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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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Iraq: a case in study of the dangers of corporate agriculture and power.

Written and Researchd by: Alan Reed Bishop of Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Bishop's Homegrown

In the common interest of food safety, bio-diversity, and education of an unsuspecting public I present to you a case in point study of the power of bio-tech corporations and their patenting of life as a source of power over the people. While such measures are being put into place in both the United States and Canada it is within the confines of the boundaries of a war torn country, supposedly “liberated” for the sake of a truly “democratic” nation by a nation and indeed nations who have done much to further the corporate greed, profiteering, power sharing, and leverage of trans-national agri-business for agendas hereto unseen with the exception of monetary gain and exploitation of natural resources. The case in point in this study is referred to more commonly as “Iraq” and the agri-business power grab, drafted not by the supposed “democratic” peoples of Iraq, but by the board members of such biotech/agri-business companies as Monsanto, Signet, and the USDA and other US. Policy makers, is better known as CPA Order 81 which effects the state of Iraqi agriculture, seed saving, and small farms and effects the very material that is the culture of one of the oldest civilizations on earth while at the same time highlighting the disturbing outlines of the possibilities in the present and the future for further eroding the rights of conscientious consumers, seed savers, and small farmers in countries worldwide, particularly those already within the grasp of these companies such as the U.S. and Canada.

Iraq: A history of unique culture and agriculture and a center for the rise of civilization in part of the ‘fertile crescent’ of Mesopotamia.

Indeed Iraq has seen civilizations come and go. Iraq rose as a civilization, one based around agriculture, some time around 8000 B.C… Indeed some of the earliest records of civilization and particularly agriculture come from Iraq. Wheat was a main crop for thousands of years, as a matter of fact Iraq has a history of nearly 10,000 years of cultivation of Wheat, wheat which was grown, adapted, and regionalized to the soils of the fertile crescent and the cultivation practices there in. Many unique varieties were developed and for some time in the early part of the 20th century American Agri-Business companies used Iraq for its own personal gene bank in developing new varieties from the hard work of the Iraqi Farmer. In 2002 the FAO estimated that 97 per cent of Iraqi farmers used their own saved seed or bought seed from local markets, indeed this is a culture built on self sufficiency, history, and independence, but all of those things look to be on their way to utter destruction by the forces of the heavy hand of companies like Monsanto and Syngenta who smell the blood in the water and see it as an opportunity to further line their corporate pockets with the money of a poor nation of farmers that is actively being exploited with the help of the government that said they were there to “liberate” said peoples.

Early in the 90’s due to war and famine and the economic impact of those events, as well as the U.N. embargo on Iraq, wheat production started to diminish due to the overuse of the land to supply food to a country otherwise cut off to the world. Luckily, even with the misgivings and mistakes of Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi seed bank was set up to preserve the unique diversity of Iraq’s food crops in the 1970‘s, the seed bank in question is now better known as the Abu Ghraib detainment facility where close to 100,000 unique varieties of wheat and other crops, all the work of generation after generation of Iraqi farmers and breeders, were once stored (other unique crops included exotic melons and watermelons, both staple crops in this desert region, some even considered sacred to fringe religious groups such as the Mandians). Of course this diversity is now missing, evidently lost to the world with exception of some samples stored at the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria, luckily stored for the sake of posterity, samples which in fact belong to the farmers and peoples of Iraq and which are adapted to the regionalized stresses of those farms. However, the scenario of these varieties being redistributed to their rightful owner is highly unlikely given the introduction of CPA Order 81.

As always the trans-national companies and the United States and its allies in the world control of food crops, bio-diversity and genetic manipulation have stepped in and soiled the supposed agenda of the liberation of Iraq with the fingerprints of their greed driven manipulation with the wide and varied wording of CPA Order 81. Evidently 10,000 years of agricultural development and success is no longer sufficient or more aptly not putting money into the right people’s pockets, in the new structure of Iraq.

Many words have been said about CPA Order 81 and even the USDA has made broad statements claiming that the provisions set fort in Order 81 will not effect the Iraqi small farmer saving seed from traditional varieties, the reason for the quick response from government agencies after the outcry from small farmers worldwide becomes more apparent as one reads the broad implications of the order in it’s identification of what constitutes variety protection in Iraq and the cultural erosion of agricultural practices that such provisions will provide. Fore example, CPA Order 81 identifies Breeders who are capable of filing for PVP applications as:

The breeder: The person who bred, discovered or developed a new variety, or
The legal successor to such person.

The implications of that statement are staggering. No longer does a new variety need to be bred, only discovered to qualify for protection, meaning indeed that should some enterprising plant breeder come across a unique traditional Iraqi variety, bred by the Iraqi people for the cultivation by Iraqi farmers, that this variety can now be protected from “illegal” use by the very people who have bred and maintained it, because one of the trans-national agri-business companies have simply filled out and had a paper approved.

CPA Order 81 also protects the research (or as they word it the “Education”) of such varieties with broad wording, going beyond the basic concept of developing a new variety by including the “discovery” of a new variety as follows:

The education: Breeding a new plant variety or discovering and developing
Since the word “new” variety only refers to those varieties not in commerce (IE. Provided and protected under property rights of agri-business) then any traditional variety which is applied for and approved for PVP rights can become the property of the agri-business, effectively taking the ownership of tradition varieties out of the hands of the Iraqi farmers who bred and selected that variety, making it, in fact illegal to save and re-plant seed of those varieties without the express, paid permission of the agri-company who now hold sole ownership.

All of this is essentially eroding and manipulating the people and agriculture of Iraq under the supposed guise of protecting and fostering a new democratic nation. Democracy as is deemed democracy by the new hands that feed, the Trans national corporations with the backing of the very government who promised to liberate the Iraqi people.

In order to mislead the public and farmers of Iraq the United States and Agri-Business have extended a number of supposed “educational programs” and trial gardens including some 800 acres of demonstration plots all across Iraq administered by Texas A&M University’s International Agriculture Office (a self-proclaimed recognized world leader in using biotechnology’), teaching Iraqi farmers how to grow ‘high-yield seed varieties’ of crops that include barley, chick peas, lentils and wheat in high input, high cost, commercial agricultural practices. Of course all of this material is protected by the new PVP laws governing Iraqi agriculture and seed saving practices. The term “blood from a turnip” has never rang truer.

