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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Friday, January 30, 2009

Native Seeds/SEARCH

For those in the process of ordering seeds for this season, don't pass up the valuable landraces and genetics available via Native Seeds/SEARCH out in Arizona. Lots of beautiful Native American varieties from the southwest are available there including a couple of nice primitive sweet corns and a ton of beautiful beans and Amaranth varieties. Most of these varieties are very drought tolerant and send out deep roots. We have had some difficulty in growing some of these crops here in the humid and wet Ohio Valley but we have also had some real winners and made some great crosses that have given us the traits which we were seeking. There are lots of "sacred" landraces used for ceremonies available, diversity is also extensive!.

Bill Hicks Last Letterman Performance to finally be televised.

According to the official Bill Hicks Web-Site and his official Myspace page, the final unaired performance of Bill Hicks just months prior to his death from Pancreatic Cancer will air tonight on the the Late Show with David Letterman. Bills mother will also be present for this event. For those who don't know about Bill Hicks, do yourself a favor and check him out. He is a constant source of inspiration to Kim and I and a true free spirit who died far too young. I highly suggest you check this out. If you don't know the history of why this clip never aired back in October of 1993 do a little research on the net.

January Snow and Ice Storm

I was going to try to get a picture up of the snow and ice that fell here over the past few days. Several inches overall. It pulled down powerlines all over the place. Luckilly we were only without power for about five or six hours or so, so not too bad, particularly compared with the wind storm we had back in September when we were without power for five days. The good news is that we are getting ready later in the year to make the leap to off the grid living via solar power and solar generators. More on that later.

We didn't sustain much damage up here on the farm, I did have to stay awake on the night of the storm and repeatedly remove the ice and snow from the two large greenhouses with a push broom along with the chicken coop.

Unfortunately our neighbor didn't fare so well. Two of his large chicken coops fell under the weight of the snow and ice, He lost about 50,000 chickens. Though I don't like the idea of corporate farming of this type, I feel deeply for him and his family and their loss.

Have I mentioned that I deeply dislike winter? I think I have SAD, seasonal affective disorder, I just can't deal with being cooped up at all. I'm sure Kim is getting tired of me asking her if it is spring yet.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Growing rice in Indiana?

Yeah, I know I'm crazy, or at least a little goofy. But seriously, I have been giving this some though lately and I'm darn sure going to try it anyhow!

I recently was given several accessions of rice, including many of glutinous rice and have been thinking of the many ways that I could grow this generally wet loving crop in our climate, a few ideas have come to mind, most would be fairly practical but would not allow the space for any real "harvest" of anything other than seed for replanting, however each experiment could be scaled up and the trick for us would be to grow enough so that we can have a couple of bowls of rice per week here in our home from our own stock.

Most of my ideas revolve around filling a container without any drainage holes such as a bucket, a two gallon bottle with the top cut off, or even a childrens' swimming pull 3/4 full of growing medium, likely garden soil, composted manure, and vermicompost, then filling the container with water and inundating the soil until the water is about 3/4" above the soil line (for this we will use water catchment off of the guttering on the house), at this point you could plant your seed. Once the seed germinates and begins to grow and gets it's head above water you would add water once more, give the seed heads time to develop, stop watering and then harvest. The seed heads could be dried in the greenhouses, later the seed would be threshed from the stalk and then baked at low heat (under 200 degrees farenheight) for under an hour, at which point you should be able to roll the seeds in your hand or place them between some moving screens to create the friction needed to free the seeds. Afterwords you would simply winnow out the chaff and have the essential rice grain for personal use for the coming years!

Now, I'm not sure how large I'm going to make this project this year, but I've got enough freaking containers around here I should be able to get a decent sized experimental plot planted for the year. I'll report back later!

Hip-Gnosis Seed Development Updates

Recently Kim and I have made an effort to organize our seed collections in such a way to make them easier to catalog, propagate, and characterize. I hadn't realized the diversity of our seed collection until just yesterday when we finished. As I sat looking at the finished seed room (actually a large closet) the scope of such genetics hit me square on! Imagine for a moment if you will, the number of generations of gardeners preserving unique varieties in our seed room, the number of years by each gardener spent selecting for new types, the number of generations of entrepid ancient seed developers it took to turn any of these crops wild ancestors into human food, and that is only taking into account the pure genetics we are keeping. Imagine for a moment if you will the amount of human history in one of our breeding experiments such as "Astronomy Domine" sweet corn. Literally tens of thousands of years of cumulative human endevor. Living in my closet! Breeding in my fields! It truly is amazing. Imagine the blood, sweet, and tears poured into these crops. Philosophical fertility if you will!

