Seed Adventure, Part 2

{Above picture.  A bud pollination of a broccoli plant. Credit: Organic Seed Alliance.}
Every two years, Organic seed growers come to this area to address issues facing organic seed supply and production.  Hosted by the Organic Seed Alliance non-profit, it is a conference inviting everyone from small scale regional companies to huge California seed companies adding Organic seed to their portfolio.  This Organic conference is unique in that way I believe, where Organic gatherings tend to have a strong cultural component compared to conventional, emphasizing the national need for more Organic seed and also encouraging many levels of seed growing for many reasons.  People come to learn the latest in seed growing techniques and also participate in debates related to patenting lifeforms or whether genetic engineering has a place at the Organic seed table!
 {Picture of ripening Onion Seeds}
   I was lucky to have taken a couple intensives on seed breeding and seed company economics.  Both will have lasting impacts and will hopefully drive new adventures into our relationships with the food we eat and grow for each other.  Looking over excel sheets and tracking labor hours was a small bewildering component to seed economics.  This year Culitvating The Commons will be doing both contract work for other companies as well as selling packets for our local gardeners and Willy St. Co-op customers!  Hopefully these skills develop quickly! ;)
{Above:  A seed rack one can find useful garden seeds hanging, this APRIL @ Willy St. Co-op!}
    As far as seed breeding, we’re entertaining at least three trials and couple breeding projects this year.  Trials are like a test for varieties, a little bit more elevated test than “trying” something.  An example is cucumbers.  We’d like to find a cucumber that satisfies specific needs; long, slender, seedless, delicious!  So we’ve found four hybrids and four open-pollinated varieties to plant and compare.  Plenty of work, but data and observation is worth the improvement.  Trials are usually the first place to start when doing breeding or improvement work.  Find something that works pretty dang good already and go from there!   Another breeding project is our Golden Grex beet.  This is a strain of golden beet from Fedco seed company.  A grex is usually a combination of different parents giving diverse offspring to select from.  The golden strain has vigorous growth, an almost top shape,  a lovely orange/gold exterior and hopefully golden interior.  We’ll have to do the selecting there!!
{ Over 150 beets to slice and taste test, yowzer!}
   Following those nerdie classes, we quickly jumped into the conference!  Two days packed with manny workshops, discussions and talks.  Its worth planning ahead, as there’s something for everyone, but usually you want to go to two!  Talks I went to usually revolved around regional seed development and laws regarding intellectual property of seed.  Often with intellectual property, one side says,”I spent years developing this specific variety with this attribute that’s valuable, that’s why I patent and seek profit.”   The other side quickly replies, “Our legacy of seed is built on milleniums of community crossing, selecting and observation.  Perhaps thousands of generations.  Patenting an entire variety with a tiny recent attribute is practically stealing what has largely been community resource.”  You can imagine those discussions being quite heated!  Other workshops dove into the details on organic tomato breeding and another focused on community seed libraries and their plight to stay open.  Like I said, something for everyone!
   I’m sure, geared with this year’s conference, there will be much merriment in the field.  Stay tuned for developments.  Our first upcoming seed event is Saturday, Apr. 14th.  Come out to the farm and help plant some lovely biennials,  and perhaps develop a taste for golden beet!
Much Love,