Organic Seed Growers Conference 2020 Selected Recordings

On February 14 and 15, 2020, eOrganic recorded 5 sessions at the Organic Seed Growers Conference, organized by the Organic Seed Alliance. You can find them all at the links below, and as a playlist on the eOrganic YouTube channel. Topics include finding and using rare seed, biennial seed production, small-scale contract seed production and seed economics.

Watch the recordings here

About the Presentations

Accessing Agrobiodiversity: Practical Knowledge for Finding and Using Rare Seeds

Despite staggering losses in crop diversity over the past century — from commercial varieties falling out of favor to crop wild relatives lost to habitat destruction — the world is still home to a great diversity of plants relevant to agriculture (collectively known as “agrobiodiversity”). Between traditional farming communities, public and private seedbanks, garden-scale seed savers, and wild and feral plant populations, a wide array of crop plants are still available to people who work with seed. Learn practical tools and strategies from farmer-breeders, public breeders, and regional seed companies on how to find and access novel and diverse germplasm through formal and informal networks and collections. Discussions will include issues related to seed importation and recognition of sources of origin, including respect for farmers’ and breeders’ rights in using these plant genetic resources.

Speakers: Ester Casas Griera, Les Refrardes Coop; Sarah Kleeger, Adaptive Seeds; Nathaniel Kleinman, Experimental Farm Network; and Phil Simon, University of Wisconsin-Madison/ USDA-ARS

Utilizing Agrobiodiversity: Breeding for Diversity, Resilience, and In Situ Conservation

Organic farming needs diversity at all levels and es-pecially in seed. However, modern breeding for many crops is focused on creating very uniform and homogeneous varieties. Some organic breeders, farmers, and seed networks are working to counter this trend by consciously breeding for genetic diversity across and within crop types and varieties. Learn from the experience of several breeding initiatives, organic farmers, and researchers who are working to create genetically diversified populations through different strategies to stimulate adaptation. Several initiatives are also working in the European context where in spite of regulatory constraints farmers have organized networks and community seed banks to collectively manage landraces, local varieties, and their newly bred populations. Presenters will share the models and outcomes of two European projects – Dynaversity and Let’s Liberate Diversity – as well as applied, practical breeding strategies to conserve and expand diversity.

Speakers: VĂ©ronique Chable, French National Institute for Agricul-ture, Food and the Environment (INRAE); Joseph Lofthouse, Lofthouse Seeds; and Estelle Serpolay, French Institute for Organic Food and Farming (ITAB).

Stepping Up Biennial Seed Production

Producing biennial seed crops is challenging for seed growers in many climates. This workshop is designed to help seed growers gain confidence and skills in biennial seed crop production. A panel of presenters will dig into the details of handling specific crops in different climatic conditions while offering tips on storage, timing of planting, the optimum size, and protecting crops through winter. This session will combine a presentation format with group discussion at the end so participants can learn from others’ experiences.

Speakers: Beth Corymb, Meadowlark Hearth Farm; Laurie McKenzie, Organic Seed Alliance; and Petra Page-Mann, Fruition Seeds

Small-Scale Contract Seed Production Roundtable

Seed production can be an enticing way to diversi-fy your operation’s income streams, workload, and overall crop diversity. However, at any scale, seed production is a niche market with its own slate of unique challenges. Navigating production contracts is a particular challenge, especially for growers who are just getting started. This session will cover different approaches to running a seed business from experienced producers and business owners. From small-scale seed growers to larger operations growing on contract for seed companies, we’ll hear from growers and seed companies about their experiences in this complex business that leverages diverse skill sets to share what they have learned about their model of doing business.

Seed Economics: Balancing Passion and Profitability in Seed Growing

Seed growing holds immeasurable value – from the empowerment of adapting crops to thrive in a region to the urgent need for genetic and cultural preservation to the potential for increasing on-farm habitat. For many growers seed is a calling and makes agronomic sense in a diverse farming system, but the economics of seed must also be considered to ensure economic sustainability. This session will share tools developed by an agricultural economist working with farmers to track production costs and assess profitability. Panelists will include experienced and beginning seed producers across a range of crops, scales, geographies, and business models. Discussion will focus on how to use economic tools to make decisions in seed production and how these growers balance their assessment of the economic, environmental, and personal values of growing seed on farm. This moderated panel will include ample time for audience questions and honest exploration of the challenges and rewards of life as a seed grower.

Find more information and tools you can use for seed economics in this online toolkit for organic seed growers!

Speakers: Steph Gaylor, Invincible Summer Farms; Beth Rasgorshek, Canyon Bounty Farm; Winston Oakley, Highland Economics; Judy Owsowitz, Terrapin Farm; and Karl Sutton, Fresh Roots Farm

About eOrganic

eOrganic is the Organic Agriculture Community of eXtension. Our articles, videos, upcoming and recorded webinars, courses and research project websites are available on our new website at

You can find many recordings from the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 conferences on the eOrganic YouTube channel here.


Published February 6, 2020

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.