And it still amazes me the amount of diversity passing through our mailbox on a daily basis! There are three lifetimes worth of work to be done here!

In that spirit, Kim and I have decided to expand our business next fall into the realm of a small seed catalog. More like a seed list. We plan to pack this short list with various pure and genetic combinations that are rare, hard to find, or otherwise overlooked. In the meantime we have created a proto type of this catalog, mostly to give us an idea of what we should be bulking seeds from next season, I don't want to sound conceited, but I am already impressed! Hip-Gnosis Seed Development will offer a greatly expanded assortment next season. It was long past time for us to step up and fill in the gaps in the worlds seed selections, now we are determined to do so!

Future Interviews

I hope everyone greatly enjoyed our interview with Peace Seeds Alan Kapuler. Personally I thought it was a terrific interview and we have most certainly built a bridge between our work and Dr. Kapuler's important work. So much lies at our feet in the future in terms of organic and traditional farming, gardening, and plant breeding. More importantly I am now building more bridges and planning a series of interviews which will be of interest to independent and back yard plant breeders, gardeners, and farmers. Next up is Tim Peters of Peters Seed Research who has worked for decades on some amazing perinnial grain projects which we will soon have access to via the Homegrown Goodness Message Board. Tom Wagner, Ken Ettlinger, and Ken Allen also grace the list of upcoming interviews! I hope you are all as excited about this as I am!

UK Telegraph Website creating propaganda? Warnings? Fear mongering?

Take from this what you will, personally I find this disgusting and more than a little "weird". Recently the London Telegraph has been under heavy scrutiny due to their posting of some photo galleries depicting London being blown apart by an atomic bomb as part of a terrorist attack.. More recently they posted a secondary photo gallery depicting New York, Washington DC, Portland, Toronto, Mexico City and Los Angeles suffering the same fate. As though this were not enough, in part 3 they post very specific Illuminati propaganda in regards to the North American Union, Homeland Security, and very Nazi-like images of an eagle symbol as well as the Latin phrase “Norvus Ordo Seclorum" (new order of the ages).

If you don't find this in the least offensive, I'm really not sure what else I can say to you in regards to the current direction of our world to really get you to open your eyes and at least take a secondary look at what is going on. Is this a warning? Is this propaganda? Who knows. What I do know is it is disgusting, and the very same folks who dream up this type of bull shit are the types who are running our countries. If something of this magnitude were ever to happen, clearly it wouldn't bode well for anyone, but who would get the blame? Who would deserve the blame is what you need to ask? Any operation of this size would reek of "false flag" propaganda, and yet I wonder, would we as several nations of diverse and unique people question what we see as "reality"?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The color of the U.S. Crayon has changed!

Well, are you happy now? The color of the crayon has changed and yet it is still writing the same hate filled, war mongering, fear inducing rhetoric as the last crayon. You can change the color of the writing utensil and yet it still doesn't change what the words on the paper mean. From a foolish king to an alchemist king, they are one and the same only the names have changed.

Please remember to think for yourself and question authority my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Alan "Mushroom" Kapuler: Organic guru of mind, spirit and body; a Homegrown Interview!

Alan "Mushroom" Kapuler: Organic guru of mind, spirit and body; a Homegrown Interview!
By: Alan Reed Bishop/Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Homegrown Goodness Message Board/Bishop's Homegrown
I am proud to announce that I had the distinct opportunity to conduct an interview with Alan M Kapuler PH.D over this past weekend via E-mail. I would like to take a moment to thank Alan and his family for all of the important work that they have done in the field of organic agriculture, public domain plant breeding, and the arts. They are an absolutely amazing group of people, a rare gem in today's modern world to be sure. What follows is our interview. I would like to thank everyone who posted questions on the Homegrown Goodness message board (where you will find another posting of this interview and many more to come with other public domain breeders)and sent questions via my blog and e-mail. One of the questions that I rarely see asked of "Mushroom" (Alan's other "common" name) are those that pertain to his artwork, I have an intense interest in his beautiful works and thought that one should accompany this article, as such, one of his paintings follows and you can view more of these special works of art at (couldn't get the active link to work on this page for some reason so you will have to copy and paste friends)
Enjoy this engaging interview!

