Seed to Kitchen Collaborative

We  have a new website!  Check out

Trial reports and trial request forms for 2019 are available on the new website.

The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative connects plant breeders focused on organic systems to Wisconsin farmers and chefs, to create delicious, well-adapted vegetable varieties for local organic production. This collaboration presents a unique opportunity to focus on vegetable variety characteristics important to local food systems, such as flavor, fresh-market quality and agronomic performance on smaller-scale diversified farms.

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.


2018 Information

Participating farmers and gardeners:

If you need another copy of the instructions or datasheets, they are available on google drive here

Photos of seeds and letters required for organic certification are available on google drive here

About the Seed to Kitchen variety trials and flavor evaluations

Over 20 seed companies, universities and independent plant breeders contribute varieties and breeding material to our trials. Over 60 farmers grow subsets of these varieties, evaluate them for desirable traits, and provide feedback to the breeders.  Every month from June through January, Madison chefs gather to taste produce from our variety trials, creating detailed descriptions of flavor, texture, over-all eating quality, and their personal preferences. That information goes out to participating plant breeders around the country, and farmers across the Upper Midwest, to help each group decide which varieties to improve, market, or experiment with.

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.

Every year we host a Farm to Flavor tasting event, open to the public, to celebrate the achievements of the season. 

A beet dish by chef Jonny Hunter from the 2015 Farm to Flavor event

Over 300 people attended our annual Farm to Flavor Dinner on September 26, 2018. The dinner is a celebration of organic plant breeding and local food, featuring dishes from several of Madison’s premier chefs.  Check back here in July of 2019 for information on Farm to Flavor 2019!






Recent coverage in the Capital Times:

A story about our work and the Culinary Breeding Network was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

The Isthmus featured a story about the 2017 Farm to Flavor Dinner:

UW-Madison produced a video about the project:

Bomberg, Justin. Seed to Kitchen Initiative.

Farm to Flavor dinner showcases vegetables bred for flavor. Eric Hamilton.
HortiDaily. September 14 2017.

Edible Madison published a piece about our project in it’s Spring 2017 issue:

Grow Magazine featured us in their Summer 2016 issue:

Erik Ness. Breeding For Flavor. Grow Magazine. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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,


On-Farm Vegetable Variety Trials



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)


Farmers participating in on-farm trials 2017:

Currently Participating Chefs:

Dan Bonanno                                     Pig in a Fur Coat

Jonny Hunter                                     Underground Food Collective

Tory Miller                                         l’Étoile, Graze, Estrellón, Sujeo

Eric Benedict                                     Cafe Hollander

Yusuf Bin-Rella                                 Dejope Dining

Joe Cloute                                          Heritage Catering

Sean Fogarty                                      Steenbock’s on Orchard

Joe Heppe                                           The Delafield Hotel


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, Doug Rouse, Jeffrey Endelman


Other breeders and seed companies participating:

Adaptive Seeds                                  Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger

Ball Seeds                                          Cheni Filios

Bejo Seeds                                         Kristen Oomen, Jan Van der Heide

Cornell University                             Michael Mazourek

High Mowing Organic Seeds            Jodi Lew-Smith

Hudson Valley Seed Company         Ken Greene

Johnny’s Selected Seeds                   Rob Johnston, Janika Eckert, Emily Haga, John Navazio

KC Tomatoes                                    Keith Mueller

Oregon State University                   Jim Myers, Lane Selman

Wild Garden Seeds                           Frank Morton

Vitalis Organic Seeds                      Adrienne Shelton


UW Staff

Kitt Healy, Outreach Specialist

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!

Funding for this project provided by the UW-Madison, USDA-Hatch, USDA-North Central SARE and the Ceres Trust.