About the Project

Varieties bred for organic systems work better for organic farmers. In the Upper Midwest, we are seeing more significant large rainfall events and more severe  temperature swings, causing many vegetable varieties to show weaknesses that were not apparent with more stable weather patterns. Responding to new climate realities necessitates the scaling up of participatory research, on-farm trials and organic breeding activities. The best strategy for dealing with this type of unpredictability is to test varieties over a wider range of environmental conditions, both within and across years. This is difficult for many breeding programs to  accomplish, whether they are in the public sector, private sector or independent. There is also a shortage of plant breeders in both the public or private sector working on organic systems, and  many organic farmers still rely on varieties bred for conventional systems or for environments far  different than the Upper Midwest, such as California, which has very different predictions for weather patterns with climate change than we see in the Upper Midwest. There is a critical need to build capacity for farmers, plant breeders and organic seed companies to work together to  ensure that farmers’ evolving needs and unique knowledge drive the development of the crop varieties available to them.

Are you a farmer or gardener in the Upper Midwest? Do you want to help adapt key crops to your growing environment, while connecting with and learning from experienced breeders and seed savers in the region? Consider joining our collaborative plant breeding network! Sign up at this link!


The long term goals of this project are to:  

1) Increase the number and availability of fresh market vegetable crop varieties well-suited to organic production in the Upper Midwest. 

2) Build and sustain a robust regional network of organic farmers, plant breeders, seed  companies and organic certifiers working together to improve crop varieties for organic  production and increase the use of organic seed on organic farms.  

3) Build the pipeline of professional plant breeders, including independent entrepreneurs, breeders at regional seed companies, and public sector programs dedicated to breeding for organic systems and using participatory methods. 

4) Encourage collaborative organic variety improvement networks in other regions to meet  farmers’ emerging needs in a regional context. 


In pursuit of these goals, the research and outreach objectives of this project are to: 

1) Build collaborative plant breeding and trialing capacity among Upper Midwest farmers, independent plant-breeders, regional organic seed companies, and organic certifiers through a community of practice, advanced training opportunities, and a nationally available online toolkit. 

2) Test and improve SeedLinked functionality for farmers, breeders, and organic certifiers to  effectively collect, share, and analyze data to support decentralized collaborative breeding and variety trialing. 

3) Develop models for collaboration between independent breeders, public sector  programs and organic seed companies. Enhance graduate student education by providing experience to develop advanced breeding lines and commercialize varieties exhibiting priority traits for Upper Midwest organic production, employing  collaborative breeding methods. 

As the project progresses, you will be able to find all the training resources and publications on this website.