Of course just as in the supposed “green revolution” in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century the Iraqi’s will see the output of their crops rise dramatically for a few years until the soil is once again wore down and destroyed, in the meantime the traditional agriculture and seeds will be a thing of the past and much of the thousands of years of unique Iraqi bio-diversity and agriculture will be lost to the annals of history. The difference between the United States and Iraq however lies in the culture of Iraq, a culture of over 10,000 years of civilization, evolution of cultural ideas, and the basis of much of the worlds religion, indeed much more is at risk here than just seeds and agriculture practices, the Mandians for example, the last remaining small traditional sect of the broad movement known as Gnosticism may see there very religious belief blowing in the wind of the Iraqi desert with the death of the traditional spiritual food of their gardens.

Not only will traditional varieties of Iraqi seed be lost forever or stolen from the people of Iraq but they will be replaced by the high priced seed and dangerous chemical inputs of companies like Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, companies with a record of dangerous environmental impact and synonymous with the abuse of farmers worldwide. Seed saving will be relegated to a few small corners of Iraq and many Iraqi farmers will loose their traditional land holdings. Even worse, the laws governing the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in the Western World do not apply in Iraq and what little wind pollinated diversity will still exist in Iraq in coming years might become contaminated with GM genes which could prove even more dangerous and disastrous than the Iraq war itself.

Overnight the very state of Iraqi culture will be changed, lining the pockets of those with who control the seed and ultimately the feed with unknown amounts of money, another country being pirated by the big monetary interests of the developed world who are now looking to develop and exploit this country all in the name of liberation. Just as in The Green Revolution here in the United States it will be only a mater of time before the other American and western world business men move in to exploit the Iraqi people with their Wall-Marts and McDonalds, effectively putting and end to one of the oldest and most unique civilizations in the world. We can only hope that as in eons past that Iraq can resist the temptation of the new imposing civilization and continue their unique way of live, agriculture and civilization, though the outcome looks dire.

Of course there are differences between these events and those of the American “Green Revolution”, particularly that during the “Green Revolution” the events were set into place by the government of the people that they would effect whereas Iraq has been set upon this course by the government of an entirely different nation, one that will not in itself have to live through the hardships and destruction of culture that these motions will cause.

All of these events seem even more disturbing when viewed through the eyes of an informed small farmer in the United States who has seen the giant power grabs made by corporate agriculture in recent years, how long will it be until we in America are robed of our right to be sovereign farmers, saving seeds from our own varieties or those passed on to us? We live in a very scary time for bio-diversity, ecological impact, food safety and sovereignty from corporations.

More appropriately why would a government want to support agri-business in matters of obvious food and biological safety unless it was seen as a way of controlling the masses? He who controls the seed controls the feed. Peak oil is here, how long until peak water and peak food? Just food for thought.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Breeding Projects in 2008

Written and Researched by: Alan Reed Bishop of Hip-Gnosis Seed Development and Bishop's Homegrown

These are just a few of the projects that I will be working on in 2008

Greasy Bean growouts - I have been collecting a number of Greasy Bean types locally after posting an add looking for local open pollinated heritage varieties here in Washington and Orange counties in Indiana. I was really suprised by the response and it's good to know that so many folks are so willing to share thier family saved and bred seed with me for posterity and future distribution. Greasy beans are named so (like so many culturally relevent names) for their lack of rough texture that common modern day beans have, this gives them a slick, or "greasy" look, hence the observant naming of such varieties. Greasy beans are often reffered to as being a particular variety but trust me there is a lot of variation of the "greasy" gene in bean crops, particularly those comming from the appalachian region and the decendents of those people living here in Southern Indiana, it seems that every family has their own strain or selection of greasy beans that they believe is the best. The taste and texture in my mind and in the mind of many of our farmstand customers is far superior to the taste of modern day varities and we have collected a number of seed accessions of "greasy" type beans which we will growout, evaluate, and hopefully, baring crop failure have available for our market customers and later in the fall be able to distribute seed of to our plant breeding, market farming, and home gardening friends the world over. This is a project I find particularly exciting.

Brewers Red and Brewers Yellow Tomato, Bishops Greensburg Red and Yellow Tomatoes - Brewers Red and Yellow were given to us by a fellow market gardener. From a local family who has been growing these two types for 50 plus years. Bishops Greensbur Red and Yellow were given to us by family members at a recent reunion in Greensbur Ky. Grown by Anner and and Arlene Bishop in Greensburg for upwards of fourty plus years.

Opal Floyd Pimento Pepper - A pimento Pepper given to us by 90 year old Opal Floyd of Salem Indiana. Opal and her husband operated a market farm about a mile from my house in Pekin Indiana for nearly 60 years! This pepper was grown there every year since year one! We also have a number of other accessions donated by Opal and her son.

Sunflower Mass cross - Sunflowers are one of my favorite crops, there is nothing that I love to do more than to set after a long day in the hot sun, at sunset and relax and eat supper outside while staring at our mass growout and crosses of sunflower types. Any time we run into seed stock that we don't have we add it to the collection and let them cross and hybridize on their own which has led to many new varieties in our fields, some of which we will be growing in isolation over the next few years to get them to the open pollinated state, I should probably be a little more strict in this manner so I don't loose unique crosses, particularly those with recessive genes to the more dominant genes in the bunch. This year there will be close to t fifty varieties in the plot as well as the numerous crosses and segregates of F1 commercial sunflowers. Seed will once again be offere on the message board this fall.

