Farmers can perform an online search for organic seed retailers with the Organic Seed Finder, which launches in October 2012.
One of the first hurdles you’re likely to face as an organic farmer is as small as a seed—actually, it is a seed—and it can be a huge obstacle to your operation. An astounding 80 percent of U.S. organic farmers don’t have organic seed readily available to them, according to survey of certified-organic farmers in 45 states, cited in the Organic Seed Alliance’s "State of Organic Seed” report.
"USDA’s National Organic Program requires the use of organically produced seed when commercially available. But because the organic seed sector was in its infancy when the program began—meaning, the supply couldn't fully meet demand—the rules allow for the use of untreated conventional (non-organic) seed when an equivalent organic form is unavailable,” says Kristina Hubbard, OSA’s director of advocacy and communications
To help meet the needs of organic growers and get them on track to go fully organic from seed to fruit, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, with support from the OSA, on Oct. 1, 2012, will launch the Organic Seed Finder, an online database of organic seed vendors. The database provides a comprehensive listing of organic field-crop, vegetable and herb seeds that allows users to perform an easy search based on their desired crop attributes and connect with seed vendors in their area or elsewhere.
"The organic community has been calling for a new organic seed database for several years,” says Hubbard, who has helped manage the project since it was initiated last year. "Furthermore, the National Organic Standards Board recommended a database in 2005 and reiterated this recommendation again in 2008.”
With the database, a seed search can take a farmer a matter of minutes—saving them time to attend to other important farm matters. First, the farmer selects from the seed finder’s homepage the type of seed he’s looking for: field crop, vegetable or herb. He then selects the crop variety he wants—for example, tomatoes. When he clicks on "Tomatoes,” he is then presented with a checklist of attributes he wants his tomatoes to have: type (cherry, paste, slicer, et cetera.), color, days to maturity and resistance to diseases, such as to spotted wilt virus or yellow leaf curl. Each available crop has a unique list of attributes.
Once the farmer selects his desired attributes, he’s presented with a list of varieties, which includes the name of the business selling the seeds and when the listing for that seed was last updated. (The seed database will not present real-time availability of organic seeds.) If a variety is temporarily sold out but the vendor plans to continue sales once the seed is in stock, this will be indicated. The farmer can then print off this list to add to his files or click on the seed variety to be redirected to the vendor’s website or contact information.
The database will be managed by ASOSCA, and staff will be on call to help users with their seed searches.
For purposes of the launch, the seed finder will only catalog organic seed varieties, but the system is being developed to easily adapt to seed industry’s needs, says AOSCA CEO Chet Boruff. Developers have already considered expansion options, including catalogs for heirloom and non-GMO seeds, but they’re waiting to receive industry feedback before implementing any expansions.
The Organic Seed Finder will go live at www.organicseedfinder.org on Oct. 1, 2012. [Note: You will not be able to access the database website until the launch date.]
In the days leading up to the launch, AOSCA is inviting farmers, seed vendors and other stakeholders to provide input on the type of seed you would like to see cataloged in the Organic Seed Finder’s database. Send your questions about the Organic Seed Finder or its October launch to firstname.lastname@example.org