 was more than another
year of good seed work.
Organic Seed Alliance
Last year marked the 15th anniversary of Organic Seed Alliance and our mission to advance organic seed. Certified organic seed was in its infancy when we started, and we are proud and grateful to have nurtured its growth and elevated its importance as the fundamental input of an organic food system.
Much like the seed we champion, OSA has
come a long way since 2003. A sampling of that progress is evident in the successful programs
Through grassroots advocacy and national coalition partnerships, we influenced a Farm Bill with big wins for organic research and helped preserve programs vital to farmers’ success.
Our 9th Organic Seed Growers Conference welcomed new seed enthusiasts, familiar faces and a high level of international engagement at an event that cultivated synergy between the many stewards of the good seed movement.
The impact of OSA’s research and education programs spanned orders of magnitude from the molecular, understanding key genetic traits in sweet corn, to the big picture. We introduced a new Organic Seed Producers Directory that connects farmers to seed companies.
Focusing on the dollars and cents of growing a diverse seed supply, OSA worked hand-in-hand with seed growers to develop prototype economic tools.
Beautiful multi-colored carrots with increased disease resistance and nutritional value captivated growers and eaters alike at culinary events and in our research field trials.
Thanks to all who supported OSA in this anniversary year. Whether you celebrated with us at our birthday brunch in Chimacum, participated in our events and workshops, donated or volunteered, we are thankful for the wonderful extended family that marked this milestone with us.
We envision organic seed systems that are democratic and just, support human and environment 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. Organic Seed Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advances ethical seed solutions to meet food and farming needs in a changing world.
Each year we educate thousands of farmers and other agricultural community members, conduct professional organic plant breeding and seed production research, and advocacy for national policies that strengthen organic seed systems. Our most recent State of Organic Seed report (2016) is part of an ongoing project to monitor the status of organic seed nationally and provides a roadmap for increasing the diversity, quality, and integrity of organic seed available to US farmers. While our 2016 SOS report continues to inform organic research, planning began in 2018 for our next 5-year update.
Over the last four decades, the seed industry has consolidated, and much of our commercial seed is now owned and managed in the hands of a few transnational firms. Intellectual property practices (e.g., utility patents on seed) stand out as a major cause. This control has stifled innovation in plant breeding, and creates barriers to improving the availability and integrity of organic seed.
OSA works to address consolidation through regional seed networks 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 and enhancing diversity through on-farm plant breeding and seed production. And our advocacy work promotes the benefits of organic seed while simultaneously confronting threats.
Organic Seed Alliance advances
ethical seed solutions to meet food and farming needs in a changing world
Confronting seed consolidation
What can't be seen in the chart
OSA invested in $24,572 in seed cleaning and propagation equipment in 2018. Our efforst to provide infrastructure for regional seed systems placed nearly $60,000 of equipment into service in Washington, California and Montana in the past two years.
OSA has grown steadily over our 15-year history and in 2018 we exceeded $1 million in cash income for the first time. Total income on a cash basis was $1,029,865. We are humbled and grateful for the generosity of the many individuals and organizations that helped us reach this milestone for our mission work. OSA's 2018 program funds were boosted by accepting fiscal sponsorship of the Student Organic Seed Symposium. Over the past five years, we have nearly doubled our annual income.
This was a big year for research and education grants from the US Department of Agriculture and state agencies as we delivered on several multi-year projects, accounting for nearly 64% of revenues. Individual and business donations have accounted for 11% of our revenues for the past two years. Earned revenue from programs was slightly higher and foundation income a few points lower than in 2017.
In 2018, cash expenses totaled $1,006,159 (excluding equipment), with 75% directly funding mission programming, including program supplies and expenses, farmer compensation, research and education (R&E) staff and contractor pay, and advocacy staff payroll. General operating payroll, staff benefits and administrative costs constituted 23% of expenses. Once again fundraising costs were the smallest expense component at less than 2%.
What can't be seen in the chart...
OSA invested in $24,572 in seed cleaning and propagation equipment in 2018. Our efforts to provide infrastructure for regional seed systems placed nearly $60,000 of equipment into service in Washington, California and Montana in the past two years.
$66,630 were paid to farmers participating in USDA-funded variety research, farmer education and seed economics projects.
OSA held a benefit brunch to celebrate our 15th anniversary, yet we still kept fundraising expenses to 1.6% of our total expense budget.
"My success as a seed producer and small business owner has been exponentially improved by Organic Seed Alliance's programs, education, grants, technical support, and equipment access. We would be lost without them."
