The seed world is full of passionate individuals, but the late Dr. Larry D. Robertson was one of our most enthusiastic and inspiring seedsmen. We’re sad to share that Larry passed away on June 21st, 2016, poetically just after summer solstice with many seed crops in full bloom. He was a founding partner of several initiatives that fostered collaboration between public plant breeders and farmers, including the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative, the Organic Seed Partnership, and the Public Seed Initiative. Larry served as Geneticist and Vegetable Curator at the USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) from 1998 – 2016, and was an adjunct professor in horticulture at Cornell University. He leaves a tremendous legacy, including working around the world on conservation and breeding focused on many crops, including tomatillo, buckwheat, fava bean, and others.
Most farmers and gardeners knew Larry as the seedsman at the Common Ground Country Fair in Maine. He traveled around the Northeast to teach seed saving through demonstrations of the mobile seed cleaning unit. His plant breeding colleagues knew him as the person to call to access public germplasm or to inquire about the genetic breadth of a crop.
“He was the man to go to for tomato and broccoli seeds, and unusual, I think, for a NPGS curator, in taking seed work to the public,” says Dr. Jim Myers of Oregon State University. Dr. Michael Mazourek of Cornell University adds, “Larry was the spark that linked public plant breeding with organic growers in the Northeast and launched a movement. His legacy continues to grow with each generation of students that follow this path.” Please keep Larry and his family in your thoughts this year by sharing your seed harvests and seed knowledge in his honor.