So what started you on this long road of organic plant breeding for the public domain?
By age 11,I was interested enough in Mendel's observations and deductions about diploid inheritance that years later folks reminded me of how i would talk with some of my friends about recessive and dominant traits and second generation segregation. Later on in my last year of college, I did a research project on color mutants of the red bread mold, Neurospora crassa. The next year in grad school, I did projects with Escherichia coli, a bacterium and the control elements of the galactosidase gene and with a RNA virus f2, again looking for mutants and genetic selection techniques. During the summer of my 4th year in grad school, I did a breeding experiment with the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. And then later on, working with RNA cancer viruses, again looking for breeding systems, genetic recombination and selection systems, in animal cell tissue culture gave me hands on experience with genetic systems, whether viral, bacterial, animal, fungal, from viral organisms with several to dozens of genes, to bacteria with several thousand, to fungi with 9000 or more, to animals with 15000-22000 and then later on to plants with 20-30,000. I started with orchids at age 8 and volunteered in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden orchid house for many years on saturdays. It has taken me many years to return to them, mostly unsuccessfully. I like plants that are well adapted to the ecosystem I inhabit. But it has taken me many years to accept this. Perhaps because I am a refugee from planetwide ecological disaster.
Yet it was the back to the land movement of the late '60's that turned me into an organic gardener, a seed collector, a partisan of biodiversity, a biologist watching this marvelous beautiful world being destroyed by ignorance in so many ways and more recently a public domain plant breeder.

Could you speak for a moment about the way that your battle with Lymphatic Cancer has affected the work that you do?
If it had killed me, very little of my public domain plant breeding would have been developed.
Having the past 15 years to focus on the need for original plant breeding for organics, for everyone, for the need to recognize that life is common ground for all of us who live here, that we didn't invent the ribosome, or orchids in the trees or the fragrance of a forest. I am in agreement with Vandana Shiva that patenting and ownership of cells, microbes, plants, animals, indeed all of life are forms of biopiracy. The wildtypes, the natural creatures on this planet have liferights in and of themselves. Once we begin changing them genetically, biochemically, transgenically, new organisms arise and the issue of property and ownership arises once again in the sense of invention and novelty. I find it easier to accept patents of cars or computers, stuff that we have originated but not on living organisms.
So lymphoma gave me the courage to sit in for humanity, for my own survival and for the future of a world that once held immense forests, endless flocks of birds, cloudforests wreathed in flowers and oceans with uncountable numbers of species.
It also gave me a chance to try out different medical regimes for putting the swollen lymph nodes back into their normal unenlarged state. After being diagnosed with lymphoma subsequent to a biopsy from an enlarged inguinal node, I began a rather strict macrobiotic diet and 11 months later, the nodes receded to normal. Three years later they returned. Then I got to try the Hoxsey Herbal Tonic and after two months of daily herbal brew, the nodes receded for another three years. The growth of the nodes was stimulated by stress as well as excess oil in my diet. After they had come back once again and new ones arising with an erratic and depressing frequency, I had more than 60 acupuncture treatments and tried a classic oriental remedy for swollen lymph glands with require me to drink freshly prepared turtle soup cooked with specific herbs. For a longtime vegetarian, this was difficult as it was for the 30 turtles. I noticed no effect and the ongoing progression of the disease only became apparent to me when looking in a full length mirror, I saw enlarged lymph glands from my temple, under my arms, down my abdomen and into my legs; perhaps several pounds of tumors. Fortunately, the physician who read my biopsy in 1988 had begun to develop an in vitro assay for reagents that induce apoptosis, genetically programmed cell death, in the cancer cells. By 1995 Robert Nagourney MD had developed the assay and in 1999 used it on my cells to find out which combo of what poisons would put my lymphoma into remission. He treated me with the chosen combo six times along with a monoclonal antibody to my kind of lymphoma at the turn of the millenium. Since then I have no sign of cancer.

