Farmers, researchers, and chefs gathered this week to learn about seed saving and plant breeding as part of a Purdue University field tour and workshop focused on organic seed. The tour and training were led by nationally renowned researchers Lori Hoagland (Purdue), Julie Dawson (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Micaela Colley (OSA), all of whom are partners in two cutting-edge projects aimed at developing new plant varieties for organic agriculture: the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement (TOMI) project and the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project.
These two plant-breeding projects, funded through USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), are highly participatory, meaning stakeholders representing different parts of the organic seed and food system are invited to give input on the direction of plant-breeding priorities and goals to ensure that diverse food and agricultural needs are met. In other words, for new organic varieties to be successful, they must not only address farmers’ production needs in the field, but also flavor and nutrition and other quality traits desired by their customers. In the pictures below you’ll see that the event included an interactive tomato tasting and evaluation. Also, a panel discussion with farmers and chefs emphasized the importance of supporting your local organic farmers, seed growers, and plant breeders.