Category Archives: Videos

Organic Seed Growers Conference Webinars

Below is the official information for 6 webinars broadcast from OSA’s Organic Seed Growers Conference.
I am one of the speakers in Seed Economics: How to Make Growing and Selling Seed More Profitable.
If you’re interested in listening, make sure to register for the webinars!

The Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) is hosting their 8th biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference in Corvallis Program from February 4 – 6, 2016. While there is a great contingency of BC and Canadian growers attending the 2016 conference not everybody can make the trip.

We are happy to announce that OSA, in partnership with eOrganic, will be offering a number of the conference workshops via webinar!

You can register for the webinars here.

Below is a quick list of the webinar topics and times and you can find a more detailed list here.

  • Seed Economics: How to Make Growing and Selling Seed More Profitable
    • Friday, February 5th, 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM Pacific
  • Seed Equipment: On-farm Innovations
    • Friday, February 5th, 1:30 – 3:00 PM Pacific
  • Vegetable Breeding Research Updates
    • Friday, February 5th, 3:30 – 5:00 PM Pacific
  • Organic Cover Crop Seed Production
    • Saturday, February 6th, 9:00 – 10:30 AM Pacific
  • Vegetable Seed Production: Scaling up
    • Saturday, February 6th, 1:30 – 3:00 PM Pacific
  • Managing Seed Borne Disease: Brassica Black Leg and Implications for Organic Seed Producers and Industry
    • Saturday, February 6th, 3:30 – 5:00 PM Pacific

Video About Large-Scale Garlic Scape Processing

I just watched this report on la Semaine Verte about garlic scapes.

The video showacses Le Petit Mas and their garlic scape harvest. They harvest 1000s of pound at a time and shuffle them around in bulk bins. They then process the scapes and lacto ferment them.

If you are interested in garlic, you should watch it even if you don’t understand French!

Below is a picture of our high-tech garlic scape storage system: garlic scapesI

Planning Seed Crops Webinar – Wed. Feb 19, 2014

You are invited to join us for a webinar on Planning Vegetable Seed Crops. 
The first in our series “Growing for Seed: The Fundamentals” this webinar will feature presentations from Patrick Steiner (Stellar Seeds, BC), Daniel Brisebois (Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm, QC), and Michelle Smith (Northwind Farm, NS). Together they’ll cover a range of topics to get you started in your seed garden this year, including:
–Knowing seed crops & lifecycle patterns, isolation distances, and population sizes;
–Sourcing appropriate seed stock and integrating seed production onto your farm; and
–Using and marketing seed crops: intended use and prospective buyers.
DATE: Wednesday February 19th, 2014
TIME: 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
TO JOIN THE MEETING, simply click here, or copy and paste this link into your browser:
Once the meeting is started you should be able to see and hear everything directly on/from your computer. If you can see the meeting, but you can’t hear us, you can dial-in (toll-free) to get the audio.
The phone number is 1-866-811-9555, the conference code you will be prompted to enter is 9730133156. Please use your phone only if you can’t use your computer.
In order to participate in the webinar you’ll need:
–A computer with Flash. If you can watch (and hear) a YouTube video, you’re probably all good. If you can’t try downloading Flash Player here.
–If you’re in a shared space, you’ll want headphones to plug into your computer to hear the audio without disturbing others.
If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before you can get a quick overview here:
If you have questions about how to join this webinar, please contact Steph at 
If you can’t join us on Wednesday, but are interested in this content, we will be posting it online at Please be patient with us, we’ll post the content as quickly as we can.
Please note that this is an English webinar. We are planning 2 French webinars and will keep you updated on that as details are confirmed.

2012 BC Seeds Gathering Videos

The November 9-11, 2012 weekend was a seedy one cross Canada. I’ve already reported back about ECOSGN’s Seed Connection conference in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC. On the other side of the country the BC Seeds Network had a 3-day BC Seeds Gathering and it sounds like it was just as fantastic as the East Coast event.

Farm Folk City Folk has begun to post videos from the event on youtube. Here’s what they’ve posted so far:

Don Tipping

Don Tipping speaks about how seeds fits into his seed company Siskiyou Seeds, the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative he participates in, and on Seven Seeds Farm ( the biodynamic/permaculture farm where Don grows organic seed amidst vegetables and livestock).

Opening Plenary part 1

Suzie Walsh (USC Canada) and Patrick Steiner (Stellar Seeds) open the event integrating the BC seed picture into the Canadian and international seed picture.

Opening Plenary part 2

A number of seedy folks come up and speaks about their interest in seed.

One More Video

This video isn’t actually from the conference but it is about BC Seed Grower Dan Jason (Salt Spring Seeds) so I thought it still fits. It is also only 3 minutes.

The Real Seed Catalogue DIY Seed Cleaner

Here is a video that Ben Gable from the Real Seed Company sent me of their DIY seed cleaner:

Open-Source, DIY Seed Cleaner Plans are also available on their site

If you want to see more DIY seed cleaning equipment, you can view two of my previous post that include the air columns that Patrice Fortier and Greta Kryger built.

Do any of you have homemade seed cleaning equipment you’d love to share with other seed growers?

Also, tomorrow (March 23) there is a free webinar on Breeding for Nutrition in Organic Seed Systems at 2 p.m. Eastern. However you have to register in advance.