Any insights as far as battling back against diseases like these?
-the immense will to live for those one loves, for service to humanity.
-good organic vegetarian food, mostly homegrown.
-a loving family, a devoted partner, courage, resilience.
-yoga, particularly kriya and ashtanga; Patanjali's sutras and the support and inspiration of the divine.

Do you feel there is a natural reason that diseases such as this exist? Any possibility of a future publication dealing with this knowledge?
When one looks into the human genome and the genomes of many organisms, there are many kinds of viral and nucleic acid historical sections. Half of human DNA is viral retrotransposons. Single coding genes are 1-2%. There are many layers and levels of regulation. The evolution of living creatures taken as a collective has many adaptations to survival, survival of life unbroken for billions of years and there are relics of these changes in the genomes, genetic stories of brilliant biochemical innovation, of failures and extinctions, of radical inventions, and of good ideas that have caused problems like cancer, mental illness, psychotic violence and the destruction of the biosphere. So in part, these diseases are part of the selective matrix in which the environment interacts with the genomes. As we increase industrial pollution of the air we breathe, the water we drink, the sounds we hear, the food we eat then the genetic systems are impacted and inspite of their resilience, they are mutated, degraded, altered in ways that sometimes give us growth and advantage but which usually lead to unexpected problems, in our health, in our attitudes, in our behaviors and in our ability to cooperate and work our problems to mutual advancement.

From the descriptions in Carol Deppe's book it appears some of your breeding projects started with a spiritual motivation as much as a scientific one (e.g. Rainbow Inca sweetcorn). To what extent has your breeding work been driven by your background as a molecular biologist and how much by a sense of connection with the earth and seeds? Would you consider your work part of a wider spiritual belief?
I'd rather be part of the immense, incomprehensible, infinite universe than subscribe to some diminished aspect of reality.
The mostly invisible realm of molecular biology is the common ground and framework for life. It is in the seeds that grow our food, that provide fertility, beauty, diversity and room for love and happiness that I feel the connection to so many people and so many generations. Its in the hands, in the nurturing and propagation, in the gratitude for a harvest, for the discovery of a new combination that makes more vigorous plants in difficult ecologies that renews me.

Where did the genetics of "hypertendril" peas come from, and what made you pursue that particular line?
Accidentally, like many good discoveries.
After 7 years in selecting for a purple snap pea, the pods were purple and bitter. So looking for a way around this, I crossed the bitter, purple podded snap with the Parsley Bush Shell Pea and the hypertendril trait emerged. One may understand some aspects of the genetic apparatus but novel combinations happen routinely, picking them out is its own thing.

What types of food crops are you concentrating on these days...?
the foodplants of the Pacific Northwest natives; Wapato, Lomatiums, Brodiaeas, Camassias

What are your thoughts on the future of self sustainable agriculture and plant breeding in the 21'st century.
-we need more public domain breeders
-we will have to deal with transgenics and the biosphere in more enlightened ways
-we need to get rid of the poisons, monocultures, the synthetic fertilizers
-the continuing destruction of the biosphere will make it necessary to reconceive how we feed ourselves and how to support increasingly large human populations

What do you feel is the single most pressing issue in regards to sustainable, organic agriculture and it's ability to feed humankind?
-access to the resources:clean water, fertile soil, the right seeds and cooperative people

What are some of the best plants (edible or non-) to grow for the purpose of making better compost, minding the needs of soil microbes?
-we make compost in the gardening process calling the compost pile the CEO of our garden ie Composting Ecological Organism
-soybeans with lots of rhizobial nodules
-smoothies from green leaves, perhaps fermented, at home fertilizer.

