As organic farming refrains from high and chemical inputs it needs varieties better adapted to organic conditions to improve the yield stability and quality of crops. In order to make genebank accessions more accessible for the utilisation in organic breeding programmes, a participatory research project with farmers was carried out in 2002 and 2003. From the Dutch genebank collection 37 onion accessions, divided into five different groups (according to their market use), were selected and planted at a commercial organic farm. Farmer participation in characterisation and evaluation of the material resulted in including additional plant traits for genebank characterisation as well as new selection criteria for breeding. It also provided researchers insight into how organic farmers evaluate and value certain plant traits. Variation for important properties was found within and between the five groups. To establish base populations, the farmers, in collaboration with the researchers, selected the best genotypes within the five groups of onion accessions. The new base populations may be exploited in order to achieve better-adapted material for organic farming systems.