Seed to Kitchen Collaborative


Beets featured at the Farm to Flavor dinner in October. Participating chefs Dan Bonanno, Tory Miller and Jonny Hunter served small plates featuring varieties tested in the project. Photo by Anders Gurda

Check out this article in the Wisconsin State Journal about the project: Chefs, Farmers and UW Scientists team up for flavorful produce. Nico Savidge.  December 6, 2015.

For more information on participating in the project, and to receive information on project results, contact Julie Dawson, Department of Horticulture,

A collaboration among chefs, farmers and breeders presents a unique opportunity to focus on vegetable variety characteristics important to local food systems. These include flavor, fresh-market quality and agronomic performance on smaller-scale diversified farms.

Wisconsin is lucky to have many active vegetable breeding programs at UW Madison, as well as a strong local foods movement supported by excellent farmers and chefs. The state is also the #2 state in the country for the total number of organic farms and for the number of organic vegetable farms. There is increasing involvement of farmers, non-profit associations and seed companies selecting for traits important to organic and direct market farmers.

Flavor and direct-market quality traits are difficult to measure in plant breeding programs. In addition, flavor has often not been a priority because of the importance of traits such as shelf life and tolerance to shipping in long-distance food systems.  By working directly with chefs and farmers to develop evaluation methods for flavor, we hope to improve our ability to select high quality vegetable varieties for farmers, gardeners and consumers. We also need your help in our research on evaluating vegetable flavor through taste tests at our field days.

Goals of the project

  • Promote informal collaborations between breeders, farmers and chefs to improve selection for flavor and direct market quality.
  • Evaluate new and soon-to-be-released varieties for culinary traits in restaurants with participating chefs and for agronomic performance on direct-market farms.
  • Develop better methods of evaluating and selecting for flavor and culinary quality.

Downloadable Trial Reports

Reports include information from the West Madison Agricultural Research Station (organic management), On-farm trials, flavor evaluations from summer crews (about 15 people) and chef flavor evaluations of selected varieties.  Not all crops have all types of data.  Trials at the West Madison Research Station are screening trials, not replicated yield trials, so yield data is provided as an indication only.  Please excuse any glitches in formatting, we will post more polished versions as they become available.  For information on the organic potato trials, see

2016 UW Vegetable Screening Trial

2015 Beets Report

2015 Carrot report

2015 Cucumber Report

2015 Kale&Greens Report

2015 Melon Report

2015 Onion Report

2015 Pepper Report

2015 Squash Report

2015 Tomato Report


On-Farm Vegetable Variety Trials 2016



Based on farmer priorities, we are trialing beets, carrots, cucumber, kale, greens, melons, onions, peppers (sweet and hot), winter squash, potatoes and tomatoes (high tunnel and field grown). The trials are set up to be flexible – all varieties are grown at the research station each year, and farms take subsets of these trials. Each farm chooses which crop(s) they are most interested in. We develop a list of 4-5 “core” varieties for each crop, which are included on each farm growing that crop, and farmers can also choose from a list of additional varieties if they would like more varieties in their trial.

We send each farm all the seeds they need for their trial as well as stakes, a planting map and datasheets. Farmers manage the trial as they would manage their normal crop. The research station trials are managed organically, and while we prefer that farmers manage their trial without pesticides so that we get good observations on disease resistance, there is no requirement for participants to be certified organic. We are working with a lot of the vegetable breeding programs at UW Madison who are developing varieties for organic agriculture, as well as Cornell University, Oregon State University and some seed company breeders focused on market growers – Johnny’s Selected Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Vitalis, Bejo, Wild Garden Seeds, Adaptive Seeds, Hudson Valley Seed Library and other independent breeders.


The goal is to give you a chance to try out some new and soon-to-be released varieties and to hear what other farmers think of them, as well as what chefs and consumers think of the quality. We evaluate all varieties on the research station here in Madison, including more quantitative traits like yield, and we conduct flavor evaluations on the varieties from the Madison trials with members of the public and local chefs.

The observations we ask farmers to collect on the varieties their trials are the following:

  • Would you grow this again?
  • How marketable is it?
  • What did you think of the flavor?
  • Strongest point
  • Major flaws
  • Productivity compared to others in the trial and your favorite variety
  • Susceptibility to insect/disease/stress compared to other varieties
  • Best/Worst Variety (choose one best and one worst variety for each crop)
  • General Notes (any other observations you have that don’t fit in the previous categories)

Tomatoes Hoop House 4DSC02317







Current Participants:


Kat Becker and Tony Schultz           Stoney Acres Farm

John Binkley                                      Equinox Community Farm

Jenny Bonde and Rink DaVee          Shooting Star Farm

Tricia Bross                                        Luna Circle

Eric Elderbrock                                 Elderberry Hill Farm

John Hendrickson                             Stone Circle Farm

Ace Lynn-Miller                               Allium Abduction

Anna Metscher                                  Wild Ridge Farm

Mark Voss                                          Voss Organics

Amy Wallner                                      Amy’s Acre

Venice Williams                                 Alice’s Garden


Dan Bonanno                                     Pig in a Fur Coat

Jonny Hunter                                     Underground Food Collective, Forequarter

Tory Miller                                         l’Étoile, Graze, Estrellón, Sujeo

Eric Benedict                                     The Hollander


Plant Breeders participating from the UW:

Beets and Carrots                             Irwin Goldman

Carrots                                               Phil Simon

Corn, culinary and sweet                 Bill Tracy

Cucumbers                                        Yiqun Weng

Peppers                                              Jim Nienhuis

Potatoes                                             Ruth Genger, Amy Charkowski, Doug Rouse


Other breeders and seed companies participating:

Adaptive Seeds                                  Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger

Ball Seeds                                          Cheni Filios

Bejo Seeds                                         Tom Gordon

Cornell University                             Michael Mazourek

High Mowing Organic Seeds            Jodi Lew-Smith

Hudson Valley Seed Library             Ken Greene

Johnny’s Selected Seeds                   Rob Johnston, Janika Eckert,

Emily Haga, John Navazio

KC Tomatoes                                    Keith Mueller

Oregon State University                   Jim Myers

Wild Garden Seeds                           Frank Morton

Vitalis                                                Erica Renaud


UW Staff

Brian Emerson, Research Specialist

Thomas Hickey, Research Gardener

Janet Hedtcke, Assist. Superintendent, West Madison Agricultural Research Station


Many thanks to all the students who have worked on this project and to the West Madison Garden Interns!

Graduate students: Natalie Cotter, Solveig Hansen, Kitt Healy, Claire Luby, Lynn Maher, Tessa Peters, Terri Theisen

Undergraduate students: Mariana Debernardini, Laura Jacobson, Molly Kreykes, Matt Kronschnabel, Sarah Lee, Bradley Meilinger, Maya Reese, Jamie Lovely, Carissa Unger, Nick van den Langenberg, Madeline Wimmer

2014 interns: Kendra Wright, James Larson, Lauren Fedenia, and Greg Bothwell.

2015 interns: Peter Jakus, Samantha Stecha, Liana McClintock, Jacqui Hilliard, and Natalie Eisner.

Funding for this project provided by the State of Wisconsin, USDA-Hatch, USDA-North Central SARE and the Ceres Trust.