Clif Bar Family Foundation’s Seed Matters Initiative Grants Nation’s First Organic Plant Breeding Fellowships
Clif Bar Family Foundation announced today it has awarded the first fellowships in organic plant breeding ever granted in the United States. Funded through its organic seed initiative known as Seed Matters, the foundation issued $375,000 in grants to fund three PhD. fellowship students for five years in organic plant breeding at two public land grant universities.
Seed Matters selected land grant universities in recognition of their historical commitment to serving rural communities and the public good, and to support a Seed Matter’s goal of reinvigorating public seed research and education. In addition to providing organic farmers with new varieties of seed adapted to organic systems, these fellowships will cultivate the next generation of thought leadership in organic research, education and entrepreneurship.
“Organic seed systems are the underlying foundation for healthy resilient farming and food systems,” said Matthew Dillon, cultivator of Seed Matters. “Seed is a farmer’s first line of defense against pests and global climate disruption, and has a huge impact on the nutrition and overall quality of the food we eat.”
The first recipient of a Seed Matters Fellowship, Brook Brouwer, began his studies last month at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Campus. The other two recipients will begin in the fall semester at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington State University Pullman. Fellowship students will work under the guidance of some of the most well respected and early innovators of organic plant breeding.
Professors managing the fellowships include Dr. Stephen Jones at Washington State University, whose work with wheat engages farmers, millers and bakers in restoring their local grain economies; Dr. Kevin Murphy, also at Washington State University, who is breeding cover crops and heritage grain such as quinoa and spelt; and, Dr. William Tracy at University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose sweet corn breeding is improving the quality of genetics available to organic farmers in cooler northern climates.
“The true advances in agriculture continue to come from classical plant breeding. Peel back all the hype and it’s the breeders in the field working with farmers and plants that is moving us forward,” said Jones, director of the WSU Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center. “Doing this kind of work requires very bright graduate students trained in the classical and modern approaches to plant breeding. Funding this training requires forward looking organizations such as Clif Bar Family Foundation.”
In addition, Clif Bar Family Foundation announced Earthbound Farm Organic, Organically Grown Company, Organic Valley, Vitalis Seed and Whole Foods Market have joined Seed Matters as financial collaborators to help increase awareness about organic seed and fund future fellowships and research around the country. Together Seed Matters collaborators and nonprofit partners support organic farmers and public researchers developing seed that meets the need of the organic community – from farm to table.
“Seed Matters is the catalyst for a groundbreaking form of collaboration between companies, foundations, universities and nonprofits that has never before occurred in the organic community,” said Kit Crawford, president of the Foundation. “By working together we can more effectively improve organic seed systems that benefit people and the planet.”