Freelance Plant Breeding, by Carol S. Deppe
A vibrant community of freelance plant breeders is breeding crops for better flavor, local adaptation, performance in organic and sustainable systems, and other virtues. Most varieties bred for organics in recent decades have been bred by freelance plant breeders. Freelancers are strongly committed to agricultural biodiversity and work on myriad rare crops and wild species in addition to common crops. Freelance breeders have succeeded in extending the practical growing ranges for a number of crops. They sometimes breed for resistance to specific diseases that matter in their regions. They have bred varieties for spe-cial purposes, such as squash for drying in the summer squash stage for use as a dried vegetable, flint corns for whole‐grain polenta, special varieties of flour corns for parching to make a tasty snack food, quinoa for use as greens, and lettuce and spinach varieties for harvest at the baby‐leaf stage.Freelance plant breeders have rediscovered and modernized the concept of breeding and using landraces. They often create deliberately variable varieties that can be superior to more uniform varieties for particular purposes—such as lettuce varieties that give a desirable mix of colors and shapes from a single intercrossing and segregating population. Freelancers sometimes engage in elaborate collaborations; one such collaboration involves more than 200 par-ticipants in four countries and has released more than a hundred dwarf tomato varieties.Freelance plant breeders actively support and encourage seed saving and focus on breeding open‐pollinated varieties. They eschew all forms of propri-etary control over seed, from the legal means of intellectual property to the biological means of F1 hybrids. They release their work as public domain or open source varieties. They support their breeding work in various ways, most often by combining it with running small retail seed companies, acting as wholesale seed growers, or collaborating with local farmers. In addition, a number of seed companies now offer voluntary royalties to freelance plant breeders to encourage and support their work. This chapter introduces free-lance plant breeders and describes their motivations, goals, methods, eco-nomics, and accomplishments.