JJ Haapala, owner of Herons Nest Farm, Junction City,
OR 97448 has recently received a government grant to launch
The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project, a three year project to
assemble a farmer owned seed cooperative. Please PASS THE WORD!
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 From: JJ Haapala <email@example.com>
The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project (FCGPATM1L1) is a collaborative
effort to return farmers and gardeners to the practices of
characterizing and saving seed.
With support from the Fund for Rural America, and administered by
Oregon Tilth, the FCGP explores the feasibility of a cooperative
marketing structure that rewards producers for maintaining our nation*s
most vital resource base - the seed.
Seeds are the source of agricultural enterprise. The hybrid corn,
wheat, and rice improvements ushered in a new era of agriculture
throughout the world. Unfortunately, farmers have become increasingly
removed from the genetic resources upon which they depend. Consolidation
of the seed industry, the rush to patent varieties, and recent
technological developments all result in a narrowing of the
genetic base on which agriculture stands.
What is the FCGP?
The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project is a three year project to
assemble a farmer owned seed cooperative. Participants in the effort
will learn how to work with the United States* repository of seeds
(the National Plant Germplasm System) and other seed resources, learn
how to characterize or describe varieties, learn how to grow
true seeds, and develop plant varieties for preservation and sale.
Why do we need the FCGP?
Traditional garden varieties of seed are in decline. Over two-thirds
of the nearly 5,000 non-hybrid vegetable varieties offered in 1984
seed catalogs were dropped by 1994. Less than 10% of the seed companies
in the world are responsible for over 63% of the varieties offered in
As seed companies are lost, traditional and heirloom varieties of
crops are lost. Compile the loss of known traditional varieties with the
lack of preservation efforts for native varieties, and the
threat to our common genetic heritage is staggering.
The loss of seed varieties is a loss of thousands of years of
breeding effort. Collectively, we share the common heritage of
selecting the modern broccoli and carrot from their wild relatives.
There are many implications to plant breeding and
saving - economic, cultural, social, and environmental.
National and international efforts to save seed and other genetic
resources are hampered by insufficient funding, and political and
economic barriers to information sharing. Private efforts often
lack the guidelines for maintaining populations and reproducing true
Of the estimated two million plants, our nation*s genetic
repository, the National Plant Germplasm System, has
approximately 450,000 varieties of plants in storage.
Much of this collection is at risk. The NPGS lack sufficient
diversity for almost half of the major crops to reduce crop
vulnerability. Much of the collection is insufficiently characterized.
The patenting of plants threatens our continued access to agricultural
resources. Patenting obliges farmers to pay royalties on every
generation of seed, breeders no longer have free access to genetic
resources to develop new varieties, and consumers end up paying higher
prices for food and medicine.
To *publish* a variety bars the patenting of that plant. Describing or
characterizing a variety and publishing that description in a catalog
or on the internet goes a long way toward locking that variety into the
public domain, and protecting our common heritage.
Who can participate in the FCGP?
The FCGP wants you! From the window box growing condominium dweller
to the production farmer, the FCGP is open to everyone. Gardeners who
want to take part in characterizing plants can participate in the race
to protect our common heritage.
Growers that have the capacity to reproduce seeds will be encouraged
not only to characterize those varieties, but also make them available
for sale in a cooperative marketing effort.
How does the cooperative work?
While the exact nature of the cooperative is up to the direction
of the membership, the FCGP is premised on three principles:
Growers characterize varieties according to agreed upon guidelines,
including photographs, growth descriptions, susceptibility and
resistance to pests, diseases and stress.
Seeds are grown in accordance to guidelines for seed regeneration that
are acceptable to the National Plant Germplasm System, and other
international seed preservation efforts.
Member growers work with at least one other member to ensure that the
terms of the cooperative are met.
Members access true seed from the National Plant Germplasm System and
other reputable sources, grow out, and describe the variety. Seed
growers grow seed to seed according to acceptable guidelines, work
with another grower, and forward a portion of their seed to a regional
packing facility. The regional packing facility then returns a
percentage per pack sold to the grower.
The regional packing facility coordinates members, offers technical
assistance, publishes a catalog of varieties, stores, and packs and
delivers the seeds for sale.
An Advisory Council directs the activities of the project until a
rotating Board of Directors is established and the cooperative is
In addition to facilitating trialing and development of seed
varieties, the FCGP offers support to growers to familiarize them
with seed resources, the age old art of seed growing, and the business
of cooperative development.
Growing seed is perhaps the most rewarding of enterprises. From just
one seed, hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds are produced. To
witness and participate in this wealth and abundance is awe inspiring.
As we rely more on backyard gardeners and farmers to maintain our
genetic heritage, it becomes increasingly important that we are careful
and knowledgeable about seed preservation.
The vast numbers of plants needing our attention warrants an army
of dedicated growers. Exploring regional varieties and developing new
crops, growers working together add a level of integrity to seed
preservation efforts and create a model for international cooperation.
Seed packing remains one of the most accessible means of creating
a value added product. Instead of watching in dismay as a pound of seed
sold for $25 is put into thousands of packs worth $2 a piece,
participate in the FCGP!
Returns farmers and gardeners to the age old practice of seed
Improves farmer understanding of the National Plant Germplasm System
Identifies new varieties of plants with unique and important traits
Fosters the development of farmer owned, low cost, value added
Strengthens the collaboration between growers, non-profit organizations,
and public institutions
Encourages the public to trial and evaluate plant varieties and
publish their discoveries
Is an international model for farmer owned seed preservation efforts
Introduces new and traditional varieties to the gardener, farmer
Reduces farmers and gardeners reliance on seed and agricultural inputs
I want to know more about the FCGP!
________________________________ Telephone #:______________________
Please provide a brieF description of your gardening or growing
and interest in seeds:_____________________________________
Mail this form to: Farmer Cooperative Genome Project Oregon Tilth
and Education 30848 Maple Dr. Junction City, OR 97448 *!*For more
information contact: JJ Haapala (540) 998-3069 firstname.lastname@example.org ! *** P
(T"After graduating from Reed College, JJ dedicated his life to
agricultural diversity; JJ is the initiator of this project: he can use
your help, media exposure, et al to make this project successful. You
have heard stories about farmers becoming seed serfs; this is another
path.... p.s. organic and conventional farmers can supply seeds.)
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