We are Artisan Seeds. Our breeding business is an extension of our farm, and we are responsible for introducing the acclaimed Artisan Cherry Tomatoes. Our varieties are packed with flavor, which has always been our first focus in breeding. However, small farmers like us also need to have varieties with good vigor, disease resistance and shelf-life, as these additional traits can mean the difference between the success and failure of a tomato crop.
Our new cherry tomato variety, Madera, combines excellent flavor with very good production, plant disease resistance and extended fruit shelf-life, and we are confident that it will loved by farmers, chefs and gardeners.
Madera is a cherry tomato
Madera is a reddish brown cherry tomato with green shoulders. Madera plants are indeterminate vines that are disease resistant and vigorous. Madera is a hybrid -- meaning that we created it by crossing two parents that, when combined, produce a truly exceptional hybrid variety. We developed both of the parents over the past 15 years using heirloom and other tomatoes.
Madera was selected this past summer, by chefs
We work in close collaboration with Reylon Augustin and his Michelin-Star team at Madera Restaurant in Menlo Park, California. We rely on them to evaluate all of our tomatoes and to give us critical feedback so we can improve them.
During the summer of 2017 the Madera tomato was selected from among the tomatoes we brought to Reylon and his crew for evaluation. The flavor profile, texture and shelf-life of the fruits were judged to be unique and the variety has since been named "Madera". Since, in Spanish, madera = wood the name is quite fitting for this little reddish brown tomato.
The low-tech hand cross that produced the original hybrid seed for Madera was made last winter.
For the past few years we have been collaborating on breeding projects with the Solorio family and their family farm (Heirloom Farms - Ensenada, Mexico). They are cutting edge growers who produce tomatoes that are sold to high end restaurants throughout the Western US.
Each winter we grow our tomatoes in their fields and shade houses so that they can help us evaluate our varieties, and also so that they can help us to develop new ones. We have a winter breeding nursery in their fields each winter, and it is in that nursery that we make many experimental hybrid crosses. The hybrid crosses we make are then tested in our field, and in numerous other places the following summer.
In December 2016 we made the cross that resulted in the Madera tomato. The cross that produced Madera was one of 55 crosses that we made last winter, and it was the best one of eight crosses designed to produce reddish-brown fruits with green shoulders. The seeds from all of the crosses were used in summer trials at our farm, and trials in the production shade-houses of Heirloom Farms. In a side note: Last year's crossing team consisted of myself and my daughter, Nicole. Without her tireless help, the cross that produced the Madera tomato would never have been made.
Madera's potential for large-scale production was validated by Heirloom Farms, in the fall of 2017.
By this past July it was clear to us that Madera plants were highly productive and disease resistant in our California field, but the more important test for the general suitability of Madera for serious growers took place at Heirloom Farms. Madera plants were grown in the production shade-houses at Heirloom Farms during the summer and fall of 2017, and between July and October we waited anxiously for their evaluations.
We were very excited to find out that the plants performed very well in their shade-houses, and the Madera fruits traveled very well post-harvest. So well that they have indicated a desire to include it into their mixed cherry tomato baskets as soon as we can provide them with large quantities of seed. In addition to Madera, 3 other new cherry tomatoes of ours also graded out high enough for inclusion their production systems this coming year.
This is a breakthrough for us. Although we have created a number of well-known gourmet cherry tomatoes in past years, this is the first time that we have created varieties with the longer shelf-life needed for shipping, and the productivity needed for producing them in large quantities. And the best part is, we did not have to sacrifice flavor. Madera fits right in with our Artisan Cherry Tomatoes, flavorwise.
One final note -- while Madera has not been widely trialed, both of its parents have been used to make cherry tomatoes that have performed very well in every corner of the US, and this indirect (but significant) evidence gives us confidence that Madera will do well both indoors and in greenhouses, in most US growing situations.
Madera will be trialed broadly, in 2018, by a network of collaborators
We use a network of farmers and gardeners to evaluate our new tomato varieties each year. This network is organized as a Collaborative Membership program in which members choose 5 new un-released varieties of ours to grow each year. We all share our results (good and bad) in a Facebook group that is devoted primarily to discussing the new varieties. It is through this group that we have previously evaluated both of the parents used to create Madera.
All of the varieties and breeding lines we are currently using are the product of 15 years of selection and evaluation, and it is critical to get a wide variety of feedback, so that everyone in the group (and eventually our customers) has consensus information on which varieties of ours to grow, and how/where they grow best.
This Kickstarter project represents your opportunity to grow Madera before it is generally available for sale.
We are making small batches of seeds available as Kickstarter rewards this winter, but Madera will only be available to Collaborating Members and through Kickstarter rewards until next winter.
Next winter we will make packets available on our website, but larger batches of seed (1000 count) will only be available via this kickstarter project. General release of bulk Madera seed will not occur before 2019.
Hybrid seed for Madera will be produced this winter and next summer
We will make hand crosses to produce Madera seed in January, in our winter nursery. The fruits from these crosses will mature by March, just in time to get rewards out by the end of March. We will produce a much larger batch of seed next summer, and the seed for the larger fall rewards will come from the larger production.
A brief description of some additional items available via this Kickstarter project
1. Green Bee cherry tomato seed
Green Bee tomatoes are completely new -- They have a unique combination of flavor and texture. Simply put, they are cherry tomatoes that NEVER soften. However they do ripen by other measures, attaining a very bright tangy/sweet flavor. These tomatoes store exceptionally well -- for over a month at room temperature! They are currently used by a handful of San Francisco Bay Area chefs, and the variety is slated for release late in 2018.
2. Bellota cherry tomato seed
Bellota is an unreleased hybrid variety. Seeds are only available to Collaborating Members, and via this project, in 2018. This variety has good shelf life and exceptional flavor. The fruits look like acorns, hence the name "bellota". We have big plans for this variety!
3. Our classic "Bumblebee" series of cherry tomatoes
Our three "bumblebee" lines are Pink Bumblebee, Purple Bumblebee and Sunrise Bumblebee. They are OP (true breeding) varieties, and are widely available. Our best strains are available (as either seeds or plants) via this project.
4. The Artisan Seeds Collaborating Membership
Anyone wanting to continuously have early access to the best new varieties we create should strongly consider joining our Collaborating Membership program. By joining the program you will have access to 5 new varieties every year for the next 10 years. This is a list of the varieties available to members for the coming year. As a Collaborating Member, you will also have access to our Collaborating Members facebook group, where we share information on all of our most important projects.
5. Tomato Breeding Bootcamp
Spend a day with us, learning about all aspects of our breeding efforts. Receive hands-on instruction in crossing and have in-depth discussions about trait selection and project development. We will create take-home materials specific to your primary interests. Takes place at our breeding nursery site in Sunol, CA. Select any date between July 7th and 13th (peak crossing season) or August 11th and 19th (peak line selection season).
Risks and challenges
This winter we will make crosses estimated to produce 3X the amount of seed needed for this project. In a worst-case scenario (complete crop failure) we would repeat the crosses in our own fields and send out double rewards late summer to compensate for the delay. However, in 3 winters we have not experienced any crop failures in our winter breeding nursery, and the risk is low.
The risk associated with our summer seed production is even smaller. The seed will be produced by a trusted hybrid seed producer in a controlled-environment facility. However, any delays of longer than 1 month for any of the rewards will be compensated for by doubling the reward.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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