San Diego, California
San Diego Seed Company
Our research team worked on 18 crops (vegetables and grain) through a number of projects focused on plant breeding, variety trials, and seed production.
helping farmers conduct variety trials
In partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES), OSA created a toolkit to train farmers in conducting on-farm variety trials. Variety trials are a useful tool for farmers interested in finding the best varieties for their farm and markets. Conducting trials can also help growers identify promising organic varieties to replace conventional ones, new varieties to fit a particular market niche, or open-pollinated varieties for future on-farm breeding projects.
Along with the toolkit, we hosted four on-farm workshops in the upper Midwest focused on how to conduct on-farm variety trials of organic vegetable and small grains. The trainings were well-attended, with a total of more than 60 participants, signaling a growing interest in strengthening the upper Midwest regional seed system by identifying and advocating for varieties well-suited to local, organic systems.
To complement the trainings OSA and partners published The Growers Guide to Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials, a guide available in our resource library that teaches farmers the fundamental skills for conducting on-farm variety trials that reflect their particular goals and farming operations.
37 farmers in 8 states participated in research
Organic Seed Alliance embraces the full potential of organic seed through collaborative research that closely engages farmers, university researchers, and food and farming organizations and businesses.
OSA is a convener and we know the strength of the good seed movement is built on collaboration. We partnered with 9 universities in 7 states on state- and USDA- funded research projects, including the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC), Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA), and Tomato Organic Management and Improvement (TOMI) projects.
37 farmers collaborating on equipment sharing
18 crops researched
Seed growers looking to produce enough seed for contracts and markets need the equipment to scale-up. OSA's equipment sharing program helped more than three dozen farmers do just that, resulting in more organic seed available.
9 University partners in 7 states
Participatory research with farmers is helping OSA further the scientific field of organic plant breeding, introduce new organic varieties, and train more farmer-breeders and seed producers.
"OSA is teaching our student farmers to steward seed that benefits both their farms and our environment. This collaboration is transforming our students and the food systems they will support in the future."
Whidbey Island, Washington
Organic Farm School
Organic Seed Alliance teaches farmers to save and produce seed and to conduct organic plant breeding in their own fields, empowering them to adapt their crops to changing climates, environmental conditions and market needs.
We hosted 11 live webinars including a livestream from the seed economics intensive at the Organic Seed Growers Conference and a training series on conducting on-farm variety trials.
5,400+ people reached with 44 events
The 9th Organic Seed Growers Conference drew more than 600 participants, with approximately 400 people attending the event in Oregon, and an additional 200 joining via live webinar. The biennial conference is the largest event focused solely on organic seed in North America. The theme, Synergy that Sustains, recognized that the organic seed community is diverse and growing, and that differences in approaches, regions, and stakeholders are a strength if actions focus on the values what connects the community – on synergism.
Congressman Peter DeFazio returned to his district to join participants as the keynote speaker. Congressman DeFazio has long been a champion for organic farmers, and introduced the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established the statutory foundation for the national organic standards.
More than 70 experts presented on topics ranging from organic seed growing, plant breeding, seed economics, policy, and more. We also hosted three pre-conference events, including a day-long intensive on the economics of commercial seed production, a tour of seed production and plant breeding operations throughout the Willamette Valley, and an all-day organic plant breeding intensive featuring OSU’s facilities and barley breeding lab.
Save the date to join us at the 10th Organic Seed Growers Conference from February 12–15, 2020.
Our team traveled to 12 states and hosted 44 events delivering seed education and sharing resources to over 5,400 people.
OSA hosted our biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference in Corvallis, Oregon,. The event drew over 400 people in person from 31 states and 9 countries, with an additional 200+ joining via live webinar.
11 Live webinars hosted with eorganic
400+ national conference participants
9th Organic seed growers conference
We had 2,529 free publication downloads from our resource library from people in 49 states. The library includes manuals on how to conduct plant breeding, seed production, and variety trials; record keeping materials; proceedings from the Organic Seed Growers Conference; and policy reports, webinars, and more.
2,529 publication downloads in 49 states
joined the resistance to move NIFA and ers
We engaged with grassroots communities through policy advocacy presentations at 9 events throughout the US.
