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Partnership Aims to Train Needed Organic Seed Farmers

A first-of-its-kind educational partnership between the Organic Seed Alliance and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture is stepping up to train hundreds of new seed growers in organic production.

A first-of-its-kind educational partnership between the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) is training hundreds of new seed growers in organic production. Through an online certificate-granting educational platform and an accompanying structured internship program, the two groups hope to train enough farmers to help supply meet demand—and make a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loophole irrelevant.

According to the OSA’s survey of 1,365 organic-certified farmers in 47 of the United States, fewer than one in five organic-certified farmers are able to plant their entire acreage with organic seed. In other words, most are growing organic vegetables from conventional seeds. The USDA allows these farmers to still use “Certified Organic” labels on the foods they produce because there is not enough organic seed in the marketplace.

This loophole, detailed in the USDA’s Guidelines for Organic Crop Certification, is triggered when sufficient organic seed is not commercially available. To be considered commercially available, the seed must be accessible “in the appropriate variety, quality, form, [and] quantity the producer needs.”

Photo courtesy of Organic Seed Alliance
Photo courtesy of Organic Seed Alliance

Now on its second crop of new seed producers, the training program draws on established organic seed growers as educational resources, prioritizing on-farm learning rather than classroom curriculum. The internship experience is reminiscent of traditional farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer and pairs interns with seasoned growers for...

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