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. 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.

Our trials this year include four different tomato breeding trials, a pepper breeding trial and potato trials with breeding lines from the University of Wisconsin program. They are being grown at our research station as well as by farmers and gardeners interested in contributing to the development of new tomato and pepper varieties in our region. Although registration is now closed for the 2022 trials, we will be posting links to register for the 2023 season next winter on this website and on SeedLinked


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.