SOSS 2022 Announcement

After a two-season hiatus, we are pleased to announce that the Student Organic Seed Symposium (SOSS) will be hosted by West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV during summer 2022! SOSS is an annual gathering of graduate students, researchers, farmers, and seed industry professionals working in organic seed systems. Since its inception in 2012, the goal of SOSS has been to create a community grounded in both scientific rigor and regenerative ethics with a focus on providing support to graduate students working in organic systems. Support and mentorship from experienced professors and industry professionals working in organic systems helps students strengthen their research skills and facilitate post-graduate opportunities while fostering the continued growth of the organic seed movement. Although the primary academic focus of many SOSS attendees is centered around plant breeding for resilience under organic management, we equally welcome students from all disciplines working in organic agriculture and seed systems. Stayed tuned for further info about dates, student applications, speakers, and other exciting event details this winter.

We can’t wait to see you again!

New Board Members!

We are very pleased to announce that two new members have joined the board: Lane Selman and Cristiana Vallejos.

Lane Selman grew up on a citrus farm that her Sicilian great-grandparents planted in 1919 on Florida's space coast. She studied Agronomy (BS) and Entomology (MS) at University of Florida before moving to Oregon in 2000. Lane is an Assistant Professor of Practice at Oregon State University where she has worked with organic vegetable and grain farmers, managed collaborative research projects, and planned outreach events since 2005. In 2011, Lane created the Culinary Breeding Network to build communities of plant breeders, seed growers, farmers, produce buyers, chefs and other stakeholders to improve quality in vegetables and grains. She currently serves on the Portland-Bologna Sister City Association board. Lane lives in Portland, Oregon. Lane was inspired to join the board of SOSP as she strongly believes that building community and increasing connections in the organic seed world will enhance our effectiveness as change makers.

Cristiana Vallejos is a Master’s student in the Crop and Soil Science Department at Oregon State University focusing on Plant Breeding & Genetics. In 2019, they were awarded a B.S. in Horticulture with an option in PB&G from Oregon State University. They attended SOSS in both 2018 and 2019 as an undergrad student while working on breeding tomatoes for disease resistance for organic systems. Currently, their research focuses on breeding multi-use naked barley for organic systems. As a current student, who identifies as queer and non-binary, Cristiana was motivated to join the SOSP board in hope of finding a community within the plant breeding field that supports and  encourages inclusivity and gender equity.

Variety Showcase!

Founded in 2011 by Lane Selman, a Professor of Practice at Oregon State University, the Culinary Breeding Network (CBN) stems from the idea that plant breeders, farmers, buyers, chefs, distributors and eaters have a lot to teach one another. One of the main events that the CBN hosts each year is the Variety Showcase, which is an interactive mixer designed to build community among plant breeders, seed growers, farmers, chefs, produce buyers, food journalists, consumers and more. The annual event pairs breeders and chefs to create unique “bites” made with new varieties and breeding lines that allow participants to engage in the breeding process, learn about organic plant breeding and seed, and taste delicious examples of the vegetable, grain, herb, fruit, or other crop being featured. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event has had to switch to a virtual format for 2021, but Lane has curated a group of breeders, seed growers, and others involved in the seed system to present on their work. Included in this group are a number of SOSP members! We encourage you to tune in live to the entire event (or watch the videos later) via the CBN YouTube Account, but if you want to specifically check out the sessions that include SOSP members, they are bolded below.


  • 10:00-10:30 - Preservation and Selection of ‘Penncrisp’ Blanching Celery. Presenters: Earl Groff of Groff’s Vegetable Farm and Tom Culton of Culton Biologique. Based in Lancaster County, PA.
  • 10:30-11:00 - Interspecific Hybridization in Amateur Squash Breeding. Presenter: Klaus Brugger. Based in Austria.
  • 11:00-11:30 - Okra Seed Oil Breeding Project. Presenter: Chris Smith of The Utopian Seed Project. Based in North Carolina.
  • 11:30-12:00 - Winter Radish Breeding. Presenter: Peter Lassnig of Solawi Ackerschön. Based in Austria.
  • 12:00-1:00 - Seed Production with Organic Seed Alliance. Presenters: Micaela Colley, Laurie McKenzie, and Jared Zystro of Organic Seed Alliance


