WPVGA Researcher of the Year

Dr. Jeff Endelman, Assistant Professor in the UW Dept. of Horticulture received the Researcher of the Year award at the recent at the recent Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association meeting held February 8, 2017, in Stevens Point.  Dr. Endelman has an emphasis on potato breeding and genetics. He brings a unique set of skills and experiences to his position, including two sets of advanced degrees. First, he earned degrees in physics and bioengineering. Then, after participating in a Community Supported Agriculture program, he fell in love with farming and completed two year-long apprenticeships on small farms in California. This inspired him to go back to earn a Master’s Degree in Plant Science from Utah State University and a Ph.D. in Crop Science from Washington State University.

At the University of Wisconsin, a major focus of Jeff’s research and extension program is to produce improved potato varieties. In recent years, Jeff’s research has helped Wisconsin release several outstanding varieties including Red Endeavor, Oneida Gold and Hodag. Jeff has also been instrumental in making improvements to the Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station as well as the SpudPro commercialization program.

Seed to Kitchen

Plant breeders partner with chefs for tastier produce

Have you noticed that more and more restaurants are featuring great-tasting, locally sourced foods on their menus? Now, through a UW–Madison horticulture initiative called “Seed to Kitchen,” chefs on the culinary cutting edge are working with plant breeders to grow produce with specific flavor characteristics their customers will love. –

Farm to Flavor dinner will feature plant breeding efforts

Farm to Flavor is a signature dinner experience and celebration of Wisconsin food that will be held on Thursday, September 15, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Mendota Room inside Dejope Hall. It brings together the plant breeders, farmers, and chefs responsible for creating a new local cuisine. These co-creators encompass the motto that food is made at the intersection of seed, farm, and kitchen.

Taste the results of collaborative plant breeding in small plates from Madison’s highly acclaimed chefs including, Jonny Hunter of Underground Food Collective, Tory Miller of I’Etoile, Dan Bonnano of Pig in a Fur Coat and Eric Benedict of Café Hollander. Guest speaker Ken Greene of the Hudson Valley Seed Library will kick off a dinner discussion about the intersection of crop varieties, culture and art. Questions about plant breeding, farming and food systems are welcomed throughout the dinner.

Prior to the dinner, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., a free plant-breeding showcase held at Allen Centennial Garden will give attendees the opportunity to meet leading plant breeders responsible for developing fruits and vegetables adapted for Wisconsin’s organic farms. While sampling the results, attendees will learn how collaborative plant breeding can increase productivity and the profitability of regional organic farms.

The cost to attend the dinner is $35 in advance and $40 the day of the event. Register athttp://bit.ly/2bh7dtv.

For more information, contact Julie Dawson at dawson@hort.wisc.edu or (608) 609-6165.

Hort Grad Career Path

While trying to figure out who she was during her teenage years, Emily Haga discovered plants. She wanted to learn about her culture and ancestry and in doing so she learned to cook, make art and enjoyed being in nature. She volunteered at a natural and local farm and worked at a natural food store in her hometown, just south of Madison. All her experiences led to an interest and passion for food and gardening.Emily_Haga

“I was hooked on vegetables and plant diversity. The more I learned about plants, the more I felt connected to the people I came from, the food I was eating and the land I lived on,” Haga stated.

No stranger to the University of Wisconsin, Haga pursued her interest in plants and completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UW-Madison. Her undergraduate degree was in horticulture while her graduate studies focused on plant breeding and genetics.

As an undergraduate, Haga completed independent research on plant flowering time and research on pepper germplasm adaptation for the shorter growing season in Wisconsin. During her graduate work, she completed a multi-year field study on early blight resistance in potatoes.
Today, Haga is a plant breeder for Johnny’s Selected Seeds where she works on tomatoes, lettuce and peppers. At Johnny’s she develops new varieties to support small scale farmers and growers and looks at trends in the market to meet the future needs of these growers.

It involves a passion for both plants and people. Everybody is trying to make a difference and we all need to work together to bring our unique contributions to the table. We need all types of people to solve different parts of this agricultural puzzle.

—Emily Haga

Although her interest was in plants, she said she hadn’t planned on becoming a plant breeder but she liked the idea of preserving and yet creating new genetic diversity in crops.

Deciding to purse plant breeding didn’t come as a lightbulb decision; Haga attended multiple conferences, field days, plant breeder meetings and visited different gene banks across the United States during school. Through these experiences she realized how much of a multi-disciplinary study this field was and liked that it combined a lot of her passions from youth.

Haga encourages other graduate students to jump at the opportunities offered. Whether it is a lab job, independent study, or capstone experience, she says, “Get out in the world, meet new people and see what is available to you.”

Originally printed in UW Grad School Alumni Careers