Institutional Collaborators



Lori Hoagland, Professor, Soil Microbial Ecology, Purdue University
Dr. Hoagland leads a research program focused on supporting the continued growth and long-term sustainability of local, organic specialty crop production systems. The long-term goal of her research program is to help specialty crop growers improve the productivity, quality and safety of their crops while protecting environmental health. To accomplish this goal, her lab studies soil microbial ecology and beneficial plant-soil-microbial relationships. As part of the TOMI project, she and her lab group are investigating ways to make soils more disease suppressive by promoting populations of beneficial soil microbes that can suppress disease causing pathogens via multiple biocontrol strategies. They are also investigating mechanisms regulating induced systemic resistance in tomato, and looking for ways to integrate selection for this trait into the TOMI breeding program. She teaches an undergraduate course focusing on ‘Urban Agriculture’, and a graduate level course focusing on ‘Plant Microbiomes’. More information about her research and associated teaching and engagement activities can be found at the following website:

Ambar Carvallo Lopez, Master's Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ambar is currently a Ph.D. student in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program at UW-Madison. She is interested in developing climate-resilient and locally adapted crops, and her work focuses on developing tomato varieties that are adapted for organic production in the Midwest, focusing on flavor and disease resistance. Her work with the TOMI project consists of evaluating and selecting different breeding lines in the open field and high tunnel systems. Fruit tasting is her favorite part of the process!


Margaret Bloomquist, Research Associate, North Carolina State University


Micaela Colley, Program Director, Organic Seed Alliance
Micaela Colley leads Organic Seed Alliance’s research and education programs focused on organic seed production and organic plant breeding. She is the author of several publications. Micaela frequently teaches and speaks on organic seed topics and collaborates on research projects nationally. Micaela is also pursuing a PhD focused on organic and participatory plant breeding under Dr. Edith Lammerts van Bueren at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.


Jeanine Davis, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University
Dr. Jeanine Davis is an associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. She is stationed at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, near Asheville, NC. For over 25 years, her program has focused on helping farmers diversify into new crops and organic agriculture. She has led and cooperated on many applied and basic research projects that include Echinacea, hops, goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, broccoli, stevia, garlic, and heirloom tomatoes. She has published over 120 refereed research and extension publications and given over 500 invited presentations in the U.S., Canada, and Chile. She recently revised and expanded the book Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals with coauthor and ginseng expert Scott Persons. Jeanine is a founding board member of the Organic Growers School and an advisor for the NC Herb Association, the NC Tomato Growers Association, and the NC Natural Products Association.

Joel Davis, Faculty Research Assistant, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University


Julie Dawson, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Julie Dawson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her background is in organic plant breeding and participatory research. Before arriving at UW-Madison, she worked on wheat breeding for artisanal bread making quality with farmers in Washington, France, and New York. In Wisconsin, she is working with other plant breeders to test varieties with organic farmers and local chefs, particularly related to flavor and quality in direct market vegetables. She also is working on tomato and carrot variety trialing for flavor and adaptation to organic conditions, including season extension using hoop-houses.


Daniel S. Egel, Clinical/Engagement Associate Professor, Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University
Dr. Egel earned his bachelor’s degree from Miami University, a master’s degree from Purdue University, and his doctorate from the University of Florida. Dan is responsible for vegetable disease extension and research throughout Indiana. His current research interests include: Host resistance to anthracnose and Fusarium wilt of watermelon; managing fungicide resistance in foliar pathogens, and; management of vegetable diseases in greenhouses. Dan's extension programs include: MELCAST, a weather-based disease forecasting system for cantaloupe and watermelon; accurate vegetable disease diagnosis including the Purdue Tomato Doctor, and; the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers of which Dan is the lead author. Dan’s extension mission is to encourage the sustainable production of healthy vegetables through the use of integrated pest management and organic systems. He works at the Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center in Vincennes.

Randy Fulk, Extension Associate, Horticulture Division, North Carolina State University
Randy Fulk specializes in commercial horticulture production, assisting the horticulture specialist with on-farm trials and university farm crop research projects. High tunnel production is a key focus area. Randy also heads up the plasticulture program at NC A&T, providing training to county agents and small farmers in plasticulture best practices.


Sanjun Gu, Horticulture Specialist, the Cooperative Extension Program of North Carolina A&T State University
Dr. Gu comes to N.C. A&T State University from Lincoln University of Missouri, where he served as the State Horticulture Specialist and as an Assistant Professor. Prior to that, Dr. Gu was the Viticulture Program Leader at the Kentucky State University. Dr. Gu’s areas of expertise and interest include organic and conventional vegetable production, vegetable grafting, small fruit production, season extension with high tunnels, plant tissue culture, and plant breeding. He also serves as the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Co-coordinator for N.C. A&T State University. Gu’s research goal is to increase on-farm efficiency and profitability while maintaining environmental sustainability for the target audience- small, limited-resource farmers in North Carolina. Gu’s current focus is on vegetable grafting and season extension techniques, both organic and conventional, for vegetable and small fruit production. He also conducts applied research on cultivar evaluations such as for heirloom tomato, bell pepper, sweet corn, and salad greens.