  • 10:00-10:30 - Kabocha Squash Breeding. Presenter: Lindsay Wyatt of Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Based in Maine.
  • 10:30-11:30 - History of Seed and Plant Catalogs. Presenter: Alice Formiga of Oregon State University and eOrganic
  • 11:30-12:00 - Organic Naked Barley. Presenters: Brigid Meints, Pat Hayes, Jordyn Bunting, and Cristiana Vallejos of Oregon State University Barleyworld
  • 12:00-1:00 - Plant Breeding with Organic Seed Alliance. Presenters: Micaela Colley, Laurie McKenzie, and Jared Zystro of Organic Seed Alliance


  • 10:00-10:30 - Lorenzo Trussoni Heirloom Safflower. Presenters: Norah Hummel, Steffen Mirsky, and Cody Egan of Seed Savers Exchange. Based in Iowa.
  •  10:30-11:00 - How to Use the GRIN Database. Presenter: Nathan Kleinman of Experimental Farm Network. Based in Pennsylvania.
  • 11:00-11:30 - Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture. Presenters: Phil Simon of USDA-ARS, Jaspreet Sidhu of UC Davis, and Organic Seed Alliance
  •  11:30-12:00 - Rainbows of Peas. Presenters: Johanna Keigler and Michael Mazourek of Cornell University


  • 10:00-10:30 - ‘Steph Kuri’ – a red kuri squash. Presenters: Adrienne Shelton and Shaina Bronstein of Vitalis Organic Seeds.
  • 10:30-11:00 -Participatory Beet Breeding. Presenter: Solveig Hanson of University of British Columbia (research conducted at University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • 11:00-11:30 - Tartary Buckwheat . Presenter: Nathan Kleinman of Experimental Farm Network. Based in Pennsylvania.
  • 11:30-12:00 - Purple Sprouting Broccoli breeding. Presenter: John Navazio of Johnny's Selected Seeds. Based in Maine.


  • 9:45-11:00 - #ArtGenetics. Genomes on Canvas: Artist’s Perspective on Evolution of Plant-Based Foods. Presenters: Ive De Smet, molecular biologist at the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, and David Vergauwen, art historian at Amarant. Based in Belgium.
  • 11:00-11:30. Yakteen, a beloved Palestinian edible gourd. Presenters: Vivien Sansour of Palestine Heirloom Seed Library and Ken Greene of Hudson Valley Seed Company
  • 11:30-12:00 - 'Marzito' a unique, mini-Marzano tomato. Presenter: Josh Kirschenbaum of PanAmerican Seed Company

SOSS/SOSP events update!

Despite having to cancel SOSS in 2020 and 2021, and all of the challenges this past year has thrown at all of us personally and professionally, we’ve been excited about the new community building and knowledge sharing opportunities that have grown out of our shift to online everything.

We launched several recurring member events including a book club, career exploration group, and monthly happy hour. The SOSP book club meets bi-weekly on Mondays at 6:30pm ET and our first book was Data Feminism, which details “a new way of thinking about data science and data ethics that is informed by the ideas of intersectional feminism.” We had several engaging discussions about this book and how we can work to apply its lessons on using data and science to promote justice and equity to our own work with seed and plant breeding. Our next book will be: The Color of Creatorship: Intellectual Property, Race, and the Making of Americans by Anjali Vats.

One of the challenges that we have heard over the past decade of SOSS is the need to both provide mentorship and create career opportunities in organic seed and plant breeding. Our career exploration group, started this past fall, is for members interested in developing knowledge, skills, relationships, and experiences needed to successfully transition to their next career stage by working with each other and mentors. We have had three meetings of the group thus far and have heard about several different career paths in academia, the seed industry, and non-profit sectors. The career explorations working group will continue to meet on the second Friday of each month at 12pm ET. We are always welcome to new members, whether you are looking for your next career move or able to provide mentorship.

In conjunction with NOFA-NY in January, we hosted our first of many monthly happy hours – thank you to all who joined! We hope that you can join us to meet new faces in the organic seed community and connect with old friends. Please consider joining us for future happy hours on the third Thursday of each month at 8pm ET.

Finally, in addition to our recurring member events, we are also hosting monthly open events to connect with, grow, and diversify the SOSP network in 2021. Our upcoming events include webinars, a ‘seed hack’ forum, and a graduate student research talk competition. We’re constantly adding to our list of programming, so please check the Events calendar.

