Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) will host its Sixth Organic Seed Growers Conference in Port Townsend, Wash., on Jan. 19–21, 2012. The conference begins with a one-day tour showcasing the burgeoning organic seed industry in Washington’s Skagit Valley. The conference features presentations, panel discussions, networking events, and entertainment around the theme: Strengthening Community Seed Systems.

The event is the largest in North America to focus solely on organic seed systems. Session topics range from organic plant breeding, seed production, and distribution, to enhancing policies that support the growth and integrity of the organic seed sector.

The conference offers more than two-dozen sessions ranging from agronomic issues on the farm (seed production and disease management); breeding topics (public university projects and participatory models); economic matters (organic seed markets and marketing); and policy discussions (strategies for building the organic seed sector). Presenters are leaders in their field and represent diverse regions, crop types, and farming scales. More than 300 farmers, researchers, distribution companies, plant breeders, pathologists, university extension agents, food industry representatives, and others are expected to attend.

Prior to the conference, a full day tour of the Skagit Valley offers participants an extraordinary opportunity to learn about organic seed research projects in a major vegetable seed production region of international importance. The all-day field tour, co-sponsored by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, will include major cabbage, beet and spinach growing regions; organic variety trials at Osborne Seed Company; and the Washington State University Northwest Research Center.

Two nationally recognized authorities provide this year’s keynote talks. William F. Tracy is the interim dean and director of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He leads one of the few remaining public sector sweet corn breeding programs in the U.S., and is active in other organic plant breeding projects. Eric Holt-Giménez is the executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, an organization working to end the injustices that cause hunger, poverty and environmental degradation throughout the world. His research and writing concentrates on the global food crisis, the Farm Bill, fair trade, and food justice issues.

More than 40 additional experts will present at the conference (view a full list at the link below).

Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center is a wonderful gathering place that offers historic buildings on the water with stunning views. The facility offers reasonable rates for participant lodging and delicious organic food featuring the Northwest’s best. Local musicians will provide entertainment.

Register and find more information at www.seedalliance.org.