Astronomy Domine - The sweet corn that has become one of my primary focuses here on the farm, both with our farm stand customers and our breeding agenda. Astronomy Domines parent material was obtained from a mass cross of twenty plus uniqe open pollinated and hybrid cultivars. This year we have added even more diversity with the addition of Rainbow Inca, Painted Hills, Mushrooms Martian Double Red, Howling Mob, Hookers sweet, country gentleman, and a couple of other un-named selections. The diversity should and could be staggering. There will be several plots of this sweet corn planted, one will be nothing but the seed from the original cross with the new material added in where I will select for cool soil emergence, sweetness, disease tolerance, pest tolerance and drought tolerance. Another couple of plots (one for saving seed and one for sale at market) will see rows of astronomy domine planted alongsied the Sugar Enhanced type sweet corn Silver King which will be de-tassled and used as a mother plant so as to hopefully be able to get the size of silver king, the colors of Astronomy Domine, and more important the Sugar Enhanced Trait of Silver King over the Normal Sugary trait of the old open pollinated types in the mix. One could, in theory be able to obtain the SE trait from the original mass cross of Astronomy Domine though considering that the SE Burpee Hybrid "Ruby Queen" was one of the original parents, though the chances are pretty set against that and the time involved immense.

Tobacco Recessive Gene Search Mass Cross - I've got a number of Nicotiana Tobaccum types in the seed collection that represent a number of recessive traits which may be desirable to the person searching for a nice ornamental tobacco plant including off colored flower in shades of red, maroon, blue, and apparently what has been described as purple as well as those showing the nice wide leaved state of "havana" or "connecticuit" type tobaccos and the alternating light green, dark green characteristics of foliage in some verigated tobacco types. I thought it would be nice to be able to offer a selection of these plants to customers while also being able to plant them together here on the farm and risk some chance crosses, some controlled crosses, and some "self pollinated" flowers so that I can offer seed on the site of some nice recessive tobaccos which folks will be able to pick and choose and develop types which they like and prefer that do well for them in their micro-environments.

Winter Squash Mix (C. Moshata, C. Mixta, C. Maxima)- Though the species themselves will not intercross, varieties within one species will easily and do easily cross with the help of the bees or the ocassional plant breeder making guestimations of good parents for a new variety. This year there will be something like 300 plus varieties in the mass cross along with segragates from last years crosses which I will keep an eye on for unique features in which case I will self polinate that plant and grow the seeds in Isolation in coming years. Should show terrific diversity and ample opporotunity. The pie making customers that visit our farm stand will love us this year and as always we will offer seeds of the mix this fall on the message board. There is also a C. Pepo mix of Acorns and Mini Pumpkins like this that will be grown out seperately this year.

Watermelon Mass cross - We are growing out three mass crosses of watermelon this year so as to start work towards some new varities. Watermelons don't particularly like our red clay soil here in indiana so some sand, mulch, hills, cow manure and vermicompost should give us a nice helping hand this year. There will be a red mass cross with a number of red fleshed watermelons, oblong, dark green rind, green rind, striped rind, moon and star types, yellow rind types ext. A white type mass cross with four white fleshed varieties and a yello/orange mass cross. We figure since we don't have great luck with watermelons this might give a chance to A. See what varieties do well here and to self pollinate those to save seed from and B. Mix up the genes which will lead to future breeding work to come up with open pollinated varities. and C. give us a huge amount of diversity at our market stands.

Green Fleshed and Orange Fleshed muskmelon mass cross - With regards to the orange fleshed cross (which will be grown seperately from the green fleshed types), it's sort of the same thing as the problem with watermelons, they just don't do well here and we are making this mass for the same reason. The green flesh mass/trial if succesful could lead to a underutilized niche crop of green fleshed melons which can be marketed at the height of Muskmelon season without competition from others who grow exclusively orange fleshed types. Of course it will take educating the public on the merits of green fleshed types and giving a few away to start the "hype" but if successful could be economically rewarding. I would also love to share the seed of the green fleshed types with the world since there was a time when they were the most popular muskmelon and I would like to see their popularity rise because they are so delicious, unique and beautiful. One cross I will probably try to make is between banana melon and Green Machine melon, looking for the double recesive green fleshed banana melon.

Small Hubbard Squash - Continuing on the work that Ken Ettlinger started with his small hubbard squash mix. Selecting for 10 lbs or so hubbard squash for the small modern family and their pie needs. May try to breed in some new color combos.

Cherry tomato Mix - Interplanting and chancing mass crosses of cherries and controled crosses between cherries, currants, L. Cheesmani, grapes and pear types. Looking for a range of currant crosses with high brix. Also using the genetics of Ken Ettlingers Currant crosses.

Dinosaur Egg Cabbage F1 generation - from a cross I made last year between early jersey wakefield cabbage and large drumhead savoy. Hoping for a savoy leafed pointed cabbage.

Lettuce growout - Growing out seed of multiple types of seed of loosleaf lettuce in shades of greens, reds, and purples. Hoping for chance crosses which more than likely won't happen since lettuce is self pollinating.

Broccoli Mass cross - I have accesed a number of seed accesions of different varities of brocoli and plan on letting them cross for the sake of diversity and selecting new hardy types.

Maize Morado growout - This is a "waxy" trait dent corn from South America which is very high in Anthocyanins which is free radical scavenger. Very high in protein. It is used to make a mildly alcoholic drink called Chicha Morado in South America as well as a popular soft drink. Seed sources are rare in the US and I would like to provide my friends and collaborators with seed. Particular those interested in raising chickens or vermicomposting red worms for which this should be an ideal "super feed". Will do some selection for larger ears since the ears are somewhat small.

These are just a few notes on what I'm looking for and planing on doing. Of course there are pages of these things and we will see what time leaves us with and where this all goes, but as the year progresses I will post pictures along with blogs describing whats going on with the crosses and the growouts and what I am after.

Mozark Tomato: Bringing the dead back to life.

My good friend Bill Jeffers (known as Papa Vic on the internet) is big into tomatoes, as a mater of fact he is more into growing tomatoes than anyone else that I know and his passion for doing so is great and convincing. When I first started looking for greater amounts of genetic diversity in tomato crops Bill was kind enough to send me several huge packages of Tomato Seed to grow out and evaluate. As I have been working to fill in the gaps in my seed bank I have come close to finishing up my work with tomatoes and so my interest has moved elswhere, I have little time for working with a crop that is alredy so diverse and being kept safe and sound by tomato obsessed people worldwide so my interest has switched to crops with a bit less popularity as far as breeding and genetic diversity goes, such as tobacco, sweet corn, dent corn, brassica crops, lettuce, peppers, and in particular winter and summer squash.

