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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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Breeding for bio-regions and fighting multi-nationals!

I've been doing a bit of research as of late on many old corn lines and newly developed ones, of course along the way I might finds something incredibly awesome about squash, tomatoes, turnips, watermelons, strawberries, fruit trees, or any number of other things which might derail my chosen subject of "obsession" at the moment. Either way, it's all about how deep down the rabbit hole you choose to go and while scrounging through a particularly fruitful shelf within that rabbit hole I came accross an amazing web-site dealing with the Oscar H. Will seed company. I have discused this company in the past on the blog, particularly their connection to the Native Americans and the varieties of seed which were given to Oscar Will by the natives of North Dakota, but I knew very little of both the man and his son (the future heri to the company) and their personal struggles.

This article gave me some insight:

It's nice to know that there were other kindred souls out there struggling not just with producing seed and breeding seed but also with the "human condition" in general, it gave me hope and inspiration for which I have put to good use with my work.

It's really amazing to me to think that Oscar H. Will, James J.H. Gregory and Luther Burbank all three walked this earth and worked specifically within their diverse bio-regions at the same time. Wow, is such geneious to be found now, I know it is, just got to motivate some of these guys to get their stuff out there in the open a little more "efficiently".

Anyhow, as with many plant breeders, it is obvious that I have borrowed many of the genetics in my "Astronomy Domine" line directly from Oscar H. Will (via the Mandan Indians) by way of Nuetta and Sunshine sweet corns, and probably others. As we speak I am looking for a definitive list of varieties which were introduced via his famous seed house.

I really enjoyed reading most of all about his descriptions of varieties as well as his overal description of the work presented in his catalog. The use of "key words" like hardiness, cold tolerance, resistance, almost metaphorical in their meaning in certain ways speaks to me and my work using metaphorical alchemy to describe what I wish to do.

People often ask us, Kim and Myself, why we have such and impetetus on breeding, I have addressed this many times in my writing and have written many unique articles about the why's and hows, but people don't always seem to "get it". They don't understand why we go through the trials and tribulations involved when they have come to the understanding that "so many good varieties already exist", and they are right, there are many amazing heirloom and OP varieties, but what they don't realize is that none of these varieties is "static". Evolution never stops, every time you save seed you are making a selection, even if only subconciously, but more importantly you are adapting that variety to your location.

The real reasons why we persue plant breeding have a lot to do with room for improvement, there are amazing old varieties out there, many tailored to our particular bio-region here in the mid-west/Ohio Valley region but often times they are under productive or fall to the various weather related diseases, sometimes they are incredibly bottlenecked via genetics (IE. Inbred) and most of all they may not fit my tastes, nor the tastes of my customers. Of course we are also dealing with a dynamic and changing environment (wether natural or manmade; global warming or cooling) and of course the conspiracy theorist in me is always preparing for things to get FUBAR, as we all should be. Most of all I love exploring, I love adapting things, being creative, selecting for unique adaptations.

I have in just 6 seasons created lines adapted to incredibly low fertility, high and low PH, cool soil germination, powdery mildew tolerance, drought, flood conditions and more, and all of it relied on both the old OP varieties and modern hybrids as sources of germplasm. Grex/Mix/Landrace/Genepool, they all mean the same thing, but what they ultimately give us is an amazing amount of diversity and an assurance of abundance in the hardes of times, in the worst of conditions, an extended cropping system, advanced disease and environmental tolerances, an assurance that we can, when we need to be, be self sufficient farmers, stewards of seed, earth, and human life. With these seeds we also make a powerful statement to the powers that be in this world, to the Monsantos, the Syngentas, to the elements of government and beyond that seek to control us and domesticate us like "Chattel". We will not ever "Die Born".

We recently made the move to dedicate our lives and our business; Bishop's Homegrown: Face Of The Earth Seed soley to the breeding and introduction of incredibly diverse and yet completely reliable landraces of vegetables, fruits, nursery stock, chickens, guineas, turkeys, and more. A decision I won't regret, if only for the fact that I have come to realize that devoting my life soley to selling produce (which I will continue on a smaller scale, focusing on a CSA and taking extras to market) will not accomplish what we seek in this world in the way of forging connections to the earth and to The Real by way of our varieties and Gnosis with other people. No, I think a traveling seedsman is a fine thing to be, a traveling sustainable extension office is even better, it also at least makes us a moving target for the powers that be. Ultimately we would love to inspire others in other bio-regions to become interested in becoming plant breeders and then seedsman and teachers. To some extent that is a success, some thanks to our doing and some thanks to their own god given instincts. Joseph Lofthouse is one of those fellows, John Grahm another. There are lots of them, if you want to become one I suggest checking out where you can find tons of information and like minds.

One thing I would like to say to the myriad of trust fund, do it yourself type hippies currently trying to enter the world of self sustainability, even if you don't breed, save your seeds. If you aren't saving seeds you are part of the problem, not part of the solution, as you ignorance of the stewardship of life is overlooking the very most important part of the equation. I get tired of having that conversation with certain people all the time, just remember for all of your anti-Monsanto rage, you keep buying seeds and they will become more interested in them and they will "own" them if only to control you and your "exploits". Your not part of the club, but your so close, make the leap.

I was also doing some research in regards to modern field corn breeding. No, not Mosterous breeding like that done by Monsanto and the He Who Walks Behind The Rows Monsanto blog, but true, time tested, safe, traditional plant breeding, both for animal feed as well as for human consumption and came accross an interesting article about a breeder I hadn't heard of before, possibly because his main aim is geared towards farming, but all of us should be breeders. You can find the article here:

It's always awesome to see someone bettering their vison of the world through truly self sustainable farming.

"We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of the dreams!"

"All I need is a tall ship and a star to sail her by!"

This year we made an amazing grex/mix/genepool of some terrific OP corns with a UK Tuxpeno base. Tuxpeno gives us the dent/flint characteristics we are looking for while also allowing us the diversity and compatibility to intergress characteristics from the older southern dents. We have also learned that our Turkey flock prefers Tuxpeno over traditional southern dents and the rate of gain is greatly increased. Come fall when we release the "Grand Bazzar" you will find five new "composite/synthetic" corn varieties of amazing diversity, including one which contains genes from Kculi (maize morado). This past weekend we made inroads into the amish communities via these very seed sources with orders for "plot bags" of seed in the pipeline as the Amish too are trying to escape the tenticles of "bio-tech".

In coming years (now that we have increased initial seed stock) we will allow room for expeimentation in crosses between some of the more "elite" lines of parch, flour, and mostly waxy endosperm corns.

Finally, tying all this together I came accross a terrifying Monanto video via God Like Productions, I don't have a link for an inbed so I am simply copying and pasting the link to the actual forum thread with imbedded video. I warn you, some of the posts on the thread and at god like productions in general are "out there", some are BS, some are people making jokes, some are actually informative if you know where to look.

I will live to see the day that bio-tech fails, probably the same day the people wake up to the manipulation of our everyday world by the powers that be.

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