Board of Directors
Claire Luby, Board Co-Chair
Claire recently completed her PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a Seed Matters Fellow in Organic Plant Breeding. During her time at UW-Madison, she co-founded the inaugural Student Organic Seed Symposium (SOSS) held in Vermont. Additionally, in collaboration with Dr. Irwin Goldman, Claire developed eight intellectual-property-free populations of carrot germplasm based upon market and color classes and released them as Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI)-pledged varieties, providing ideal sources of material that all interested can use to breed new open source carrot varieties. Claire is a co-founder of OSSI as well as a member of the Board of Directors. Currently, Claire is working on postdoctoral research at the UW-Madison.
Tessa Peters, Board Co-Chair
Tessa Peters de Graff is the Commercialization Manager at The Land Institute working with perennial grains, including Kernza™ . She has a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the plant breeding and plant genetics program. Tessa also served on the organizing committee for the 2013 SOSS in Mount Vernon, WA. She lives in Montana and likes backpacking, reading, snowshoeing, and bicycling.
Lindsay Wyatt, Board Secretary
Lindsay is a squash and pumpkin breeder at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Her interest in vegetable breeding stems from her work at her family’s retail greenhouse and garden center in Ohio. After receiving a B.S. degree in Biology from Duke University, Lindsay went on to pursue a PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Cornell University, graduating in 2015. While at Cornell, Lindsay studied vegetable breeding and genetics with Dr. Michael Mazourek, focusing on winter squash fruit quality and Phytophthora capsici resistance in bell pepper. Lindsay has also served on the organizing committee for the 2014 SOSS hosted by Cornell University, Ithaca NY.
Jared Zystro, Board Treasurer
Jared is a PhD candidate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program at the UW-Madison, where he is studying efficient methods of developing new varieties for organic agriculture. Additionally, Jared is the Assistant Director of Research and Education for the Organic Seed Alliance, where he manages regional development in California, conducts participatory breeding projects and variety trials, and teaches farmers about seed production and plant breeding at workshops, conferences and field days. He has worked in the organic seed industry for 14 years and has a master’s degree in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison. Jared lives in the coastal town of Arcata, CA with his wife Lisa and son Toby.
Brigid Meints, Board Historian
Brigid is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Barley Breeding program at Oregon State University. She grew up in Corvallis, OR and developed a love for plants at a young age. She earned a BA from Scripps College in Anthropology and Gender & Women’s Studies, but found her way back to plants after graduation when she began working for the barley breeding program at OSU. She earned her MS from OSU in Crop Science with a focus in Plant Breeding & Genetics and recently completed her PhD in Crop Science at Washington State University. Her research focuses on breeding multi-use naked barley for organic systems. She has attended several SOSS events and served on the 2015 organizing committee.
Tiffany Fess, Board Member
Tiffany has been involved in organic crop research for several years. She is currently completing a PhD at West Virginia University in Agricultural Sciences. Her dissertation focuses on determining differences in nutritional quality and gene expression in crops produced with opposing forms of nitrogen fertilization. Additionally, she has been involved with projects assessing biological pest control in green bean crops, production of heirloom tomatoes and disease resistance, as well as quinoa production in regional organic systems. She has also attended several SOSS events, serving on the 2015 organizing committee.
Solveig Hanson, Board Member
Solveig is currently a PhD student in Horticulture at the UW-Madison. Her doctoral research investigates flavor breeding in table beet, with specific attention to earthy flavor conferred by the aromatic molecule geosmin. Through a genotype x environment study and QTL mapping project, Solveig is working to further characterize the genetic and environmental contributors to earthy flavor in beets. Through a participatory breeding project using extreme-geosmin beet germplasm, Solveig is working with Wisconsin farmers, chefs, and consumers to develop specialty beet populations with novel flavor and color. A final project component will investigate the impact of collaborative breeding - presented as status or story - on consumer acceptance and flavor perception.
Kitt Healy, Board Member
Kitt Healy is an Associate Outreach Specialist in Urban and Regional Food Systems at UW-Madison, as well as a Research and Education Associate for the Midwestern Region with Organic Seed Alliance. Her background is in tomato trialing and breeding. Her current work engages farmers, plant breeders and chefs in breeding crops for productivity and flavor in midwestern organic farm systems, and experimenting with on-farm organic seed production. Kitt also has a few backyard breeding and seed saving projects underway, and she loves learning from elder seed-keepers about their lives, stories and vision for our agricultural future. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.
Rachel Hultengren, Board Member
Rachel received her Master's in Plant Breeding & Genetics from Cornell University, where her work in the Mazourek Lab focused primarily on participatory plant breeding of bell peppers and winter squash under the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC), and on establishing priorities for organic vegetable breeding in the Northeast. After completing her undergraduate degrees at the University of Washington, Rachel worked as an intern at Let Us Farm (a diversified organic veggie farm near Olympia, WA); before studying at Cornell, she worked for the Agricultural Development Initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She now lives in Seattle, Washington, and is the creator, producer and host of Free the Seed!, the Open Source Seed Initiative podcast that tells the stories of how new plant varieties make it into our seed catalogues and onto our plates.
Hannah Swegarden, Board Member
Hannah is currently a PhD student at Cornell University, under the advisement of vegetable breeder, Dr. Phillip Griffiths (Cornell – NYSAES). Her research investigates nutritional and consumer quality traits in leafy Brassica vegetables. In particular, performing sensory analysis and consumer market research to elucidate the methodology required to engage and incorporate consumers in the plant breeding process. Hannah was first introduced to the world of organic seed while completing a master's program at the University of Minnesota with focus on the breeding and evaluation of heirloom dry beans for organic farming operations in the Midwest. Additionally she has attended SOSS events since 2013, also serving as a member of the organizing committee in 2015.