One thing that I have been searching for is a great fresh market, roun, red tomato suitable for slicing and canning, available in bulk or in small basketts, with great disease and sun scald resistance/tolerance. Of course, out of self- sustainable interests and lack of desire to breed such a tomato, I prefer an open pollinated option (if I went with hybrids there would be no need to search, there are just so many). The closest I have come to that is either Campbells 1327 or a little known gem of a tomato that was though to be extinct until recently that my friend Bill sent my way. A tomato called Mozark. Here is Bills discription:

Obtained very old seed from University of Missouri and got 70% germination in 2007, with healthy growth of 4-foot determinate plants yielding concentrated set of about 40 fruit per plant, medium sized, firm, blemish free, red canners also suited for eating fresh with a slightly tart zing. Very dense, regular leaf foliage tends to be a lighter green with smoother serrations and broader leaves than some other RL types and provides ample shade for fruit. Did not succumb to some of the diseases that downed its neighbors and stayed green top to bottom throughout its bearing season.

From the history I have been able to track down this tomato was released around 1960 by the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station, Columbia. Bill sent me some of his old seed which I was suprised to see sprout, but which indeed did and led to some nice looking healthy plants that produced prolifically and which held up niceley as determinate plants and were barely bothered by the record setting drought of 2007 and never knew what the word "disease" meant.

This is a tomato which I think deserves a place in everyones garden and this year I plan on increasing seed to send out through the Hip-Gnosis seed development project and our messageboard . It's also a tomato that my customers can expect to see at our farm stand for years to come, I think they will really be pleased with the flavor and future plant customers will really love the determinate, disease tolerant, heavy bearing plants.

The picture at the top is of a sliced Mozark preparing to have seed "extracted".

I would like to thank Bill for saving this rare gem of a tomato and providing us with our foundation seed stock. Bill is also responsibe for making a number of new tomato crosses you just might find at you local farmers market, in your CSA basket, or growing in your garden one day and was also responsible for the selection of the "Red Bullet" tomato available through the Long Island Seed Project located at

Tomato Trials and Breeding in 2007

Written and Researched by: Alan Reed Bishop of Hip-Gnosis Seed Development and Bishop's Homegrown

This year marked a huge growout of Tomatoes here at Bishop's Homegrown. We planted a huge number of cultivars to evaluate in our organic culture systems in order to fill the niches of our seed banks and the gaps between genetic types.

Basically were looking for disease tolerance, pest tolerance, drought tolerance, production, taste, nutrition and novely in different types of tomatoes such as slicing types, paste types, cherry types and so on. It would be nice to have a range of colors for customers to pick and choose from at our market stands in all the different types of tomatoes while also being able to provide best use recipies, heirloom/OP histories and the histories of crosses and segragates from F1 commercial lines so that, as we usually do, we are able to strike up a friendship and conversation with our customers and friends at market or while giving farm tours and speaking engagements. It's always nice to be able to relay a story that people can relate to and it is exspecially nice when we have a local or regionalized Open Pollinated type from our area who's name itself reminds us of it's story, much like the names of old country roads like "Lick Skillet" or "Honey Run" which remind us of the unique culture of or locality and region.

Some of the standouts this year were of local origin such as "Goat Tit", a nice, elongated and tipped paste tomato, similar to Roma but with a much nicer taste and texture. Very productive and disease tolerant and barely even noticed this years record drought. A tomato that I believe will find a place in our fields for decades to come and which will be of great merit to market farmers looking to sell a "niche" crop paste tomato. The paste is superb and matches that of any of the best varieties of paste tomatoes on the market today and in my opinion excedes it! I look forward to increasing the seadstock of this variety so that I can share it with others, the only problem is it appears that a number of cultivars may be known by the same name as is also the case with another of our standouts, "Bull Sack" which is a heart shaped tomato which although wasn't very productive, stood up to the drought and disease and pests very well. Definetly a variety of merit. Both of these varietys will merit from some selection pressure in coming years for improvement purposes.

Bishop's Big Pink, a large 10-16 ounce tomato that has been grown in my family for years was also a standout, though the past few years I have been doing selection for larger fruit with less cracking. My family always saved seed from only one or two tomatoes which led to a bit of a genetic bottleneck, a problem which I am currently trying to improve upon with larger sized, crack resistant fruit. The fruit is Potato leaved like brandywine and may in fact be a selection of Brandywine. The Bishops Big pink tomato has been grown by my family since a great uncle purchased the then "unnamed" seed from a hardware store in the 1950's, nary a year has gone by (minus a couple in the first years of the new century) where this tomato has not graced the soil of our small farm. After some selection I plan on releasing this variety as one of my two alternatives to Brandywine.

I was also gifted some seeds early in 2007 from a great aunt on my mothers side of a tomato which in description sounded like a large yellow bi-color tomato, but I got conflicting reports from other family seed sources who said that the tomato was actually a mix of the original tomato and a few "sport" tomatoes and had been saved without selection in this mix for years by the Hoskins-Barger family. Upon growing out the seed I got all manner of traits, Pink potato leaf, pink regular leaf, yellow regular leaf, bi-color regular leaf, and a couple of other combos. The one with the most merit seemed to be the pink potato leaf. The coloration is somewhat more of a "pastel" pink that tomatoes like brandywine and production is way up there, according to customers taste was good, and disease and drought tolerance were impressive. I released a little bit of seed to folks over on the message board for further development and due to the unstable condition of the seed, I imagine all number of recombinations may lead to some new open pollinated cultivars, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

Once again Rutgeurs and Jubilee toped the list as far as productive, open pollinated tomatoes which still can't be surpased here on our farm and will no doubt always find a place in our soils.

