Seed Matters – Organic Seeds
“Seed Matters fellowship funding enables us to bring in top level graduate students that are interested in being part of a community. We also are bringing genetic diversity back to a crop where it has been lost, which is crucial for adaptation in a changing environment. Farmers in our community work directly with Seed Matters fellows to carry out research on their farms, which gives them a fresh perspective and inspires them to be better stewards of their land.” - Professor Steve Jones, head of The Bread Lab at Washington State University
Publicly funded research to develop seeds specifically for organic farms has lagged behind for decades, which makes life harder for organic farmers and slows the growth of organic ag. Since 2013, the foundation has invested $1.5 million to fund 18 grad student fellowships in organic plant breeding. Seed Matters grad students have plowed new paths in seven states, from North Carolina to Texas and Georgia to Washington, bringing new energy to public seed research and education. Seed Matters has also delivered dozens of new seed varieties to farmers looking to grow food organically, and, at the same time, fight climate change (organic ag keeps more carbon in the soil where it belongs, not the air).
"When I think about the power and importance of organic seed, to me it is the beginning force which ultimately results in variation in our food system leading to variation on the plate that nourishes us. Biodiversity on the plate is a key component of cultivating both the health of individuals along with the health of the planet." - Merri Metcalfe, Washington State University Seed Matters Fellow
“This timely fellowship allowed a graduate student to focus on two of the highest ranked grower needs in our region. Lauren Jane Brzozowski, our Seed Matters Fellow, discovered principles behind cultivar choice and genetics, which she is deploying to benefit growers by reducing insect damage to organic squash. She also bred the first pickling cucumber with true resistance to the downy mildew pandemic. Seed Matters support was essential for research into grower needs and science, and translating that into solutions.” - Professor Michael Mazourek, Cornell University
Our newest fellowships are focusing on interconnections among the foundation’s priority areas: food, health and the environment. The foundation will support three fellowships for doctoral and post-doctoral candidates working on pioneering research at Dr. Seth Holmes’ Critical Studies in Food, Health & Environment Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Unlike a lot of current research that focuses on one narrow part of the food system in a single-disciplinary silo, Professor Holmes and his team study the complex, interconnected food system chain from interdisciplinary perspectives (such as social justice, economics, immigration, health and environmental sustainability). Stay tuned for more about the cutting-edge research that will be conducted by these inspiring young fellows.