The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative: Identifying Improved Vegetable Varieties for Organic Direct-Market Growers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2023: $49,391.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University AgBioResearch and Extension
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. James DeDecker
Michigan State University AgBioResearch and Extension

Information Products


  • Vegetables: greens (lettuces), peppers, tomatoes, winter squash


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, plant breeding and genetics, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Pest Management: genetic resistance
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Small and beginning vegetable growers in the North-Central Region (NCR) are using organic practices and direct-marketing to add value to their products.  A 2017 survey of direct-market vegetable growers in WI identified flavor, disease resistance, yield and early maturity as the most important vegetable traits.  Michigan boasts a thriving conventional vegetable industry consisting of large, wholesale growers supported by university variety trials.  Unfortunately, such traditional variety testing programs do not focus specifically on cultivar performance in organic production systems, nor on sensory characteristics, like flavor and texture, that drive marketability in a direct-market vegetable business.  Our proposed research with the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative (SKC) based at University of Wisconsin-Madison addresses these limitations by bringing together vegetable breeders, seed companies, researchers, organic vegetable growers and professional chefs to evaluate the productivity and quality of elite vegetable varieties in organic research station and on-farm trials.  We will work closely with breeders and seed companies, providing quantitative and qualitative data from university trials and collaborating growers respectively to improve methods of breeding and variety selection for organic vegetable production systems.  At harvest time, partner chefs will taste the most promising vegetable varieties, providing detailed sensory evaluations to aid variety development and marketing.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We hypothesize that implementing the SKC model of vegetable variety testing focused on organic production, participatory on-farm trials and sensory evaluation will improve breeding and selection of vegetable varieties for organic, direct market growers in the NCR.

    1) Identify high-performing and flavorful varieties of at least six vegetable crops for organic, direct-market growers in the NCR through expansion of the SKC trials at UW-Spooner, MSU-UPREC and on cooperating farms in MI and WI.

    2) Share this research with growers and consumers through field days at experiment stations and on cooperating farms, sensory evaluation activities with partner chefs, and written reports. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.