We also grew out a number of our crosses from the previous years, of particular note were Mere De Nomes, La Mer (noir), and La Soliel which represent our work towards sustainable and open pollinated saladette type tomatoes of 2-3 ounces or so. Mere De Nomes and La Mer (noir) have both been released through the Hip-Gnosis seed development project on our message board.

Mere De Nomes is an indeterminate, red fruited, saladette tomato at about 2-3 ounces. Very prolific and still shows a bit of genetic diversity. It was hardly bothered or slowed down at all by our record setting drought this year and was a big winner with our farm stand customers who we littlerally heard storries of fighting over the last few in their baskets, always a compliment in my opinion. I think that this one could be a big market hit in time and would be a great canadate for poly culture early tomatoes in the spring.

La Mer Noir resembles Mer De Nomes in almost all ways but grows a bit larger in size. It's the result of a cross between Mere De Nomes and a french variety sent to me labled simply as "Black". This one is another favorite of our customers though we didn't have many to offer this year due to a snafu in the greenhouse in the spring.

La Soliel is yet another sister line to Mere De Nomes and La Mer Noir. It represents our attempts at breeding an orange fleshed version of the line, we made great strides in selection this year going through three Filial generations, an early one in the greenhouse, a second in the summer plot, and a third in the winter greenhouse. Next year we should be close to having an Open Pollinated Derivitave. Size is about 4-5 ounces or so.

We also did some further selections with our Jack White tomato, a highly productive and according to our farmstand customers, "delicious" alternative to other white tomatoes. Jack White is a selection from a cross of great white and white beauty, there is still some genetic variation but it appears to be far less than previous growouts. Another breeding project was our Green when ripe Absynth which was derrived from a cross of the french tomato "emeraude" (which may or may not be a selection of emerald evergreen) and Aunt Ruby's German green. We were after productivity and less cracking and I feel we have made great strides in that area.

Working towards becoming more self sustainable we have also been doing some segregation work to some of our favorite commercial hybrids, most notably Lemon Boy and Brandy Boy. Commercial hybrids make great foundation plants for the development of new varieties. When you hear someone say not to save seed from a hybrid, it won't be me, sometimes the best new varieties originate within the genes in a commercial packet of seeds and with a little work you can isolate out some truly terrific varieties.

Lemon Boy is a highly productive and popular, globe shaped, truly yellow tomato with great disease tolerance. I've heard it's fairly easy to segregate but would prefer to experiment with it myself so I have obtained seed from both my F1 and F2 growout as well as seed saved from others growouts all the way up to the F4. My goal is to "get out" an open pollinated derivitave that matches the productivity, taste, and color of the original while maintaining as much of the disease tolerance as I can.

Brandy Boy was one of Burpee seed companies new introductions for 2004 I believe. There was some speculation early on that Brandy Boy may have just been a renamed open pollinated tomato since there was evidence of Burpee using this marketing scheme in the past with Bucks County. Brandy boy is a large 12-16 ounce pink potato leaf tomato much like brandywine, but with the productivity of better boy or big boy and less spliting. In all ways in my opinion it beats out its' ansector brandywine and our customers like it as an alternative since it has a longer shelf life which they really appreciate. In 2007 I grew out some saved F2 seed as well as seed that others have saved from F2-F4 lines and saw a bit of variation, though not nearly as much as in some other segrating growouts. However, there was definetly enough variation to definetivly say that this tomato indeed is a hybrid. In time I hope to develop a strain that matches or excedes the taste and texture of brandywine and maintains the potato leaf trait while maintaining the original traits of the hybrids disease tolerance and productivity in an Open Pollinated derrivitive. In time this tomato could replace brandywine as a main crop tomato and I see great things in it's future, particularly for market farmers who want the taste, texture, look, and legacy of brandywine with higher productivity and disease tolerance. Another interesting trait that I noticed was that this tomato set fruit far better than brandywine in harsh heat and humidity levels. Unfortunately it also retains the exerted stigma of Brandywine which makes it prone to crossing. All future growouts will be done in isolation of other tomatoes and other segregates so as to prevent contamination. Maybe in a year or two Hip-Gnosis seed development will have something to release to the local farming community. This fall we will provide mixed seed of our growouts through our message board for those interested in making their own selections.

I also grew out some Sungold and Sunsugar cherry tomatoes for some future breeding work within other cherry, grape, pear, currant, and L. Cheesmani lines in 2008 for a series of cherry tomato mixes I'm tentitively calling "Have you Got it yet". It will be nice to have the genetics of the high sugar content (brix) of these tomatoes in our breeding mix. I expect great genetic variability in those lines.

We also grew out and saved seed from Porterhouse tomato, another new Burpee introduction, albeit one that wasn't particularly impressive in the F1 generation, though it will be interesting to see how it segregates out and there are some genes there that I think I can use in the future.

All in all we made some great prgress in developing some new regionally adapted and open pollinated cultivars for use in organic agricultrue and home gardens as well we have been able to distribute some finished varieties and genetically unstable breeding material through out online message board which is always good and gives us some variability in varieties that will be open pollinated in the future.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Little shop of horrors:

GMO dangers, Agribusiness lies; and facts are much more frightening than fiction. A reason for the populace and in particular self-sustainable farmers to be afraid.

Written by: Alan Bishop of Hip-Gnosis seed development/Bishop’s Homegrown

The following article is simply an overview of some of the more pressing issues currently affecting the world of agriculture, I encourage all gardeners, market farmers, independent plant breeders, consumers, and enlightened human beings to do further research and stand up and demand that these atrocities and manipulations are put to a stop, or at least inform others of the dangers associated with the content within and call for stricter protocols and warning labels on genetically modified food products.

The switch from agriculture to agribusiness in the mid twentieth century heralded in the coming of a supposed “Green Revolution”, a revolution in which big Bio-Tech (seed companies) gave to us their promise that chemical inputs and hybrid plants would create enough food for everyone and enrich poor third world countries, heralding a new age in agriculture. Yes, they spouted off their almighty “fact” and said it will be good for everyone. But who was it good for?

