Board of Directors


(photo credit: Matthew Dillon)

(photo credit: Matthew Dillon)

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.


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Tessa Peters, Board Co-Chair

Tessa Peters de Graff is a Seed Matters graduate fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the plant breeding and plant genetics program. The goal of her PhD research is to produce sweet corn varieties for organic producers in the Upper Midwest through participatory plant breeding methods. She will graduate in May 2018 and join the staff of the Organic Seed Alliance as the Intermountain West Research and Education Associate. Tessa also served on the organizing committee for the 2013 SOSS in Mount Vernon, WA. She also likes backpacking, reading, snowshoeing, and bicycling.


Lindsay Wyatt

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.   


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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 work engages farmers, plant breeders and chefs in breeding crops for high quality and flavor in midwestern organic farm systems. She has also worked on tomato and cucumber breeding projects for AP Whaley Seed company, based in Mt. Horeb Wisconsin. She currently lives in Minneapolis, MN.


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Alex Lyon, Board Member

Alex is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of British Columbia - Vancouver. She got her start in organic agriculture and specialty crops in her hometown of Fallbrook, CA and through her BA at Smith College. She earned her MS and PhD at University of Wisconsin-Madison where she coordinated participatory on-farm variety trials as part of the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative. Her current research in BC explores how and why farmers participate in local or alternative seed systems, and the role of such seed systems in supporting socially and environmentally sustainable agri-food systems. As part of this work, she coordinates the BC Seed Trials, a network of on-farm trials aimed at supporting the scaling up of regional seed production. She counts co-founding SOSS and helping organize the inaugural symposium in 2012 as one of her proudest, and most fun, accomplishments.


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Adrienne Shelton, Board Member

Adrienne is the Northeast Organic Product Specialist for Vitalis Organic Seeds. She earned a master’s degree in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics and a doctorate in Environment and Resources at the UW-Madison. Her research included plant breeding for organic farming systems and intellectual property rights for public cultivars. Adrienne is proud to have participated in the breeding and release of Who Gets Kissed?, an open-pollinated sweet corn bred for and with organic farmers. She is also a co-founder of the SOSS and helped to organize the inaugural 2012 symposium held in Vermont, and has been actively involved with the group ever since. Adrienne serves on the Board of Directors for the Organic Seed Alliance, and has been engaged with the organic farming movement as a farmer, organizer, seed saver, and researcher for 15 years.


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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.


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Hannah Traggis, Board Member

Hannah Traggis is the Senior Horticulturist and Horticultural Educator at Massachusetts Horticultural Society and in their public garden site, The Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley, MA. Her lifelong love of plants led her to a B.S. in Marine Botany and an M.S. in Plant Physiology with an emphasis on agroecology and plant breeding for low input organic systems in New England. Hannah’s work at Mass Hort combines both her passion for plant biology and organic agriculture with that for education. Specializing in food system education, Hannah runs an organic vegetable gardening and trial program at Mass Hort, working to educate people ranging from pre-school to post retirement about growing and using food in a regionally robust and stable food system.