Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association Launches Education Network

Author: Maud Powell, Small Farms Program, Oregon State University

Publish Date: Fall 2015

Southern Oregon has long been considered an excellent region for seed production. Long, hot summers with little rainfall allow seeds to fully ripen and dry. Additionally, Southern Oregon has many narrow valleys with varying topography that provide good isolation for crops that pollinate by wind or insect. In 2013, a group of seed farmers started the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association (SOSGA), with the support and facilitation of the OSU Small Farms program in an effort to increase the amount of seed being grown in the Rogue Valley. Initially, the group’s main function was to develop a seed-pinning map to ensure adequate isolation between growers. Subsequently, the group decided to offer educational and networking opportunities for existing and prospective seed growers.

In 2014, SOSGA received a Western SARE grant to conduct bi-monthly educational programs for farmers interested in seed production. Since June 2015, SOSGA and OSU Small Farms have hosted three events. In June, buyers from three seed companies, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Uprising Seeds, and Adaptive Seeds, toured six seed farms in the Rogue Valley and gave a panel presentation on the basics of contracting with seed companies. The farm tour informed the buyers about the particular challenges and opportunities of growing seed in Southern Oregon. Over fifty people attended the panel discussion, which covered topics including how to approach seed companies to obtain contracts; what to do in case of crop failure; and different payment schemes for seed contracts.

In late July, thirty-five people attended a field day on the production and harvest of biennial seed crops. Biennial seed crops include kale, parsnips, onions and leeks, and can be challenging to grow as they require more time in the ground. Tour participants visited Wandering Fields and Wolf Gulch Farm, both in the Little Applegate Valley and both veteran producers of biennial seed crops.

In September, twenty-five people visited Chickadee Farm in Talent for a field day on processing and cleaning seeds. Farmer Sebastian Aguilar demonstrated a variety of different pieces of seed cleaning equipment, including screens, fans and several types of threshers.

In February 2016, corn seed breeder Professor Bill Tracy from the University of Wisconsin will address Southern Oregon seed growers. Other seed field days have yet to be scheduled. SOSGA field days provide producers with excellent opportunities to learn more about the potential for seed production in the Rogue Valley as well as to network with other people. Field days are always followed by a potluck meal and discussion. For more information, contact Maud Powell.