Full-Day Intensive:

Let's walk behind the scenes of genotype and phenotype, lifting up terms, tools and techniques both novel and time-honored to inspire more plant breeding in the Northeast. We'll hear the stories of over a dozen plant breeders interspersed throughout the day, illustrating the breadth and depth of diversity in approach and in the field. We'll also hear lessons learned from the Organic Seed Alliance to shed light on building community and competence as we walk and grow together. Welcome and introduction by Petra Page-Mann.

Part 1: Botany and Genetics for Seed Growers and Plant Breeders
Presenters: Myra Manning and Joseph Lofthouse
Time / Room: Friday, 8:00 am - 9:15 am / 2A and 2B

Build background you can use on the floral basis of selfing and outcrossing and the genetics of dominance, quantitative traits, linkage, sterility, and gain from selection to apply to your seed production and breeding planning.

Part 2: Tools and Technology
Presenters: Jason Cavatorta, Jared Zystro, and Micaela Colley
Time / Room: Friday, 9:30 am - 10:45 am / 2A and 2B

As molecular markers become more routine and affordable, how or will you implement them in your breeding program? Learn what they can tell you, what they don't, cost, examples from breeding programs, and how to implement them or find alternatives.

Part 3: Building Community and Seed Skills
Presenters: Micaela Colley, Jared Zystro, Jason Grauer, and Aabir Dey
Time / Room: Friday, 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm / 2A and 2B

Discuss community and building partnerships. Learn from the Organic Seed Alliance on what they have done in the Northwest, strategies for engaging nationally, the seed movement in Ontario, and on-farm plant breeding in public spaces.

Part 4: Learning New Crop Breeding Systems
Presenters: Hannah Swegarden, Micaela Colley, Jason Cavatorta, Jared Zystro, and more!
Time / Room: Friday, 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm / 2A and 2B

Expand your repertoire of crops by learning from experts at the conference about their approaches and successes in breeding within an array of species, including brassica, allium, sweet corn, carrots, and more!

Half-Day Intensive:

Part 1:
Presenters: Heron Breen and Ken Ettlinger
Time / Room: Saturday, 8:00 am - 9:15 am / 2A

Winter squash is a vegetable more beloved in the Northeast than in any other part of the country. Most every rural outpost of the Northeast has its own favored type of squash and the unique recipes that go with it. But not all squash are created equal. Some are more pretty than flavorful, and others are more flavorful than pretty. What we’d really like in squash are those that do both—have lovely exteriors and then feed us with the best sweet and nutty, brightly-colored flesh. From the iconic Waltham Butternut to the ubiquitous gold-n-green Delicata, from the lumpy Blue Hubbard and Buttercup, to the vivid Red Kuri, squash adorn every roadside and every farmstand throughout our entire region. They are not only a favored food, but are part and parcel of autumn decorations, aligned with corn stalks and mums and pumpkins wherever you look. What’s different is that after the decorations are all taken down, these lovely colorful fruits come inside our houses and supply us with soups and roasted creamy squash all winter long. They’re part of our Thanksgiving arrangements, and many of them make it to the winter holidays as well. It’s no accident that nearly all the breeding in winter squash is being done in the Northeast. We love our squash and we (well, some of us …) love to try new squashes. And we can always use new colors and shapes in our ornamental displays. In this session we’ll talk about the broad array of squashes and how some are being treasured and preserved while others are being improved upon. Heron Breen of Fedco Seeds and Ken Ettlinger of the Long Island Regional Seed Consortium will share their vast love of squash (and show some recent examples from experiments!), and we'll discuss development of regional squashes adapted to meet the needs of particular communities.

Part 2:
Presenters: Dr. Lindsay Wyatt and Jodi Lew-Smith
Time / Room: Saturday, 9:30 am - 10:45 am / 2A

Lindsay Wyatt, a squash and pumpkin breeder at Johnny's Selected Seeds, will present a case study of the development, trialing, and commercialization of a new squash variety, including considerations such as how to weigh different traits (yield, flavor, appearance, etc.) in advancement decision-making and evaluating the market potential for new, unique squash. Jodi Lew-Smith, a squash and tomato breeder at High Mowing Organic Seeds will talk about a project to develop new varieties that are both ornamental and high quality for eating, all within the Delicata and Acorn class of winter squashes.


Level: Beginner
Presenters: Bill Braun, Ken Greene Steph Gaylor, Lia Babitch, Shanyn Siegel, and Micaela Colley
Time / Room: Saturday, 8:00 am - 9:15 am / 2B

There are many approaches to working with seeds, and not all of them are strictly commercial. Non-profits run seed banks, farmer seed cooperatives, seed libraries, seed swaps, breeding programs, and community seed plots. In this session we'll explore a few of our regional mission-driven seed initiatives including those focused on historic or cultural seed preservation, working with adults with developmental disabilities, community engagement, and public breeding.


