ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

What are the main ways organic soybean farmers get their seed?

Posted June 2, 2004

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Dear Jeff,

I'm a student at Iowa State University. I'm doing research on organic soybean farming, and I was wondering if you might answer a question for me. What are the main ways organic soybean farmers get their seed? For example, do most of them go through local distributors, or order them directly from the dealer, etc? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Chris Poutre

Dear Chris,

I'm always glad to hear from students working in the area of organic research. I'll try to answer your question completely, but if you need more information please do not hesitate to email me back.

As of October 2002, the federal rule for organic agriculture took affect. In this rule, it states that farmers need to use organically produced seed whenever and wherever it is commercially available. (View the entire rule here) If organic seed is unavailable—and a documented search must be made available to the certifying inspector—untreated conventional seed may be used. Under no circumstances can treated seed be used.

Most farmers use seed purchased through normal seed channels; this includes dealers, distributors, or brokers. There are certain seed companies that are specializing in organic seed production, such as NC+ Organics in Nebraska and Great Harvest Organics in Indiana. A farmer can use any seed supplier provided he or she uses untreated seed and can demonstrate that they have performed a search to find it organically. Some farmers save their own seed if they are planting non-hybrid seed or buy from another farmer that produces seed for sale.

I hope that helps.


Editor’s note: Look for an upcoming New Farm feature to learn how some seed companies, nonprofit organizations, and publicly funded universities are working together to increase the number of regionally adapted varieties of cash crops for which organic seed is available.


Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly at