Southern Oregon boasts an excellent climate for growing vegetable and flower seeds. The hot summers and relatively low precipitation during the fall allow seed crops enough time and heat to fully ripen and dry down. During the past decade, the number of small-scale, specialty crop seed growers has more than tripled in the region. This past spring, some seed growers of Jackson and Josephine Counties formed the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association (SOSGA) (http://sosgaseed.org/). The mission of SOSGA is to support the production and improvement of quality agricultural seed in Jackson and Josephine counties of southwestern Oregon.
In practical terms, the purpose of SOSGA, which is a non-profit association, is to provide an organizational body for seed growers and seed companies to share and coordinate seed plot locations on a crop- by-crop basis. Timely, transparent communication between growers promotes high genetic purity in the region’s burgeoning commercial seed sector, and the information gathered will factor directly into individual members’ decision making and business planning processes.
SOSGA supports local, high-integrity seed production. Seed growers in any region share a common need: timely access to reliable information on the whereabouts of crop pollen whether insect-borne or carried on the wind. Biologically speaking, crops of the same species can cross-pollinate; the offspring thus in some way come to reflect their parentage, that is, both the pollen parent and the receiving plant on which the seed fills. Of concern to seed growers, pollen from one location on the landscape may travel beyond that site and affect, usually detrimentally, the genetic purity of other nearby seed fields of the crop. The result of opaque, or non-existent, communication can result in lower quality seed and potentially misleading information for distributors and farmers downstream, and loss of the value of the seed grower’s crop.
Regional seed producer organizations in the Willamette and Skagit valleys have already begun “pinning” programs in response to this seed quality dilemma. SOSGA is modeled after these associations. This fall, SOSGA launched its own platform for the promotion and protection of seed quality, beginning with the growers and the spatial relations between pollen sites across our landscape.
Facilitated processes of “pinning” (i.e. placing pins in) detailed maps and GIS tools have been introduced as a means to accurately plot seasonal information, both geographic and botanical, so that local growers are equipped to make sound business decisions and investments and keep seed quality high. Cooperative regional pinning supports a goal shared by all specialty seed growers: the spatial isolation of related seed crops at distances adequate to ensure maximal seed integrity and quality.
Growers began meeting early in spring 2013 at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center to begin discussing isolation practices and the possibility of inaugurating a new organization. On June 26th, the prospective members ratified the association’s proposed bylaws, agreed collectively to incorporate as a 501(c)(5) under Oregon state law, and approved a Board of Directors.
Pinning maps for pollen year 2013 will be available to dues paying members this year. SOSGA will host its inaugural annual members meeting and the valley’s first full-season pinning procedure in the middle of February 2014. SOSGA is now open to member applications from Rogue seed growers and solicits the participation of all stakeholders in the local seed system at various levels of membership. The association and its members invite interested parties to contact the Board about how they can support high quality seed growing in southern Oregon.