On-Farm Breeding Workshop at Flanders Bay Farm sponsered by NOFA-NY

August 22, 2006, Tuesday, 4-7 pm. Flanders Bay Farm, Flanders Rd, Long Island

Learn breeding and seed-saving techniques that will help you to produce superior vegetable varieties on your farm or in your garden from Ken Ettlinger, backyard breeder extraordinaire, and Bryan Connolly, author of Organic Seed Production and Saving. View breeding projects on corn, broccoli, cukes, pumpkins, and squashes and unusual and rare varieties of many different vegetables. OSP vegetable varieties (melons, tomatoes, squash, peppers and more), contributed by local growers, will be available for tasting. Farm is located on Rte 24 in Flanders.

e-mail for directions and additional info:  ken@liseed.org

Participants in the NOFA-NY (New York Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farmering Association) sponsered breeders workshop provide a valuable resource for one another as they tour the breeding projects at Flanders Bay Farm in 2006 sharing their own experiences in producing farm-bred seed.

Bryan Connelly from the University of Connecticut and Michael Glos from Cornell University demonstrate hand pollination techniques at the Organic Seed Partnership Workshop at Flanders Bay Farm in 2006.

Elizabeth Dyck is the tireless project coordinator of the Organic Seed Partnership, a joint project between NOFA-NY and Cornell.  Here, she explains how farmers can learn more about breeding disease resistant vegetables for organic systems, produce quality seed on the farm and some of the resources that are available.  For a complete list of NOFA-NY workshops see:  <http://www.nofany.org/events.html>

Bumblebees work the OSU Broccoli flowers

Flanders Bay Farm Cucumber

Once you know some simple breeding techniques, you will be producing your own fine varieties.  We liked the adaptation of an old-time cucumber to our sandy glacial soils and the texture and productivity of a modern hybrid.  Now in the fourth generation we have our ideal pickle cuke (at younger stage) or slicer (at an older stage).  A sustainable variety that we will maintain by setting aside a few of the best fruit and allowing them to mature and then harvesting the seed for next year.

Scenes From August, 2006 Organic Seed Partnership Breeder's Workshop

Ken Ettlinger shows one of his selections of a second generation cross of Success Yellow Summer Squash and a Striped Zucchini, Caserta made several years ago at Cornell.  Flanders Bay Farm has been growing a number of exciting crosses released by public breeding programs at Cornell, Oregon State University and USDA, Salinas and selecting for desirable attributes for the local organic farming community and local markets.

Ken's working name for this new Yelllow and White Striped Zucchini is "Yikes Stripes".   "I was really surprised at the beauty of this zucchini when it appeared in the row of more conventional summer squash.  It was like a striped Romanesco except with yellow and white stripes instread of green and white."  It's interesting to note that the original F2 from Cornell produced tremendous variation in fruit color, flavor, disease resistance and even plant habit.  There will be several selections from the original cross to see at the 2007 workshop as well as "Yikes Stripes" which is now in the 5th generation of selection.  The Organic Seed Partnership gives opportunities for Flanders Bay Farm and other farms to collaborate with professional breeders at the universities who still maintain a public vegetable breeding program.

The collaboration is a winning one according to Ken Ettlinger, "the work of public breeders has been an inspiration to me and now I can help in the selection process to produce a variety which is well adapted to my farm and ideal for my customers.  I can't tell you how rewarding it's been to be a participant farm."

Yikes Stripes!

Bryan uses an eggplant flower to demonstrate hand pollination techniques.  Here he shows the importance of labeling the crosses and then taping the pollinated blossom shut to prevent stray pollen from contaminating the cross.  Workshop participants will be able to practise hand pollinating squash, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers at this year's workshop.

Another one of the Organic Seed Partnership projects at Flanders Bay Farm is working with Jim Myers mass cross of broccoli (left) which has been farm selected in Oregon for several generations and now grown on Long Island for three years.  One of the most interesting aspects of this broccoli is it's resistance to disease and insect pests which makes it ideal for organic farms and gardens.  We haven't even had to use bt to control cabbage loopers.  It is also variable in it's maturity, something that we have not selected out.  We like the idea that one planting will result in a harvest over many weeks.  Perhaps not what corporate farms need, but ideal to the ability of small farms to meet the needs of their farmstand customers. 

We continue to select for the "long neck" trait for ease of harvest.  Also, that vase-like long stem is remarkably tender and sweet for a broccoli.  Most people like the steamed stalk just as much as the florets.  The smaller plants in this photo and those with small heads will be pulled or rogued before they bloom as part of the selection process.  Out of 150 plants, we will save seed from less than half.

The great thing about organic systems is that there are plenty of beneficial organisms that either make their home in the garden or forage there.  The multitude of bumble bees cabbage butterflies and tiny wasps that visit the OSU broccoli in flower insure that there will be a good seed set since pollen must be exchanged among several plants.

Lettuce:  Red Grenoble x Salinas F2

The OSP made a small number of seed of this interesting second generation lettuce cross from USDA-Salinas to a number of organic farmers several years ago.  Last year we multiplied the lettuce seed on our farm (a simple job) and this year we're selecting for vigor, taste, texture and bolt resistance.  You can see some of the diversity in the plants alongside the t-tape.  Apparently, the seed has been sitting around in Salinas, California for a while without generating much interest since this is clearly not a lettuce for distance shipping. It is; however, resistant to leaf miners and combines the flavor of the old French heirlooom with the texture and heat tolerance of Salinas.

 That's part of the problem that public breeders have.  How do you get your seed out to farmers who might see it as the next best thing?  Seed companies have become much less regional and more dependent on the multinational seed wholesalers who have their own breeders on staff who must breed varieties for the biggest market which are the huge, generally corporation owned farms.  Now the small farmer and organic farmer have an opportunity to help to develop varieties suited to their own growing systems and micro-climates by working with public breeders who are playing a critical role in providing suitable starting material.

It's a winning situation for the small farmer.