While we missed seeing you all in person in 2020 (and will again in 2021), we are eager to plan for our 2022 SOSS gathering in West Virginia. We are excited to announce that we received an OREI Conference Grant which will enable us to offer nearly $25,000 in SOSS 2022 travel scholarships, diversify our presentation and engagement formats, and hire an administrative coordinator to help with organizing SOSS as well as SOSP management and relations with our fiscal sponsor, the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA). In particular, we are planning to focus on 1) Promoting networking among graduate students, and academic and industry professionals within the organic seed sector to facilitate post-graduation job opportunities for graduate students in the organic seed sector; 2) Communicating the latest organic plant breeding research and seed-based initiatives to SOSS participants and the broader organic seed community; 3) Initiating science-based discussions to identify organic breeding priorities and evaluate techniques; 4) Connecting organic seed and plant breeding research to broader scientific communities.

We truly hope that you join us for some or all of our upcoming events and if you have ideas for additional programming, please let us know!

SOSP Inclusivity Intensive

Social and racial justice have dominated conversation this year, prompting individuals and organizations alike to discuss internal diversity, racial bias, and inclusivity efforts with the hopes of developing targeted actions toward curbing systemic maladies. The Society of Organic Seed Professionals has been no exception.

The SOSP mission statement clearly states our values and ideologies as an organization: “... SOSP fosters learning and collaboration among the diverse people working in organic seed systems... SOSP values diversity, interdependence, and regeneration in the SOSP leadership... [we] seek leaders with varied backgrounds and fresh ideas...” But, as we’ve seen this year, these ideologies must be constantly reexamined and upheld by our actions.

We [SOSP] want to take actions that dismantle systemic racism within our organization and our various professional spheres, and we know that work requires self-reflection first. This past August, SOSP board members conducted a four-week inclusivity “intensive” to help us understand the historical and cultural context of SOSP and engage in self-reflection as an organization before designing outward-facing social and racial justice agendas. The intensive was comprised of a series of motivating questions, readings/resources, and reflection prompts to provide subject background and facilitate further reflection. Major questions addressed during this intensive included the following:

  • Self-Reflection: Who am I as a member of SOSP?
  • Intersection of Social Identities: Who are my colleagues and partners in SOSP?
  • How and what am I communicating to my colleagues and partners?
  • What are steps toward making change within SOSP?

This material and subsequent discussion was challenging at times, especially given the current socio-political climate. We faced uncomfortable conversations regarding the lack of new leadership, a relatively homogeneous board, small numbers of graduate student memberships, and a tendency towards insularity as a niche professional society. Many of our conversations highlighted the fact that we exist within a larger system of agriculture rooted in oppression and inequities. These conversations served to remind us that we have a lot of work to do to systematically change how we reach and engage a broader audience about organic plant breeding and seed systems.

Since completing the intensive, we have continued to discuss new ways of creating an open door for conversation with diverse audiences outside of our existing spheres. Initial points for action include diversifying our programming to offer online discussions, webinars, a book club, and career-exploration workshops to expand our current network. Internally, we are writing inclusivity and diversity goals into each subcommittee’s annual work plan, thereby creating multiple levels of accountability across SOSP’s board.

Our place in the larger context of unjust agricultural systems is small, but we believe that through continued conversation and directed action we can affect positive change in our community. We recognize we are far from having an embedded structure that consistently allies with BIPOC, LGBQT+, and other marginalized groups, but we are primed to put in the hard work to ensure that SOSP is truly an equitable and racially just organization.

Note: Many of the resources, readings, and prompts were derived from Cornell’s “Teaching and Learning in the Diverse Classroom” course offered in Spring 2020. Materials presented in that course were reframed and adapted to inspire reflection and conversation specific to our organic seed organization. Cornell’s TLDC course has transitioned to a massive open online course (MOOC) format.  If you are interested, you can find more information at

Cooperative Gardens Commission

In the midst of the cascading chaos happening around the world due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic and supply chain disruptions, shortages of critical supplies and food items are already happening. In response, a group of some 400 volunteers has come together around a new project called the Cooperative Gardens Commission. This project idea was launched by Nate Kleinman and the Experimental Farm Network last week, and is based on the idea of ‘Victory Gardens’ during World War II, where it is estimated that people grew about 40% of the country’s fresh vegetables from about 20 million home, school, and community gardens.

The ask is for people to grow and share as much food as possible from their front lawn to farm field to alleviate the repercussions of a potential collapse in the food supply. There has already been a huge increase in demand for seed and gardening supplies and in the first few days alone (before a big push for publicity), over 1000 people signed up to grow gardens.

If you are interested in learning more, or helping as a volunteer, check out their website.

You can also read the NYT piece published with a bit about the project.

Seed Story Reflection

I looked down at the seed in my hand. Wide at one end and tapered at the other, with alternating gray and white stripes, this was the seed I had chosen to represent the story of how I became involved in seed work.