John Jeavons promotes a concept for self-sustainable gardens that one should grow 60% grains/compost crops, 30% high calorie root crops, and 10% vitamin rich vegetables and greens. Would you make adjustments to that, especially if you had a small growing area?
-the categories make problems: compost comes from all crops.
-seems to me that root crops like gobo (edible burdock), daikon, parsnips, celery root are not high calorie but unique each in their own aspect of our nutritional needs. And roots go down, bring minerals up.
-vegetables have free amino acids and combinations of veggies which supply all 21 amino acids needed for protein synthesis reduce the need for mature, whole proteins for they (proteins) are broken down to the free aminos which are the constructive units of enzymes, structural proteins, and essential parts of the cellular metabolic wheels. Seems to me that the violence of the food system, the slaughter of so many creatures for their proteins, needs to be replaced by a better, gentler, more effective for more people system.
So, less grain, more veggies, more fruits, more roots, mushrooms, seaweeds and fermented foods, particularly from soybeans are important parts of sustainable organic gardening.
Some vitamins like A, C and folate are in good suppy in many green leaves but yeasts give us more B's and some like B12 are in Lactobacterial sources.

Is it necessary to import soil microbes to poor soils, or are diverse populations already present, awaiting better conditions?
-both can be true.
-still one can select more effective strains of microbes to liberate phosphate or transport cations, we have rather rudimentary abilities in using and developing microbial strains to improve our agriculture
-we watch the movement of fertility as we plant more soybeans in different places in our 3+ acre garden, which is becoming a milpa, a place that we live out of, that nurtures us, giving us not only food, herbs, medicinals, fiber but good work, time in the weather and the sunshine, wind and rain. We have become discouraged by the importation of amendments to improve our garden. We are actively working with onsite fertility enhancement and there are difficult issues; rodents, difficult weeds, molluscs, how to encourage microbes to help with nitrogen fixation, calcium and iron liberation, mycelial development.

In your many years of experienced plant breeding, have you had any disappointments? If so, what were you working with and what traits were you looking for?
-ideas are the fertilizer
-you have to do many ideas to get a few good ones
-most good ideas don't work out, but they can lead you to pay attention, demand that you be keenly observant, require that you keep track and connect the years and then be willing to realize that you did't know what you were doing but could adapt to the actual happenings and take advantage of the possibilities.

Where is Peace Seeds headed in the future? Can you speak a bit a bit about your daughter Dylana and her partner Mario's new Peace Seedlings venture?
-Mushroom's Blog "30 Years After" gives a synopsis of the early history of Peace Seeds. Hopefully, we will continue to develop Kinship Gardening which promotes the gardening of biodiversity, organizing gardens to reflect the kinship and geneology of the diversity of the plants and by extention, many other interwoven threads of the DNA.
When Dylana was 13 and by some accounts 6, she said that some day she would take over Peace Seeds. She and Mario have been growing seeds intensively for 2 years after gardening many more years than that. It takes 5+ years to get it straight about the breeding systems of each of the taxa, of each of the major groups of foodplants, with hands on experience of how to make layouts optimal to growing many kinds of seeds in the same garden while isolating as many as possible for good seed crops while allowing interbreeding to support vitality, new combinations and adaptation to the continually changing environment. They have developed their own corn lines, new cultivars of marigolds, and are engaging new grexes in the brassicas and zinnias.
They have helped rejuvinate this aging hippie in uncountable ways. I never figured anyone would want to work so hard, work so much and earn so little. Unexpected goodness comes by and makes me glad to have listened to Bob Dylan and turned my focus to the collective wellbeing and peace.

End of first set of answers. 1-17-09 AMK

What got you interested in the study of Amino Acids that got you hooked in breeding for improved nutrition in food plants? Why purple sweet corn or carrots?
As a molecular biologist, one of the great universal discoveries about life is the way proteins are made. By threading messenger RNA's thru ribosomes to specifically code for unique sequences of amino acids that are polymerized into proteins that fold uniquely to make enzymes that mostly catalyze specific biochemical reactions that maintain and develop cells which build organs and organize them into organisms, we have a common system for all living systems and the viruses that depend on them.
So it made sense to look for a common aspect of food and nutrition. It combined my interest in non-violence with that of nutrition. This led me to the amino acids that make proteins and to look into tomatoes, snap beans, salad plants, medicinal herbs, root juices, the petals of flowers and the juices of onions, yacon and other obscure veggies. Dr. Sangamat Gurusiddiah and I collaborated in hundreds of HPLC analyses which are found in 5 papers published in Peace Seeds Resource Journals during the '80's and 90's.
Purple corn, actually high anthocyanin sweet corns came also by accident. I had been collecting sweet corns for years and John Kimmey came by and traded me 7 sweet corns for 7 different colored lines of Hopi starch corn. During the years that I grew and selected them, there were crosses to True Platinum Sweet Corn, some of which gave intensely dark red-wine purple crinkle seeds. I picked them out and to my surprise they were maternally inherited ie, cobs either had all dark red-purple seeds or none of this color at all. So I selected my first lines called variously Martian Purple or Purple Martian or Martian Red. Then with a good line of a high anthocyanin sweet corn, I crossed it to several other popular organic gardening se corns and selected more lines including Martian Jewels, Double Red, Martian Tricolor and Red Miracle.