Certainly it was good for the growing corporate farms and the conglomerate agribusiness companies like Pioneer Hi-Breed, Dupont, Monsanto, and Syngenta who grew into huge, greed driven, money minded, corporate monsters, and certainly many a board member went on to find themselves setting in various political offices, particularly in the United States and Canada where they could scratch the selective backs of their previous employers and watch as their stocks in such companies soared, so indeed somebody benefited from all of this. However it certainly wasn’t doing anything for small farmers, even those farming in relatively good economic situations right here in the United States. The big Agribusiness companies did their best to get into bed with the USDA (who did then and still does provide a good portion of power and research money to privately owned biotech companies) and county and state extension offices, educating the public and farmers that the new “green revolution” and newly introduced hybrids and inputs could triple crop output and economic income. Indeed pumping the soil full of highly concentrated chemicals did allow for larger outputs for a few years, but it certainly wasn’t the seed doing the work since those adventurous farmers that have played with regionalized open pollinated varieties for years have seen the benefits of regionally adapted Open Pollinated cultivars over the benefits of seeds bred to do well in “average conditions”. What the companies didn’t tell you and the information they have tried for years to burry is far more telling than any brochure covering the benefits of conglomerate, bio-tech agribusiness

What they didn’t tell you was that their new inputs literally worked great for a year or two until they destroyed the micro-flora of the soil and took out more than they ever put in. What they didn’t tell you was that their new herbicides contained carcinogens that any number of farmers, farmhands, livestock, and consumers where exposed to and which often led to life destroying cancers. What they didn’t tell you is that they are the very same companies who created weapons of war like Agent Orange. What they didn’t tell you was that they were polluting the family and community drinking water, with chemicals so volatile that entire countries have outlawed them. What they didn’t tell you was that they were destroying the family farm. What they didn’t tell you was that overnight they literally set the course for some of the most dangerous instances of “bio-terrorism” and threats to the food supply and genetic diversity that we have ever seen or imagined. What they wanted you to forget was that you didn’t need them and had 10,000 years of independent agrarian agriculture and seed saving to rely upon to back up your food sources and those of the world.

Overnight Seed became a high priced commodity which was no longer saved from year to year or shared with others to create new bio-diversity. Overnight your own governments jumped into bed with the big agribusiness companies to work on new ways to control a populace and the flow of economic prosperity all around the world, knowing that controlling the safety of food and availability of resources to grow food was a power hold over everyone on the planet earth. Overnight genetics and seeds which for thousands of years were the property of every living being on the face of the planet were copy written and became the sole intellectual property of their breeders and venders distributing them and saving those seeds for next years crops, those very same seeds and genetics which were passed down to us from our ancestors for thousands of years, meant that you were breaking the law, a law which is morally irreprehensible and unforgivable. Overnight, soil fertility went from on farm, natural cycles to coming out of a bag shipped in from a thousand miles away. Overnight funding from our very own government gave big agribusiness the ability to play the role of god and genetically splice material from other organisms into our food supply, supposedly with the intent of benefiting mankind, but often leading to unexpected and dangerous outcomes.

The small farm which had once provided the very backbone of every community on earth and particularly the economic base on which the great United States was built on was being eroded and ripped out from underneath the very feet of families who had worked the ground and fed the populace for generations. In order to afford the fancy new agricultural “technology“ many a small farmer had to take out high interest loans which completely negated the positive effects that the first few years of cultivation with these new inputs may have had. Furthermore, bio-diversity was becoming a thing of the past as many small farms dropped their regionally adapted and farm bred/family saved seeds in favor of the newly introduced cultivars, by the time the small farmer came around to realize the mistakes he had made, those varieties were forever gone and the land worn out from years of abuse from harsh chemicals, the groundwater polluted, and the farmers and workers open to health hazards from the plethora of chemicals prescribed to take care of on farm crop disease and pest issues. Lots of farms went up to sale for the highest bidder, often ending up being replaced by low cost, cheap housing for the masses. Our government’s response? “Oh, that‘s ok, we don‘t need the small farmers and seed savers, after all the green revolution destroyed enough small farms in third world countries and poor portions of our own country that we can hand over to cooperate farms so we can ship in everything to feed the masses from thousands of miles away, and after all, who really cares about food safety?” By the end of the twentieth century the second GMO endorsing “green revolution” was rearing its ugly head, literally riding on the winds that blew into the twenty first century.

Scientists and supposed “plant breeders” (working in a lab and splicing genes does not qualify you as a plant breeder) were quick to jump on the opportunity to play god, literally cherry picking genes from a plethora of life-forms including animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi and placing them directly into the lifeblood of our food supply. Supposedly these new GMO plants and animals were harmless; often times they were touted as being “sterile”, and of course as always food safety wasn’t endangered and neither were the rights of small farmers further being eroded…..


The big biotech companies started placing plant variety protections and gene markers on everything they could, indeed, it’s as though man believes that he owns life. At first the manipulations were considered miniscule, a gene here or there to up yield or increase disease resistance and pest tolerance, but as always events snowballed escalating to the point of growing PHarma crops (crops which grow medicines) which create the very same proteins you find hiding behind the counter of the drug store. And the dangers? Well there are plenty. Instances of allergic reactions to genetically modified corn were reported in the 1990’s, most memorably the Starlink Corn incident. Then there was corn modified with a gene from pigs which escaped control in Iowa and caused a mess that was still being cleaned up years later, and if you thought small produce farmers and local produce was safe, think again as Genetically Modified sweet corn, modified to express the protein BT (fatal to caterpillars and worms) was marketed to produce growers country wide, who then gleefully sold this monstrosity (which is thought to negatively effect the protein building of the human body and the digestive tract and may have negative consequences to the reproductive system) to unsuspecting and uninformed customers. And then came a big announcement from Monsanto, that indeed they had succeeded in creating a “Terminator” gene, a gene which could render second generation genes sterile indiscriminately, of course they said they didn’t plan to market it, but the truth is, they would love to, they just haven’t been able to get it approved as of yet. The danger of this gene is imminently obvious, it kills seed lines indiscriminately and is particularly dangerous to crops which are wind pollinated such as corn, one of the two major crops that this gene would be present in. Of course threes always got to be one more terrifying step though doesn’t there? As though this isn’t enough, a small biotech company out of California (Epicyte) succeeded in creating a corn which actually produces a spermicide and the company had at one time optioned Dupont and Syngenta to market this monstrosity. Oh, and here’s a fun fact, guess who helped fund the research? That’s right, the USDA.