We know that seeds are not merely physical objects. They have a history, and that history is an essential part of the variety itself. Knowing more about its winding path – where it comes from and who shepherded it along the way – causes us to see it, and our role in its story, differently. It’s vital that we investigate and share these stories; as Solveig Hanson said at the this year’s Student Organic Seed Symposium, “We thrive on beauty”, and I believe that this applies not only to the aesthetics of a seed, but to the stories that bear witness to the love, devotion, curiosity and collaboration involved in seed saving and plant breeding.

I was excited when I heard that the theme of SOSS this year would be ‘Seed Stories’, as I’d lately been thinking about the stories we tell about seeds, and I came away from the symposium with a renewed appreciation for the many facets a story can have.

Even though I had been thinking about seed stories, one of the sessions at this year’s SOSS expanded my understanding of what those stories could encompass. At the beginning of the workshop, Ken Greene (Co-founder and Director of Seedshed) passed around bowls filled with seeds, instructing us to pick one that spoke to us. I stared for a moment, not wanting to slow the group down but captivated by the many beautiful options. How to choose? Should I pick a familiar seed, or one I’ve worked with most? I ended up with a sunflower seed. Its monochromatic coat had caught my eye and called to mind the huge flowers that our neighbors grew when I was young – one of my earliest memories of someone growing plants for their seeds.

Ken encouraged us to see ourselves as part of a long lineage that stretches back millennia, to consider all the plants from which our seeds descended and all the hands they passed through. As breeders, we play a role in the most recent step in a long journey, not the first or the most important, and certainly not the last. Next, Ken broadened the lens through which to see a variety, suggesting that there are eight themes in seed stories - Scientific, Technological, Geographic, Historical, Cultural, Spiritual, Personal, and Culinary -  and encouraging us to think and talk more broadly about the varieties we grow and work on.

It was a love of story that compelled me in 2018 to start Free the Seed!, a podcast where I interview plant breeders about new varieties that they’ve developed and pledged to the Open Source Seed Initiative. In each episode, I ask guests to share with listeners why they embarked on their breeding projects, what choices they’ve made along the way, and how they decided to finally release their new variety. I believe that narrative can be a powerful tool to draw us in; I knew that I wanted to showcase not only the facts, but the personal story behind each variety – the surprises as well as the challenges.  Reflecting on the Seed Stories workshop, I’ve realized that the stories told on Free the Seed! are just one snapshot in the history of a variety, and have been considering how to ask questions that get at the different themes Ken suggested and better place those snapshots in their proper context.

When we acknowledge the stewardship that was necessary to bring these seeds to us, we begin to appreciate our part in the story. As Ken said, it’s nearly impossible to find a single starting point, but the exercise itself is instructive. How much more can you learn? How many more people can you be grateful for? This curiosity engenders gratitude and humility. It widens our understanding of the world to learn of the diversity of cultural significances attached to a variety. And it brings a solemnity to our actions as seed savers and plant breeders to know that the results of our work will wind up in the hands of others who will care for it and see in it the potential for new beauty and utility.

How can you cultivate curiosity and openness about the varieties you have the privilege to work with? What’s your seed story?

SOSS 2019

Seed Stories: Narratives of Self, Science, Spirit, and Social Context

The 2019 Student Organic Seed Symposium was held this August 22-25 in at Bethel Horizons Retreat Center near Dodgeville, WI. The symposium’s theme was “Seed Stories: Narratives of Self, Science, Spirit, and Social Context,” because each of us has a story – a lifelong series of causes and events, people and places – that led us to work with organic seed systems. Each of those stories has context: of personal choices, cultural values, and socioeconomic structures. And importantly, none of these stories is finished. SOSS 2019 was envisioned as an invitation to share, re-examine, and re-imagine our seed stories.

Thursday, August 22

For our Thursday evening welcome dinner, we gathered around picnic tables for locally-raised barbeque pork, braised summer squash, coleslaw, cornbread, and more from Underground Catering. An opening campfire followed, at which organizers framed the SOSS gathering itself as a story. We met one another – the cast of characters – with responses to the question “if your plants took notes on you, what would they see?” We met the place we were gathered, now a Lutheran-affiliated camp and retreat center, set on ancestral Ho-Chunk land. Elena Terry, Ho-Chunk chef and presenter, greeted us in her language and expressed thanks that we were gathered for the purpose of caring for plants and the land. After a review of the SOSS story’s plotline – our agenda for the coming days – we dispersed for conversation and grown-up s’mores with locally baked graham crackers, handmade marshmallows, and organic chocolate.

