A Culinary Breeding Network comprised of seed growers, plant breeders, farmers, chefs and produce buyers has emerged in the Pacific Northwest. The group is identifying and developing varieties with traits they feel display “culinary excellence.”
“It’s not just about finding the next novelty or the next big thing,” said Andrew Still, owner of Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home, Oregon. “We’re here to bring biodiversity back to agriculture and our plates as soon as possible.”
The group feels that its members are filling a gap that has been left vacant by public land-grant universities, which traditionally have provided many of the resources for the development of new seed varieties. In recent years, these universities – which also operate agricultural experiment stations and cooperative extension programs – have been increasingly challenged by budget cuts, declining public investment in agricultural research, and fewer researchers on staff to engage in plant breeding. Industry and commodity groups are picking up more of the slack, leading to fewer plant varieties and less access to open-pollinated varieties.