Oh and the PVP thing? In more than one case the big bio-tech companies have gained the entire assets of small farms by way of wind blown corn pollen which shows genetic markers exclusive to the vender, even though the initial crop wasn’t owned by or distributed by the big bio-tech company. Believe it or not, the bio-tech companies have their very own version of the men in black to investigate, without permission, small farms, looking for their genetic markers. Indeed agriculture has become a battlefield. A few folks in the gardening and market farming community will tell you that we have nothing to worry about, that the Monsanto’s and Syngenta’s of the world have no interest in vegetable crops or small holdings and yet the trend continues to infiltrate its way into these communities and I have no reason to believe that they wouldn’t be interested in getting a foothold here, after all with the USDA on their side they have been able to steal and demean the “Organic” label to the point that it has no meaning anymore. They’ve been able to curtail having to place a warning label on genetically modified foods in our stores (even though the U.N. requires such warnings in Europe, and most recently they’ve been after the “Naturally Grown” label for their large animal operations, and need we not forget the pillaging of Iraq by way of the multi-national conglomerates as well as Africa where USDA money is being pored into research on the terminator gene as well as training of a whole new generation of genetic manipulators.

And then there’s the PR campaign to let those of us concerned with Bio-Diversity and self-sustainability know that the agribusiness companies really care. You may have heard about the new “Doomsday Seed Vault” as it’s being called, located on a god forsaken island off the coast of Norway, near the artic circle, that in the event of an emergency you couldn’t get to if you wanted to. What you probably didn’t know is that Monsanto and Syngenta both have their dirty little hands in on this operation too, as well as those great stewards of humanity the Rockefeller foundation (you know, the guys who used to up the money for Eugenics experiments in Nazi Germany and afterwards in the U.S.) But don’t worry, their busy collecting all that important “germ-plasm” of everything on earth so as to maintain and protect it, or you know, manipulate and degrade it, and it seems like the general public is ok with that, but a lot of us small farmers are getting more than a bit nervous, I mean after all, we all have good reason to be.

And the U.S. and Canadian governments? Well, they helped make the bed and they damn sure look comfortable in it from my perspective.

In the eyes of the post 9/11 world Terrorism seems to relate to any act of civil disobedience and we often here the words biological warfare thrown around on the nightly news, but I ask you, is not this form of agribusiness and the turning of the other cheek and funding of such dangerous work not a case of Bio-terrorism? Indeed Little Shop of Horrors, complete with the unreleased alternate ending, seems much less terrifying than these factual happenings. Truth is far more frightening than fiction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Speaking Engagements - Spreading the word locally about Bishop's Homegrown, Self Sustainability, Natural Gardening, and Plant Breeding

January 15 and 16 2008 saw me give my first two agriculture related "official" speaking engagements here in my home county in Salem Indiana. The first was given to the local Salem Rotary and to say the least I think I've had better days, part of the problem I believe is that I tried to be a bit to structured in my delivery, using a paper I had written word for word and not being nearly liberal enough to ad lib which is something that always made me more comfortable when I was playing music and I hardly ever went on stage knowing what I was doing. The second engagement was given to the Washington County Master Gardeners association at the Washington County Government Building and I can honestly say I had a blast!

Everyone was so receptive to everything I was talking about and really got into the conversation. I fielded several questions ranging all kinds of topics. We covered my farm, my natural "eco-logical" growing practices, vermiculture, seed saving, plant breeding, the politics of food, greenhouses, enhanced nutrition, a little soil health, plant variety protection, genetics and so much more and I really had a lot of fun. I made a lot of new friends and got to share a couple of my creations with everyone including handing out samples of my "Robert Johnson Mississippi Delta" White Burley tobacco which I think everyone will really enjoy once they grow it

I would really like to do some more of these presentations in the future and would love to find some other places to do them so if you know of any then please e-mail me at I would love to do some more speaking in the near future!

Anyhow, since we didn't record the ad-libbed speech and since I haven't posted anything lately due to a bad chest cold and getting things ready for '08 including building a new greenhouse, I though I would post the paper that I used for the first lecture, I also used it as basically a notation of things that I would like to cover at the second lecture as well and definitely used the high points of the paper to illustrate my points. Anyhow, following is the paper pretty much un-edited, the paper will later appear in the 2007 research journal that I will be finishing shortly.

Bishops Homegrown
Hip-Gnosis Seed Development and “Eco-Logical” growing practices
An overview of the importance of self-sustainable, natural growing methods, seed breeding and selection in the 21’st century in lieu of modern food and farm safety dilemmas and small farm independence.
Written by: Alan Reed Bishop

I believe that the future is deeply embedded in our past. Depending upon the sources you choose to accept and read, agrarian agriculture and civilization has and did flourish for anywhere from 7,000 to 4,000 years. Civilizations rose and fell and were supported by a backbone of independent farmers and their selections of seeds and growing practices. Lessons learned and passed down through history by family members and tribal elders, observation of nature was more than a hobby, it was a way of life and the more one observed the more one began to “know” how eco-systems delicately intermingle and balance on one another.

Seeds are direct, living pieces of our agricultural past, each seed holds the germ of the plant selections of generations of peoples settled in one place and selecting a variety to grow in their specific conditions and for their needs over hundreds and sometimes even thousands of seeds, almost all modern open pollinated varieties and even hybrids have some amount of genetic material hearkening back to selection by tribal peoples or early settlers and pioneers.. Seed saving and development is mans way of furthering individual desirable traits and qualities and essentially serves sort of an enhanced form of evolutionary selection pressure.