Friday, August 23

Friday began with the stories of two seed professionals. Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm in Sunol, California described her work: preserving Korean American culture through its foodways and, by extension, seed. She partners with Kitazawa Seed Company to make seeds important to Korean culture – like perilla, which she described as a “lamplight” by which those with Korean ancestry can locate one another in American neighborhoods.

Jason Cavatorta, co-founder of EarthWork Seeds, told his story of creating an independent vegetable seed company after conducting graduate research in organic plant breeding at Cornell University and then working for Monsanto as an onion breeder. He and co-founder Jon Hart draw on their scientific training, knowledge of the vegetable seed marketplace, and strong work ethics to create tomato and melon varieties with strong disease resistance, reliable performance, and exceptional flavor for both commercial and garden-scale growers.

Next, a Seed Story workshop led by Ken Greene of SeedShed and Hudson Valley Seed Company challenged us to research and write origin stories for existing vegetable varieties. This activity led us to consider the many layers of human-plant contact embodied in any single seed. We discussed the dynamics of telling seed stories from cultures other than our own, and we reflected on the ways that seed stories hold not only the seed variety’s history but the storyteller’s perspective.

After lunch on the sunny retreat center deck, we came together for a discussion of race and farming. Rowen White, the scheduled facilitator and keynote speaker, was unable to attend, but we felt that the topic was too important to discard. To start the discussion, an impromptu panel composed of Ken Greene and Deborah Ni of SeedShed, Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm, Yusuf Bin-Rella of UW Dining and the TradeRoots Collective, and graduate student Solveig Hanson offered perspectives on the way their respective racial identities inform their work with seeds and food. That is, they opened discussion around the way race influences the questions we ask about seeds, the goals of our seed and food projects, the resources available to carry them out, and the communities served by those projects.

Discussion about these topics – and many others – continued into the afternoon’s free time. It was sunny and 75 degrees (Fahrenheit), unusually cool for Wisconsin in August but a welcome respite from summer heat and humidity. Many attendees went hiking on Bethel Horizons’ 548 acres of forest, rocky outcroppings, and grassy valley. We returned for an impressive succession of student research presentations.

The day concluded with a taco dinner featuring supersweet corn from Dr. Bill Tracy’s UW-Madison Sweet Corn Breeding Program. After dinner, a panel of plant breeders discussed the intersection of business and plant breeding. Don Tipping of Siskyou Seeds, Lindsay Wyatt of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm discussed the way business imperatives influence their breeding goals and decisions about resource allocation. Campfire and conversation continued into the night.

Saturday, August 24

Saturday began with a bus trip to the West Madison Agriculture Research Station to view the SOSS Demonstration Plots which showcased SOSS attendees’ plant breeding work. Next, Dan Cornelius of the Intertribal Agriculture Council introduced us to Native corn and squash varieties, by way of describing his work to strengthen Indian agriculture, food culture, and seedkeeping traditions. He also discussed the congruities and tensions between indigenous seedkeeping traditions and modern organic plant breeding and seed production. We then gathered corn and squash from the Indigenous North American Crops plots and beets, peppers, tomatoes, and more from SOSS and Seed to Kitchen Collaborative plots. After locally-sourced sandwiches and salads from Pasture and Plenty, we headed back to Bethel Horizons.

The group then embarked on a communal meal preparation extravaganza. Over a firepit, Elena Terry and Dan Cornelius directed the preparation of corn tortillas, smoked whitefish and pulled bison to fill them, wild rice “cowboy” bread, roasted gete okosoman squash, and corn mush for dessert. In the Prairie Center, we stuffed tomatoes, concocted four different salsas, grilled zucchini, and roasted beets under the direction of chef Yusuf Bin-Rella.

Dinner was served a smidgen (read: hour and a half) later than scheduled, but everyone had been involved in its preparation, and the group was convivial and patient. The buffet line was resplendent in tomato-red, zucchini-green, and squash-gold; redolent with smoky and roasted aromas; vivacious in its offer of hot salsas and pico de gallo; grounded in a bounty of corn. The meal was truly an Indigenous Meets Nonnative Organic feast; it embodied a merging of cultures and foodways, and it arose from an afternoon’s worth of learning-from, teaching-to, and plain old camaraderie.

After our late dinner, the gracious and flexible Ken Greene offered a keynote telling (bedtime) seed stories and describing Hudson Valley Seed Co’s own story of working with artists to illuminate the person-plant narratives embodied in seed.  After still more conversation and campfire, Saturday wound down.

