July 29, 2019-

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


March 15, 2019- The SOSP Strategic Plan

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

Post by Kitt Healy, SOSP Board Member

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

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