My trip to the OSA Organic Seed Growers Conference

On Jan 19-21, 2012, I attended the 6th Organic Seed Growers Conference in organized by the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA). The event started off with a one-day tour of the Skagit Vally seed region and then two days of conferences in Port Towsnend, WA.

If you missed the event, you can download the conference proceedings or view videos of the plant breeding sessions through eOrganic.

Though I did participate in a panel on marketing and growing seed profitably with Maud Powell and Steve Peters, today I won’t be posting about that but about the rest of my experience.

Pre-Conference Skagit Valley Seed Tour

Skagit county produces approximately 8% of the world’s spinach seed, 25% of the world’s cabbage seed, and 50% of the world’s beet seed (from WSU Skagit County Agricultural Statistics 2010) .

Here are some of the highlights of the tour:

Field Tour

A couple of days earlier about a foot of snow had fallen (an exceptionally large volume for this area). The walking part of the tour was subsequently canceled and all the following field pictures were taken through the tour bus window.

Here is a field of overwintered cabbages for hybrid seed production. The tour guide mentioned there were 2 rows of female plants for one row of male plants.

Another shot of a cabbage field. There is a v-ditch every 12 rows for drainage.

This area also produces a lot of raspberries.

Pinning Maps

With so many seed crops grown in one area, isolation distances are a big concern. Seed companies growing seed in the valley meet every year to decide who will grow what crops where using pinning maps.

In the Skagit Valley seed companies meet at WSU Mount Vernon Research Center for this process.

These are the cabbage pinning maps.

This is a chart of minimum isolation distance for different types of Brassica oleracea.

The red lines indicate areas where only one type of Brassica oleracea may be grown.

The pinning order is determined randomly. The first person pins a field for their crop. Then the next person pins a field. Each subsequent person needs to respect the minimum isolation distance from the fields that are already pinned.

This way seed companies cooperate to make sure their seed crops maintain varietal purity.

Soil Testing For Spinach Seed Crops

Spinach seed crops are particularly sensitive to bacterial and fungal disease. A 10- year crop rotation is the minimum to break many of these spinach disease cycles. In some cases this isn’t enough. Prior to pinning, growers can bring soil samples to WSU Mount Vernon Research Center to determine whether their soil is indeed disease-free.

Spinach seeds are planted (with replication) in the soil in a greenhouse in January. Within a month it is possible to evaluate the spinach seedlings to see what degree of disease might be expected.

Dr. Lindsey du Toit runs the vegetable seed pathology program.

The Conference

When I came to the previous Organic Seed Growers Conference in 2008 in Salem, OR, I was bombarded with information about climate appropriate seeds, plant breeding, seed cleaning details,  dynamics of the vegetable seed industry, and more.

Having already had this experience, I wasn’t at the 2012 conference only for seed information. I was here to be inspired (and I was inspired – especially about seed libraries, which I’ll be posting more about soon) and to mingle with the seedy underbelly of the organic farming world. In addition to seeing many old friends, I made some new friends.

Some folks I’d been reading about, or following their blogs, or even ordering/growing their seeds. I got to meet Sarah Kleeger and Andrew Still of Adaptive Seeds (and the Seed Ambassadors Project)  – Sarah was a touch disappointed I didn’t have a French accent.

I was surprised to be talking with Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds. She was a long way from Ireland. She told me this wasn’t the first OSA conference she’d gone to either.

With other folks this was the first time I touched base. I spoke with Holli Cederholm of Proud Peasant Farm (who also works for Fedco) about how crop planning books don’t seem to factor in the food that the farmers eat. I was impressed by how much food Holli puts up and I thought Fred and I need to add a homesteading chapter if ever we revise our Crop Planning book.

I chatted with Doug Baty of Wild Plum Farm for quite a while about garlic. He couldn’t believe how big our porcelain garlic grew. I couldn’t believe how big his artichoke garlic were.

Sometimes you have to go a long way to meet someone from close to home. Though she’s now based in California, Rowen White of the Sierra Seeds Coop  grew up a couple of hours from Montreal. She is also the author of the just-published Breeding Organic Vegetables (available through NOFA NY).

I kept running into Chris Hardy of the Village Farm in Ashland, OR. We talked a lot about Tulsi.

And I got to know some folks better that I’d only met briefly at the 2008 conference such as Hanako Myers and Marko Colby of Midori Farm. I think every farmers market needs quality locally-produced kimchi and sauerkraut.

I did meet a lot of other folks too, including a number of people who’ve been reading Going to Seed. It was great meeting and talking with everybody. Seedy people are an interesting and friendly lot.

If you haven’t been to a OSA conference, you should. The next one will probably  be in 2014. I’ll likely be there.

(P.S.  the just posted Five Books Dan Brisebois thinks new farmers should read)

More ways to clean brassica seeds

Over the last 10 days I’ve been cleaning the brassica seed we harvested in June from overwintered plants. This is to clear some space for spring planted brassica seed crops that are ready for harvest.

I’ve already written about our brassica seed cleaning techniques. However this year I used some different threshing methods:

Your choice of music is not important for the success of this method, as long as it’s loud.

I always wear gloves when handling dry seed crops. It is very easy to get splinters. Whether working by foot or by hand I’ve also started wearing a dust mask when cleaning dry seed crops.

The chaff pile also has a video on alternative brassica seed cleaning methods.

If you want to know more about the harvesting part of this operation, you can read my 2010 brassica seed harvesting post.

Now, if the thunder storms hold off, we’ll get into some serious garlic harvesting.