Amit Jaiswal, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Purdue University. Dr. Jaiswal received his BS in Agriculture from Tribhuvan University in Nepal and his MS and PhD in Agroecology and Plant Health in a joint program with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The Volcani Center in Israel. His graduate studies focused on deciphering the mechanisms regulating biochar mediated plant growth promotion and plant defense responses. His background is in molecular plant pathology and microbial ecology research. Dr. Jaiswal is currently Postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Hoagland Lab at Purdue University. His current studies are focused on: 1) identify genes and epialleles associated with induced systemic resistance to foliar pathogens by beneficial soil microbes in tomato, and 2) quantifying the impacts of tomato domestication and breeding on rhizosphere processes.


Cathleen McCluskey, Outreach Director, Organic Seed Alliance
Cathleen McCluskey is the outreach director for Organic Seed Alliance. She supports OSA’s online and print communications, and the coordination of regional and national outreach efforts. Cathleen is also the chair of the biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference. She has worked on food sovereignty campaigns; helped launch a local seed library; and researches the social, biological, and economic impacts of on-farm genetic diversity. Cathleen holds an MS in Agroecology from University of Wisconsin–Madison and is currently pursuing graduate studies in environment and resources through the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.


Laurie McKenzie, Research & Education Assistant, Organic Seed Alliance
Laurie McKenzie is Research and Education Associate for the Pacific Northwest region and one of OSA's vegetable breeders. She manages OSA's research farm in Chimacum, WA, where she conducts breeding projects, vegetable variety trials, and seed production on a variety of crops. Laurie has authored and co-authored several publications and taught dozens of classes and workshops on seed production and plant breeding. She received her M.S. in Horticulture and Plant Breeding from Oregon State University in 2012 and has over a decade of farming and seed production experience. Laurie focuses on breeding for organic production systems using participatory strategies. She is currently working on several collaborative breeding projects focused on cabbage, kale, carrots, Swiss Chard, and purple sprouting broccoli. In her spare time Laurie enjoys creating her budding homestead, playing with her farm animals, and growing flowers in the garden.

Tesfaye Mengiste, Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University
Research in Dr. Mengiste's lab focuses on molecular mechanisms of plant resistance to important fungal pathogens which reduce crop productivity. Key genetic regulators of plant resistance are identified and their functions studied in the model plant Arabidopsis, and in two crop plants: tomato and sorghum. Through genetic, molecular, and biochemical approaches, they determine how selected components regulate plant immune responses to fungal resistance.


James R. Myers, Professor of Vegetable Breeding and Genetics, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University
Dr. Myers holds the Baggett-Frazier Endowed Chair of Vegetable Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. He works on a number of crops including dry and snap bean, edible podded pea, broccoli, pepper, tomato, winter and summer squash, and sweet corn. Prior to employment at OSU, he worked as a dry bean breeder at University of Idaho. His main interest has been to improve vegetable varieties for disease resistance and human nutrition while maintaining quality and productivity in improved varieties. Myers is the project director of NOVIC (Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative) and is also breeding tomatoes, broccoli, and summer squash for organic systems. A new venture is to breed for taste and quality through the Culinary Breeding Network. His latest variety release is the high anthocyanin tomato 'Indigo Rose' with two more cherry types on the way.


Jared Zystro, Research and Education Assistant Director, Organic Seed Alliance
Jared Zystro is Organic Seed Alliance’s research and education assistant director. He has an M.S. and Ph.D. in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where he studied efficient methods of developing new organic sweet corn varieties. Jared has worked in the organic seed industry for over 15 years, managing seed production at two farms and conducting research and education projects with OSA. He currently manages OSA’s 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 lives in the coastal town of Arcata, CA, with his wife and son.

TOMI Alumni

Kyle Richardville
Kyle Richardville completed his Master’s Degree at Purdue University working in Dr. Lori Hoagland’s lab. His work with TOMI included administering both a field and a greenhouse trial by applying a leaf mold compost to soil used for growing tomato plants. The project goal was to quantify the compost’s ability to increase the soil’s pathogenic suppressive effects. The team also collected Nitrogen levels, yield, and nutritional data from the organic tomatoes. The results add to the knowledge bank soil scientists have regarding soil restoration methods. Kyle now works at Texas A&M University.