In days past failing to save seeds and till the earth in preparation of spring meant that there was less food for the civilization and tribal peoples as a whole, a mistake which could in fact be fatal. Until the age of industrialization and the rise of corporate agriculture and synthetic inputs which would supposedly revolutionize the agriculture industry and make life easier all around. Indeed it did make life easier but in time also made folks more reliable on both fossil fuels and poisonous insect and disease controls coincidentally coinciding with the rise in Cancer rates as well as developmental disabilities, taking power from small family farms and putting it in the hands of large corporate conglomerates who would in the future unleash unsafe and highly unstable genetically modified crops and “terminator” genes which could put a stop to seed saving as a whole, damaging the environment and delicate eco-systems, and proving unsafe for human and even animal consumption

Seeds of days gone by do not contain these inherent dangers and neither do the offspring that we breed from two or more parents of open pollinated seeds. Often times these seeds produce in times when modern selections will not do so, and these seeds have done so for thousands of years under conditions less than desirable for growth and perfection, ushering generation after generation from birth, through life and on to death bye way of healthy food and soil.

In days gone by small regional and localized seed companies sold seed developed and suited to particular areas and regions, particularly adapted to the environments where the seed had been sowed, grown, cultivated and harvested over a number of years, often time seeds of merit able value were even shared by families with their favorite seed suppliers, but with the advent of modern commercialized, high input, and environmentally damaging agriculture these seed companies were replaced by large conglomerates only offering gardeners world wide plants that do well on “averages”.

As commercialized agriculture continued to grow so to do the widespread pollution and destruction of the very soil which has supported us along with the air we breathe and the water we drink. Agriculture took very little time to realize the ramifications of putting volatile chemicals directly into the ground, depleting the micro-organisms which feed the soil, destroying the valuable earthworms which Darwin once described as the intestines of the earth, and causing any number of environmental dangers and devastation. People literally forgot how to tend the earth.

Often times I am a target of criticism for my way of small farming, banking seeds, and putting much work into the soil which I tend. The most common comment I hear is “I do things the way my grandfather did.” A comment more often not born out of ignorance for the past, indeed most grandfathers in our community did not use synthetic fertilizers which at the time were either not commercially available or far to expensive to afford, more often in days gone buy composted or aged manure and ash were applied to fields building up the content of organic matter, increasing the micro flora of the soil, and allowing earthworm populations to flourish.

In modern times we have seen the rise of large food markets, fast food, high cholesterol, food poisoning and danger of Genetically Modified genes causing allergies or illness to seep into our food supply. More an more our own food supply is being outsourced and shipped in from other countries or from corporate farms who in fact do little to justify their “organic” labeling because “organic” is now overseen by a government who has done little to no research on “organic” growing practices and has used the “final rule” of organic growing and the paperwork and filing fees involved with “organic” certification to favor corporate agriculture.

In a time when going “green” is becoming trendy, but is none the less of high importance in the minds of many Americans it seems silly to think that we are being green by buying hybrid cars or equipping our house with solar panels while still buying our food at large grocery stores and not locally or even growing much of our own food, instead we are shipping it across country or even worse, across continents and oceans and racking up the food miles and enlarging our carbon foot print. What is truly green? Self sustainability and local food development is my opinion, it’s a small start, but none the less a start.

Where does all of this bring us? How can we start being Locavores?

Bishops Homegrown was started because for too long small family market farms have gone the way of the past, become sub-developed, or been corporate farms. I saw an important community resource, a source of food, friendship, health, and information eroding because my generation refused to pick up the torch of the old ways and carry it forward into the 21’st century. I decided to grow my produce in the most natural way that I could, avoiding “organic” certification and instead relying on educating the public and allowing our farm itself to be open to folks to tour or to come lend a helping hand if they so please, in this way people can indeed have a first hand experience with the person who grows their food, see where their food comes from and how it is produced, but I also wanted to take it a step further.
I wanted to provide agriculture information written by a young layman without a day of college under his belt for young laymen who are interested in resurrecting small farms and a way of life for their family, so I started taking notes and writing research papers to distribute yearly to those who are interested which led me to my next step. Revitalization of localized and regionalized plant breeding inspired by the unique and healthy advantages of colors, sizes, shapes and so on.
It was this that led me to start growing out massive amounts of germ-plasm (seeds) and searching for traits that are desirable for our climate such as diseases resistance, pest resistance, and drought tolerance as well as searching for pigmentation's which inherently contain free amino acids that are not commonly available in commercial agricultural products. For example, did you know that sweet corn comes in more colors than just yellow and white? What if I told you that it comes in every color of the rainbow and can contain high levels of an anti-cancer agent known as anthocyanin? What if I told you that the darker red that a watermelon is the higher the valuable anti-oxidant lycopene is present? Did you know that some carrots are purple, red, yellow, and contain more than just beta carotene? The also can contain lycopene and anthocyanin.

In my few years of independent plant breeding I have developed 8 distinct new lines of open pollinated tomatoes including blacks, purples, whites, greens, yellows, and reds, a new rainbow colored line of sweet corn, a number of sunflowers and tobaccos, winter squash of all shapes sizes and colors, bi-color yellow to red watermelons, rainbow colored high protein field dent and parching corns, A twenty four lettuce blend of seeds collected locally and a number of projects in the works, many which are exclusive to my operation and available only to my customers and community and friends.

I have also done a number of experiments in other fields of agriculture; one of our largest new fields of research at Bishops Homegrown is the raising of red worms for both fishing bait and compost. The red worms do a terrific job of turning produce beyond the point of sell or donation to a food bank into great and fertile compost which we use on the farm, slowly over time we have built up an ability to provide our own farm with nearly 80% of our own fertilizer produced on farm.

We have also been working on a number of lo till to no till experiments as well as inter cropping live mulches and planting of green manure cover crops on our soils to improve their tilth, drainage, and any erosion problems which we have.

Bishop’s Homegrown is striving not only to be a great business but to also be a great resource of healthy and viable food, seeds, and information for our community and indeed the world outside of our region, we send seeds and information to gardeners all over the world and do much work with independent seed breeders the world over to further improve the public domain food crops and their seeds for a world in which the future of food production and safety seems to be bleak.