About Our Trialing Program
How We Trial New Varieties Each Year
People Plus Information
Many people contribute to our trialing process. Johnny's keeps a close ear to the ground on the fresh market — listening for consumer preferences, trends, new products spotted elsewhere, and emergent research.
Growers far and wide let us know their needs from a production standpoint. They may, for example, request better heat, drought, wind or frost tolerance, increased disease resistance, longer storage life, or other attributes.
This kind of valuable customer feedback is typically funneled through our Territory Sales Team to the Trialing Team, where all the background information gets gathered for further consideration.
Major roles and responsibilities fulfilled by Johnny's Trialing Team include:
The Trialing Process
From start to completion, the course a seed trial takes can vary considerably. On the whole, however, the trialing process generally follows 7 key steps:
How the Artisans Came to Fruition
Artisan™ tomatoes are a new group of small-fruited, striped tomatoes with superior flavor. It took 10 years for the new Artisan tomatoes to make the journey from concept to catalog, a process that illustrates how exceptional new varieties are bred, trialed, and introduced to Johnny's customers.
As of this writing, 7 varieties comprise the Artisan line, 2 of which are exclusive to Johnny's. JSS has entered into an R & D partnership with Artisan, so the exclusives are based upon our support of the Artisan development process. Defining features include not just outstanding flavor but julienne (elongated) and rounded cherry shapes in a patterned palette of reds, oranges, golds, pinks, and greens.
"We first saw Artisan varieties at our trial farm here in Maine in the summer of 2008 — not the varieties that we are introducing this year, but rather, close relatives of the ones we have today," recounts Andrew Mefferd, Johnny's Trial Tech for tomatoes.
"We were blown away by the unique colors, stripes, and flavors of these varieties. Not only that, but the varieties performed well here, in short-season Maine, as well as in the longer-season area where they were bred, in California. All traditional breeding work, no genetic modification, of course!
"The Artisan tomatoes are the product of the breeder's desire to create unique-looking tomatoes that actually taste as good as they look — the polar opposite of the typical grocery store tomato that looks perfectly ordinary and tastes mediocre. The combination of small fruit size (20–30 gm), stripes, good flavor, and texture is a fairly unusual convergence in the tomato world."
That first trial was one instance where the crew knew immediately that they wanted to add the item to Johnny's catalog. They had already been in development for more than 5 years at that point, but the breeder reported that additional traditional breeding work was underway to further improve plant habit and flavors.
"That breeding project was finally finished in 2012, so that we could grow the seed to production during the 2013 season and offer the new seed for sale this fall," Mefferd explains. "So, more than a decade in development, here at long last are the Artisan tomatoes."
Johnny's is pleased to offer a pallette of Artisan varieties seeds as well as grafted plants.
Andrew sums it all up for the Trialing Team: "We think the Artisans are going to impress everyone who grows or eats them, as much as they did us." We hope you'll give the new Artisans a try — and let us know if they match our expectations.
Learn more about trialing new crop varieties from the following additional resources.
- Why Try Something New? Reasons for trying out new varieties; how best to choose new products to suit your changing needs; and points to consider as you adopt new varieties on your farm »
- How to Conduct a Variety Trial on Your Farm. Conduct scale-appropriate trials that deliver results you can use, with this concise, stepwise guide from Johnny's Trialing Team »
- Learn More about advanced and replicated variety trialing programs for organic crops by visiting the website of the Organic Seed Alliance »
- Browse all products New This Year »