Local farmers consider seed-growing industry based on islands’ isolation

Contributed by Cathleen McCluskey of Organic Seed Alliance.

Organic Seed Alliance’s seed saving workshop for gardeners and farmers took place on a frosty fall morning last Monday at Skagit Valley Community College/WSU Extension on San Juan Island. The workshop was designed for folks of all seed saving knowledge levels, along with other organizationally created courses, is presented by OSA staff throughout the year. OSA executive director Micaela Colley presented this basic Seed Saving Workshop 101 course to a captive participatory audience of more than 20 San Juan County farmers and gardeners.

Participants spent the morning in a classroom learning the basics about seed, including a brief history of seed in agriculture, basic genetics, the difference between open-pollinated and hybrid varieties, patents, planting dates, crops best suited for the bioregion, harvesting methods, equipment, and drying techniques. Folks spent the last portion of the day learning to winnow carrot and cilantro seeds outside in the afternoon sun. Colley answered questions throughout the day and reminded folks that several publications (including a Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers) are available for free download on OSA’s website.

San Juan County community members are exploring the county’s potential for seed production as a niche market. Islanders are no strangers to geographic isolation, and many see this natural barrier as an opportunity to produce seed for market, which requires isolation distances.

Remarking on the workshop, WSU extension Candace Jagel shared: “San Juan County farmers want to develop a seed industry and they are strong believers in organic production methods. This workshop really met their needs. I know that some folks will now come on board, and those already saving seed got a boost of fresh and useful information.”

For more information, go to: http://blog.seedalliance.org/2011/12/15/osa-wsu-hosts-workshop-for-enthusiastic-san-juan-county-farmers/.