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Society of Organic Seed Professionals Accepting Members
Minnesota Ag Connection - 04/09/2019

The Society of Organic Seed Professionals (SOSP) is a new membership organization of researchers and practitioners committed to the advancement of organic seed systems. This month, SOSP is launching an outreach campaign to recruit new members. SOSP invites scientists, educators, farmers, entrepreneurs, policy advocates, seed company professionals and students to gather, share their work and generate interpersonal connections that amplify each individual's passion and ensure a robust future for organic agriculture.

As demand for organically-produced food increases rapidly (the market grew from an $8 billion industry in 2002 to one with sales over $45 billion in 2017 according to research conducted by the Organic Trade Association), the need for certified organic seeds is critical. Furthermore, organic farmers need access to crop varieties that excel in their unique growing conditions and serve their markets. Supply of certified organic seed and seed of varieties bred for organic production environments lags behind demand (Organic Seed Alliance's 2016 State of Organic Seed report).

The Society of Organic Seed Professionals envisions an equitable, innovative agricultural future in which organic farmers have reliable access to high-quality seed of varieties adapted to organic production. SOSP fosters learning and collaboration among diverse people working in organic seed systems within and beyond the United States. Knowing that ideas germinate and grow at the intersection of relationships and concepts, the society creates space for formal research sharing, unstructured networking and camaraderie. SOSP is fiscally-sponsored by Organic Seed Alliance, a 501(c)3 organization.

Since SOSP's founding in 2017, the board of directors has worked to define member benefits, establish an organizational structure and recruit a core of 30 founding members. The society is now embarking on efforts to engage potential members more broadly. In addition to the networking opportunities provided by the annual Student Organic Seed Symposium (which SOSP leads), SOSP members will benefit from access to a member listserv, resources available on the SOSP website, and mentorship opportunities for early career and experienced organic seed professionals. Those interested in joining SOSP can do so on the website: www.organicseedsociety.org. SOSP offers a sliding scale of membership dues.

SOSP grew out of the Student Organic Seed Symposium (SOSS), an annual event organized by graduate students studying plant breeding for organic production systems. After dix years of SOSS, alumni of the Symposium decided to extend the community-building, collaborative learning and mentorship opportunities available through SOSS to those who are no longer students or who have not pursued graduate studies. The founding board members completed a year-long strategic planning process to develop a vision and mission for the society focused on building an inclusive and holistic community.

According to Dr. Lindsay Wyatt, squash breeder at Johnny's Selected Seeds, "SOSP's founding has been a labor of love by prior organizers of SOSS. We had found so much meaning and community in the symposium, and were reluctant to leave it behind as we moved on from our graduate student days. SOSP is designed to provide the same fellowship and support as SOSS, while extending participation to a broader network on seed professionals. As we each work in our own corner of the organic seed industry, doing our part for a healthier and more sustainable food system, it's deeply enriching to have a group of friends and colleagues who share the same goals."

SOSP's member recruitment effort takes place in advance of the 2019 Student Organic Seed Symposium, which will be open to all SOSP members and non-member graduate students. The symposium will be held in Madison, Wis., in 2019, and will move to alternate locations every other year. Registration is now open at www.soseeds.org/2019-registration.

In addition to Wyatt, who serves on the board, other leaders of the organization include Claire Luby, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Tessa Peters, The Land Institute, co-chairs of the board; Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance; Brigid Meints, Oregon State University; Tiffany Fess, West Virginia University; Solveig Hanson, UW-Madison; Kitt Healy, Organic Seed Alliance, Minneapolis, Minn.; Rachel Hultengren, Seattle, Wash.; Adrienne Shelton, Vitalis Organic Seeds; and Hannah Swegarden, Cornell University. For more information about the Society, go to www.organicseedsociety.org/.

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