Our Washington team hosted Congressman Derek Kilmer at our research farm in Chimacum, WA, so that he could hear what farmers in his district needed from the 2018 Farm Bill.
engaging grassroots at 9 events
We sounded the alarm on the Bayer–Monsanto merger, which created the world's largest seed and chemical company, further concentrating an already extremely consolidated industry.
attending and delivering at nosb meetings
2 trips to Washington, dc
sounding the alarm on bayer–monsanto merger
OSA is joining the resistance to the USDA's decision to relocate our nation's research agencies: National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Economic Research Service (ERS).
advocating for a forward-thinking farm bill
Hosting congressman derek kilmer
OSA Celebrates Farm Bill wins
Among the victories in the 2018 Farm Bill was a significant increase in funding for organic research. Over the course of the next Farm Bill, investments in the USDA's flagship organic research program – the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which currently funds three OSA projects – will increase to $50 million annually by 2023. This amount more than doubles the current level of funding and provides permanent baseline funding for this critical program, which means it's less likely to be cut in future farm bills.
OSA also strongly advocated for the inclusion of the Seeds for the Future Act, a bill that would ensure that federal investments are sufficient to support the development of new public varieties of diverse crops. While this funding request didn't make it into the 2018 Farm Bill, OSA was pleased to see related provisions included. For example, the final bill directs the USDA to assess our public seed collections and identify funding needs for safeguarding their viability. The Farm Bill also calls on the USDA's National Genetic Resources Advisory Council (NGRAC) to analyze existing public breeding and funding gaps to ensure that the diverse and regional seed needs of farmers are met.
OSA advocated for a new, forward-thinking Farm Bill by endorsing and organizing around the Organic Agriculture Research Act and Seeds for the Future Act – and with much success (read below).
The OSA advocacy team attended both National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings and delivered recommendations on organic seed, genetic integrity, and excluded methods.
OSA believes that expanding the diversity of organic seed as a community practice and commercial trade is one of the most impactful solutions to daunting problems in agriculture, including changing climates, corporate consolidation, and pesticides in our environment.
Our advocacy program leads policy actions, discussions, and research at the national level. Much like our research and education, our policy work is highly collaborative, bringing together diverse members of the organic community to identify and address barriers to breeding, growing, and sustaining more organic seed, while ensuring that seed remains in the hands of the people, not the patent holder. We are members of the National Organic Coalition, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Organic Farmers Association, and Seed & Breeds for the 21st Century Agriculture Coalition.
Our team traveled to Washington, DC, to educate members of Congress and their staff on the importance of public plant breeding and seed systems, and organic research.
"Policy work is essential to advancing organic seed as the foundation of a healthy food system. I'm so grateful that Organic Seed alliance engages in policy advocacy on behalf of organic seed growers like me."
Fullerton, North Dakota
Prairie Road Organic Seed
Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) - Organic Seed Finder
Bauta Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA)
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Washington State University
University of California Riverside
Culinary Breeding Network
Finnriver Farm and Cidery
Jefferson Community Foundation
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
Organic Farmers Association
PCC Community Markets
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 Department of Plant Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Madison Seed to Kitchen Collaborative
Washington State University
Corporate Gifts and Sponsorships
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
USDA Agriculture Research Service
USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
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 Food & 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
Enza Zaden, USA
High Mowing Organic Seeds
New Belgium Brewing Company
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
Blooming Prairie Foundation
Clif Bar Family Foundation
Mental Insight Foundation
Nell Newman Foundation
Sustainable Path Foundation
USDA Program Grants
Major funders ($5,000 and over)
2018 business partners
Sebastian Aguilar, President
Chickadee Farm, Oregon
Amy Grondin, Vice President
Sustainable Seafood Consultant, Washington
Adrienne Shelton, Secretary
Vitalis Organic Seeds, New Hampshire
Adam Wagner, Treasurer
Oregon Blueberry Farms & Nursery, Oregon
Heron Breen, Board Member
Fedco Seeds, Maine
Zea Sonnabend, Board Member
California Certified Organic Farmers, California
Ira Wallace, Board Member
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Virginia
board of directors
Micaela Colley, Program Director
Kitt Healy, Research & Education Associate, Midwest Region
Kristina "Kiki" Hubbard, Advocacy & Communications Director
Cara Loriz, Executive Director
Cathleen McCluskey, Communications & Outreach Associate
Amber McConnon, Southern California Hub Coordinator
Laurie McKenzie, Research & Education Associate, Northwest Region
Katie Miller, Research Field Assistant
Steve Peters, California Research & Outreach Associate
Jennifer Turney, Financial Manager
Jared Zystro, Research & Education Assistant Director
PO Box 772 | Port Townsend, WA | 360-385-7192
1385 8th St, Ste. 125 | Arcata, CA | 707-502-9984
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Madison, WI | 360-472-0247