Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Still astounded by the treasure that has been gifted to me..

That I wrote of earlier tonight. The amazing gift of an amazing amount of diversity from Alan Kapuler in the cucurbrita family. There are some squash and some melons in there as well, lot's of great stuff, some older baker creek varieties, and some Peace Seeds ones. There is also a large collection of Curtis Showell varieties, something I am very excited to have. You see, a lot of people inspire me in the seed world, a few I've had the luxury of working with or sharing with or communicating with; Alan Kapuler, Tim Peters, Tom Wagner, Ken Ettlinger, Carl Barnes, and a few I have yet to communicate with like Carol Deppe, Munk Bergin, Frank Morton, and Ken Allen (many of whoom I will try to interview before the season get's going) and some I sadly will never have the chance to communicate with except through others experiences of them and the traces they left of themselves in these valuable seeds, Curtis Showell being one of them.

I thought I should take a moment to write a few things about him here, or more appropriately, let those who know him write some.

From Seeds Of Change we have this tribute:

A Tribute a Guardian of Garden Diversity, Curtis Showell is a tall, lanky farmer who lives on his family's land in Bishopville, Maryland; born in Virginia, he has lived in this area for nearly forty years. The land he works has been worked by several generations of his ancestors. "I got three bloodlines. On my dad's side of the family, I come from the Wooster Indians. On my mom's side, well, she is basically the same tribe Pocahontas was." (The third line is African-American.) With a wide interest in all of the cucurbits (except cucumbers), Curtis has amassed a world-class collection of seeds; it is a collection orchestrated by a self-taught genius. As a child, Curtis was taken with the growing of food. The family garden has always been a source of pride.

I started out when I was a kid. I was about eight years old. A seed catalog came to our house, and we ordered seeds for the family garden. The next year when the catalog came I noticed that some of my favorite varieties had disappeared out of the catalog. There wasn't a thing wrong with them. A lot of them were superior to these today. They had better flavor and their keeping quality was good. With some of the new stuff, the keeping quality is not that good and the taste is overrated. So I started collecting-no one else in the family, just me. I guess it was my instinct; after I had seen the disappearance of seeds, I said I had better hold on to this here and stop wasting it. I have been collecting and growing ever since. I think they should be preserved for the next generation." The list Curtis maintains is overwhelming: over a thousand varieties of squash and pretty close to a thousand varieties of melons. He uses the best criteria that any grower can when choosing which seed to collect and grow: taste. "I test them by eating what I grow and letting other people sample them too, to see if they agree with what I say. Of course, I have to pretty near shoo them away when the crops start to come in," Curtis says with a chuckle. In an age of ever-growing complexity, we are lucky to know gardeners like Curtis Showell. (Shown here, Seeds of Change Malali Watermelon seeds.)

And this is the text that Kapuler sent me today in a beautiful postcard of his own painting entitled "penny Lane":


Feels like sending you ancient history-
The great seed genius Curtis Showell- I look at this photo above my desk as this is written.

and from an e-mail

every time i handle Curtis' seeds, i hear his voice talking to me.


one more:

During the many years we knew one another and talked about curcurbits into the night, Curtis would send me seeds. In the seed room there are seeds of perhaps a couple hundred watermelon, hundreds of Cucurbitas distributed in 4 species and some undetermined number of melons and cucumbers. He was a great man, a great seed collector, an at home, unknown plant genius. I miss him everyday and when in the seed room sorting curcurbitaceae he follows me around whispering about the different cultivars, telling me things I never knew.

Between the friendship and love that guys like Alan, Tim, and Ken have shared with me and the amazing diversity they have bestowed upon me, I feel very blessed in this world, to have the opporotunity to work with the seeds which make up our past and determine our future as a species and as a civilization on this planet, seeds which have graced the hands of these "seed genious" types and many before them are now in my safguarding to be placed in the hands of the many to come after me.

Here I must send out my love and prayers to Val. Mcmurray, I hope you heal soon my friend and don't forget we all love you, I will be in contact with you in the near future, get well soon! :)

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