Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Family Farmers Seed Cooperative: Colorado Co-Op Aims to Meet Growing Need for Organic Seed

Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Family Farmers Seed Cooperative: Colorado Co-Op Aims to Meet Growing Need for Organic Seed

Article excerpt

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Family Farmers Seed Cooperative was incorporated in March 2008. Based in Colorado Springs, Colo., the co-op currently has four members: two farms in Colorado and one each in Washington and Oregon. According to Dan Hobbs, executive director of the Organic Seed Alliance (which provides technical assistance to Family Farmers Seed), the co-op plans to use a $120,000 Value-Added Producer Grant it received from USDA Rural Development to expand its membership.

Business objective

The Organic Trade Association reports that U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $20 billion in 2007. Organic food and beverage sales are projected to reach about $23.6 billion in 2008. In 2006, organic products represented approximately 2.8 percent of overall annual food and beverage sales. Organics are one of the fastest-growing sectors of the food and beverage market, growing almost 21 percent during 2006 alone.

However, the organic seed supply needed to grow vegetables and other crops is in short supply. Family Farmers Seed Cooperative's goal is to help meet the demand for quality, certified-organic seed. The co-op says it "wants to increase the quantity and diversity of all types of organic seeds."

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USDA Value-Added Producer Grant Funding:

The $120,000 grant from USDA will be used to develop a premium national market for specialty organic seeds to launch Family Farmers Seed Cooperative as a 100-percent producer-owned business, and to help expand mem-bership. The USDA grant is a matching grant, so the co-op has also received $120,000 in funds from other backers, including Colorado State University.

Importance of USDA backing

"Dozens of large and small firms have begun to offer organic varieties, and we are beginning to see the economic potential of the market, but are constrained by limits within the production system," says Hobbs. …

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