About NOVIC and Our Collaborators

The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) brings together researchers and organic farmers in Northern US states to address their seed and plant breeding needs. The collaborative includes researchers and educators from four universities, Organic Seed Alliance, and the USDA. NOVIC is partnering with organic farmers to breed new varieties, identify the best performing existing varieties for organic agriculture, and educate farmers on organic seed production and plant variety improvement.


  • Fundamental to the success of organic agriculture is the use of plant varieties with contemporary productivity traits that perform under organic production challenges such as weed competition, low-input fertility, and pest and disease pressure.
  • Organic markets demand superior flavor, nutrition and local availability.
  • Organic farmers are challenged by the lack of organic seed sources and scarcity of information on variety performances under organic conditions.
  • While organic varieties must meet unique challenges and consumer demands, few breeding programs are focused on specifically breeding for organic agriculture.

Variety Trials

NOVIC collaborators will conduct vegetable variety trials on certified organic ground, at research stations and on cooperating organic farms. Trials will include the five crops in NOVIC breeding programs and additional crops chosen by farmers regionally. (Washington state farmers have chosen beets)

Variety Trial Database

A national database of organic variety trial results will be created with a feedback forum for farmers to contribute their experience with variety performance on their farms.

Organic Breeding

In Northern Regions, season extension is a breeding priority for organic farmers producing for local markets. NOVIC breeding efforts will focus on key traits important for season extension along with flavor and horticultural traits crucial to organic agriculture. All breeding is conducted under organic conditions.

Plant breeding efforts in five states are focused on five vegetable crops.

  • Broccoli - Heat tolerance, marketable uniformity in an open-pollinated variety
  • Carrot - Cold-tolerant, weed-competitive, ‘Nantes’ type
  • Snap Pea - Heat-tolerant, disease resistant, stringless variety
  • Sweet Corn - Good cold soil emergence in a sugar enhanced variety
  • Winter Squash - Long term storability 


The Researchers

Dr. Jim MyersProject Director

Dr. Jim Myers, Oregon State University, Department of Horticulture 




Lane Selman, Oregon State University, Department of Horticulture






Laurie McKenzie, Oregon State University, Department of Horticulture








Dr. Erin SilvaDr. Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems




Dr. Bill TracyDr. Bill Tracy, University of Wisconsin, Department of Agronomy




Alexandra Lyon, University of Wisconsin




Adrienne Shelton, University of Wisconsin






Dr. Michael MazourekDr. Michael Mazourek, Cornell University, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Michael GlosMichael Glos, Cornell University, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Micaela Colley Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance, Director of Research and Education

Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance





Dr. Larry RobertsonDr. Larry D. Robertson, Vegetable Curator for the USDA -ARS, Plant Genetic Resources Unit, Geneva, NY




Teri Balch Teri Balch, USDA - ARS, Plant Genetic Resources Unit, Geneva, NY

The Farmers

Gathering Together Farm:  Philomath, OR
Persephone Farm:  Lebanon, OR
Winter Green Farm:  Noti, OR
Sauvie Island Organics:  Portland, OR
47th Avenue Farm:  Portland, OR
Oakhill Organics:  Grand Island, OR



The NOVIC project is based upon research that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2014-51300-22223.