 Sunday, August 25

SOSS closed on Sunday morning with brunch, a brief group closing, last minute discussions, a preliminary planning session for SOSS 2020, and goodbyes. SOSS 2019 was indeed a place to share, re-examine, and re-imagine our seed stories. We were challenged to think about the way our work with seed is situated within socioeconomic structures, personal experience, and cultural values. We came away with new and renewed ideas, new and ever-present questions, and a strengthened network of personal and professional relationships to sustain us in the asking.

SOSS Reflections from Hannah Swegarden

Six years ago, I would have wrinkled my nose at the thought of “networking” for professional purposes.  Networking felt like a contrived, artificial interaction among professionals looking for an advantage or an edge in their field.  It felt like an action one might take to get to score a promotion or make a sale or increase profits.

But six years ago was also when I first attended the Student Organic Seed Symposium (SOSS), the annual, student-organized event presented by the Society of Organic Seed Professionals (SOSP). I was in the first year of my Master’s degree focusing on breeding dry beans for organic systems at the University of Minnesota, and the 2013 symposium in the Pacific Northwest (Mt. Vernon, WA) opened my world to a larger group of individuals with whom I shared common values, research, and purpose.

The SOSS event was structured to encourage one-on-one interactions between graduate students and professionals. The schedule created space for plenty of down-time to continue conversations, and it balanced indoor presentations with field trials and farm visits.  Its design catered to personalized, authentic communication among attendees, and at one point I vividly remember thinking “Have I been thinking about networking all wrong?  Have I been unnecessarily demonizing networking?”

The interactions at SOSS felt so fluid and natural that it was only retrospectively I realized I was actively engaging in “networking.”  Within SOSS, I came to understand networking as a safe space to propose ideas, build community, and collaborate with colleagues.  And the only reason I feel I can call it networking is because it led to sincere interactions and long-term collegial relationships with other members of my professional field.

With the 8th annual SOSS event just under a month away, I excitedly await a reunion with SOSP colleagues and a gentle reminder that our professional spaces should feel natural and welcoming.  The culture of SOSP (and its annual symposium) values genuine camaraderie over forced interactions, and this sense of community distinguishes SOSP from other professional societies.

I am now entering the last year of my PhD and, admittedly, remain uneasy about not knowing where I might land after graduation.  What does bring me peace, however, is knowing I have a “network” of individuals around the globe in public, private, and non-profit sectors upon whom I can call.  These individuals created a welcoming space for me during my graduate degrees and provided a community outside my immediate institutions – I have no doubt they will do the same in my future career.

Post by Hannah Swegarden, SOSP Board Member

The SOSP Strategic Plan

The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton, at the Art Institute of Chicago

Two years ago, the SOSP board officially formed. We coalesced around our desire to extend the sense of community, camaraderie, inspiration, and intellectual curiosity that characterize the Student Organic Seed Symposium beyond the annual event. The goal was to maintain the momentum of SOSS as attendees left studenthood and became organic seed professionals.

Beyond that shared sense of what we wanted to accomplish, the road forward for SOSP was anything but clear. In order to sustain aligned action, we needed to clarify our vision, mission and scope. So, we engaged the services of a strategic planner beginning in May 2017. The process took a full year, but we came away with a powerful roadmap for the goals we want to accomplish, the values we want to embody, the distractions we intend to avoid and the interpersonal norms we want to establish among the SOSP leadership and membership.

There were many steps to the strategic planning process, beginning with a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, progressing through a creative visioning and mission-crafting process, cresting with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and wrapping up with a distillation of priority objectives, short term goals, and immediate tasks. As part of our initial visioning experience at the AIC, we each had to select a piece of artwork that we would want to hang in the front hall of SOSP’s someday office. In describing why we picked each piece, we began to create a vocabulary for our vision for SOSP. Serendipitously, two members of the strategic planning team picked the same artwork: The Song of the Lark. Something about it made us feel that the woman in the picture- feet firmly on the ground, farm implement in hand, face lifted to a moment of spontaneous wonder- might as well have been one of the organic seed leaders we aspire to emulate.

The SOSP board will continue to follow our strategic plan. One of the outstanding tasks is to elect a board development chair, to ensure that we have an active pipeline of new board members ready to keep the SOSP leadership vibrant. For more information on the mission and programs of SOSP, please see the About and Member Benefits pages. And, if you’re interested in joining the board (great! excellent idea!) please email