Clif Bar and Organic Valley establish $2M UW-Madison endowed chair to support organic agriculture

endowed organic chair story
CALS is a leader in organic agriculture innovation. Agronomist Bill Tracy (in blue shirt) and graduate student Adrienne Shelton (at right) helped develop a new variety of sweet corn named “Who Gets Kissed?” specifically for organic farming systems. This photos shows them assessing sweet corn traits at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Photo by Wolfgang Hoffmann.

A $1 million combined gift from two national organic brands – plus an additional $1 million in matching funds — will establish the Clif Bar and Organic Valley Chair in Plant Breeding for Organic Agriculture at the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. It is the first of five organic research chairs that Clif Bar hopes to create at land-grant universities across the nation.

“We are grateful for this generous endowment that recognizes our contributions in this area and will help us continue to contribute to a diverse agricultural future,” says Richard Straub, CALS senior associate dean.

Clif Bar & Company and Organic Valley both donated $500,000 to establish the endowment. The gift also received a “Morgridge Match,” doubling its value to $2 million. In fall 2014, UW-Madison alumni John and Tashia Morgridge promised $100 million to match new gifts toward endowed professorships at the university. Their donation is the largest-ever gift by a single donor to the UW-Madison.

Both funders noted the college’s leadership in organic agricultural innovation when establishing the fund. The college is also home to the nation’s largest public plant breeding program.

The named chair will be awarded to a CALS faculty member dedicated to developing new crop varieties for organic farming systems. The professor will be selected by CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch in conjunction with CALS faculty. The recipient will hold the position for a seven-year term, at which point a new chair will be selected.

Clif Bar & Company, based in Emeryville, California, makes organic foods and drinks with a focus on sports nutrition. Clif Bar products include CLIF Bar energy bars, LUNA nutrition bars and CLIF Kid energy bars. Wisconsin-based Organic Valley is the largest cooperative of organic farmers in the U.S. Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, eggs and produce.

Both organizations have existing partnerships with UW-Madison. Clif Bar provides funding for graduate students and post-docs in the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program. Organic Valley supports a variety of programs in the college, including the Center for Dairy Research, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the School for Beginning Dairy Farmers and organic cropping systems research.

The original Clif Bar announcement about the endowed chair is available online at

For information related to CALS, contact Richard Straub at or (608) 890-0225. For information related to Clif Bar or Organic Valley, contact Joe Kowalke at or (415) 500-0620.