Level: Beginner
Presenters: Margaret Roach and Tom Stearns
Time / Room: Saturday, 9:30 am - 10:45 am / 2B

What does it mean to ethically breed, save, share, or sell seeds? The landscape of the seed industry has changed dramatically from 1999 when the Safe Seed Pledge was first introduced. 2019 is the 20th anniversary of the pledge. Does the Safe Seed Pledge still hold up? As a community of seed breeders, savers, keepers, corporations, non-profits, and consumers we'll investigate the pledge and confront new seed ethics issues including working with OP farmer-breeder varieties, trait patents, utility patents, CMS, and culturally significant varieties. Join Steph Gaylor, Rowen White, OSA, Ken Greene, and others as we discover where our community agrees, and disagrees, about seed ethics and find ways to work together to towards a more just seed community.

Half-Day Intensive:

Level: Beginner
Presenters: Michael Mazourek, Emily Rodekohr, Kristen Loria, and Lauren Brzozowski
Time / Room: Saturday, 1:00 pm - 3:45 pm / 2A

Two years ago, we approached vegetable growers in the Northeast to set priorities to be addressed in organic seeds. This has informed trials and breeding projects at Cornell University, the Northern Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) and beyond. Come to continue to help steer these efforts toward needs on your farm, discover results from cultivar evaluations and how you can participate in trials or breeding to increase your choices for organic seed. Your voice has and will continue to set our goals, so please come speak up!


Level: Beginner
Presenters: Leah Penniman, Rowen White, Raul Carreon, Karen Washington, Carolina Saavedra, and more!
Time / Room: Saturday, 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm / 2B

Seed stories illuminate the ways in which seeds are much more than commodities. Seedshed believes that the wonder of seeds lies at the intersections of cultural, genetic, spiritual, environmental, and personal connections. Seed stories encompass resistance to pests or disease as well as needed cultural change, resilience in the face of environmental pressures and the resilience of individuals and communities overcoming systemic challenges, and reconciliation between people and seeds, and between different cultures. By sharing a rich diversity of seed stories, many of which have been forgotten or erased, Leah Penniman, Raul Carreon, and others will collectively touch on these connections and explore how they can change the way we source, plant, save, and share seeds.


Level: Beginner
Presenters: Rowen White, Ken Greene, Nate Kleinman, Owen Taylor, Leah Penniman, Karen Washington, Raul Carreon, Kat Chiu, Stephen McComber, and Carolina Saavedra
Time / Room: Saturday, 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm / 2B

What makes a seed sacred? Is it an understanding of its role as part of a culture's ceremonies, its endurance through historical trauma, or its role in traditional food ways? How we each answer the question, "What is a seed?" can dramatically change not only our personal experiences of sacred seeds, but also the landscape of the global seed industry. Join Rowen White for an in-depth story of sacred indigenous seeds followed by a moderated panel discussion with dedicated seed keepers who are reconnecting seeds with their stories in ways that heal communities, bring people together, and re-imagine the future of seeds.

half-Day Intensive:

Level: Intermediate
Presenters: Aaron Lyons, Petra Page-Mann, and Tom Stearns
Time / Room: Sunday, 8:00 am - 10:45 am / 2A

In this session we’ll focus on the unique challenges to growing seed on a commercial scale in our wet Northeast climate, along with some recent innovations on how to do it better. We'll explore the potential and recent innovations of both wet- and dry-seeded crops with Aaron Lyons (Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds), Petra Page-Mann (Fruition Seeds) and Tom Stearns (High Mowing Organic Seeds).


Level: Beginner
Presenters: Stephen McComber, Owen Taylor, and Lisa Bloodnick
Time / Room: Sunday, 9:30 am - 10:45 am / 2B

Join us to discuss the myriad forms of beans and regional specialty varieties and food ways. Beans are a high protein mainstay food and a staple of many traditional diets. With the resurgence of interest in regional cuisines, there is rising interest and commercial opportunities for particular beans for growers. Many chefs are rediscovering their many uses. We will discuss some of the stories tied to certain beans and learn about some of the work being done to shine a spotlight on some special varieties. Stephen McComber is a Mohawk who is an elder of the Haudenosaunee Seedkeepers. Owen Taylor runs Truelove Seeds and is a seedkeeper based in the Philadelphia area. Lisa Bloodnick is a market grower and seed saver in Apalachin, NY.