What are your thoughts on Genetically modified crops? As a scientist do you think there are merits, dangers? Particularly what are your thoughts regarding PHarming?
I've written a few papers about genetic engineering and GMO's like Blowing in the Wind, mostly cautionary because of the inaccurate techniques and overblown claims of the biotechnology industry.
However, walking in a beautiful coniferous forest the other day and considering how few areas on earth give us food, I had to pause at the immense conceptual potential that is implicit in our discoveries about the genomic unity of life. We have been mislead by the misuse of genetics to make RoundUp Ready Soybeans or Bt Corn. Even the Papaya strains resistant to Ringspot disease had fragments of viral genomes and other unforseen changes in the mitochondrial-nuclear genetic balance. These early developments had shallow and mostly economic motivations.
More sophisticated use of our understanding of these genomic discoveries will impact how long we live and how well we age.
It will also impact the local and planetary biosphere in terms of new kinds of weeds, weeds in new ecosystems and unexpected combinations between organisms.
These are difficulties at the beginning of a continuing endeavor by humanity to understand its actual lineages, composition and combinations. We are all mosaics, intricately crazy combinations, in actuality chimaeras many fold more complicated than the Sphinx. As people, so called animals, we are half virus, 2-3% bacteria/archaea, maybe 5% fungal and 7% plant.
Jonathan Weiner in his book Time, Love, Memory reckons that the folks who study fruit flies see in them their intimate link with humanity since all people have 18% of their single copy genes in common with all insects. This book is the story of the life of humanities greatest geneticist, Seymour Benzer. It is profound.

Recently I have been studying as well as growing out some of the bio-diversity that has come from the Oaxaca region of mexico and also that of Peru and have found these regions absolutely astonishing places with an astounding array of bio-diverse food and foliage/flowering plants, I'm wondering if you have done much work with the bio-diversity of this region and also if there is a particularly bio-diverse region that you may describe as your favorite or that you always come back to for further study?
In the 1980's we began collecting Andean crops and later on the National Academy of Science published the Lost Crops of the Incas which gave us more crops, more depth and more encouragement. We have continued exploring the great foodplants developed by the people of the Andes, having most success with yacon, oca, topotopo, achira. Many of the worth-exploring crops like tuberous rooted 4 o'clocks, arracacia-Andean carrots, most cultivars of oca and most cultivars of yacon, ulluco, mashua are not available or difficult to obtain. This seems to be changing. I hope so.

As a ginseng grower myself, I'm wondering if you have done any work with this valuable plant? Any insights into the mystery of this beautiful and potent medicine?
Adaptogenic plants interest me also. I planted some hundreds of ginseng plants in my yard but never gave them enough water during summer. Aralia californica grows well here as do many umbels with big roots and interesting food and medicinal histories.
We consume a narrow range of foods and for many of us this limits our abilities as we age. These plants impact our nervous systems, promote neuronal flexibility.

Just to give folks an inside view into plant breeding could you walk us through your process of breeding something like your double red corn or painted hills sweet corn and that selection process or your sunflowers?
I talked about the corns a little bit earlier.
One year we focused on Helianthus, the sunflower genus of about 50 species.
We grew thousands of sunflower with maybe a 15 species. Among them was Helianthus argophyllus, the silverleaf sunflower, an narrow endemic from Texas.
The year one could see the F1 crosses and several years later there were predominantly H. annuus plants with racemose branches of a dozen 5" flowers on stiff stems. These made great bouquets and led us to examine sunflower plant architecture more carefully. Some other nice observations continue in new work on polypetalous sunflowers crossed with dark red petalled single petal kinds. These Tiger's Eye and Dragon's Fire cultivars have been in our gardens for years.
Now both the argo crosses and the red doubles are combining with the late giants. Inadvertently, some of the sunflowers show a behavior wherein the plants grow for months and then when 8-12' tall have grown 20-40 stout branches that begin flowering in september-october. So the entire plants bursts into bloom. Birds especially appreciate the late fall food.

