Education. Research. Advocacy. These are the three arenas that define the work of Jared Zystro and the Organic Seed Alliance. Organic Seed Alliance, a non-profit organization with its home base in Washington state, works to ensure “ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed.”
So what does Jared do? For one thing, he travels. A lot. As California’s outreach specialist, it is his job to travel to farms throughout California that are participating in plant breeding and variety trials. Jared explains that, “Participatory plant breeding activities are core components of [OSA’s] research program, linking breeding experts with organic farmers to develop organic seed varieties adapted to local ecosystems and community needs.” Together, he and the farmers he works with, choose varieties, outline onsite studies, and document the process of growing organic seed. These studies then find their way into the seed production guides published on Organic Seed Alliance’s website.
Jared and OSA take the information from these trials and share it with farmers and the public. Education efforts extend from seed production guides to workshops in the field and classroom. “The goal of our education program is to expand farmers’ skills and knowledge in conserving crop genetics, producing organic seed, and breeding new plant varieties that perform well in organic conditions.”
So that’s the research and education side, but how does advocacy fit into organic seed farming? As Jared explains, “We frequently respond to policy initiatives and regulatory decisions that threaten the integrity of the seed systems we foster. These issues include the concentrated ownership of plant genetic resources as well as seed integrity in the face of genetic engineering. We actively showcase the benefits of organic seed.” Organic Seed Alliance promotes organic farmer and plant breeder rights by advocating for policies that preserve organic seed systems.