This one is just for fun, if you could visit any time period and see any piece of history (or future) agriculturally related or scientifically related or not (without interaction) what would it be?
-the coming to local, national and planetary peace
-the upliftment of all of us
-the development of organic gardens everywhere

Is there anybody in the scientific agricultural world that you would like to work with that you haven't yet?
It would be fun to talk with Craig Venter.

How do you feel that internet technology has effected the work that you and other plant breeders are doing, how do you think it will affect the future of the kind of work we do?
It has helped already and can continue to help immensely. The sharing of data, the open discussions, the sharing of seeds, these promote unity which supports education and the scientific process of verification.

I expect you have volumes of notes on your insights of nature and life. Any plans to eventually share them online?
Anything I have written can be put online. There is a collection of 21 writings from 2004-6 that talk about organic seeds, public domain plant breeding, new paradigms in biology, yacon.....and the kinship garden layouts cf the amino acid papers.
Some folks have been kind enough to post different things, from FoodNotLawns, to SeedAmbassadors, Semences de Kokopelli.

What are some of your favorite plants to eat? What yummy plants should every garden have? Where can we buy those seeds?
Peace Seedlings has a 2009 list. Send SASE to 2385 SE Thompson St., Corvallis OR 97333 for one.

I've tried to grow yacon in a zone 7 environment. At the end of the year, the tubers were virtually non-existent. What areas are there where Yacon just won't do well.
Yacon needs alot of water during september for good sized roots and no early frosts. Try it in a greenhouse as well.

Have you spent time in Hawaii(tropics) cultivating? Any plans?
Several trips to Kauai, once to the Big Island, studying tropical botany all the while; staggering, inspiring, motivating.

Do you feel that your artwork and plant breeding are intertwined and part of the same motivation? Any chance of getting your paintings online somewhere?
Be great to get the paintings on line somewhen.
There are many hundreds of paintings in the home with descriptivars like Dreamscapes, KOOTS (Karma Of Our TimeS), Hyperdimensional Character Analyses, some tarot major arcana, maybe several decks, many family paintings, so its up to sorting, analyzing and organizing, like we have done recently with the seed collection where its first layout was alphabetical in families and now it is conjunct with the APGII=Angiosperm Phylogeny Group II layout.
There is a series of paintings called The Struggle for the Earth. There is another called Exploring the Heart, another The Fabric of Community, at least 50 in The Earth is in Our Hands.

Just to tie everything in together I'm wondering if you could talk about your spiritual beliefs and your family for a moment or two and how they relate to the work that you do?
Now that our 3 daughters are growing into working more closely with Linda and myself, we all engage self-realization.
We rather like having time for one another, for our kids and for the society this engenders. Just like we like organic gardening.
We've wandered thru many spiritual aspects adhering to the unifying parts of them and selecting for techniques and attitudes appropriate for these times.
We continue to work on ourselves, on our faults and weaknesses, blindnesses and frailties becoming more adept at turning adversaries into friends, problems into opportunities and conflicts into conciliation.
And we wish that all towns would promote diverse organic gardens in their parks and conservation in the hearts of the people.

End of second session of responses.

Best to you

The Doomsday Seed Vault

In our conversation earlier today Ampetu made me aware of an author by the name of F. William Engdahl who wrote a book entitled "Seeds of Destruction". Many of the topics that William Engdahl (who I was previously unaware of) has written about mirror my thoughts and theories here on this blog. Imagine my surprise when I came across an article which he wrote recently that nearly mirrored many of my recent thoughts on such subjects. Check out the article HERE and pass it around. I think I had a very enlightening experience today for sure. This article has only further reinforced my thinking on such subjects.

Sourcepoint Seeds and Ampetu Oihankesi

Last year I purchased some seed from an interesting organization called Sourcepoint Seeds that I was not able to locate online. Of particular interest to me were Quinoa, Amaranth, and Wheat. "Life Support Crops as owner Ampetu Oihankesi calls them. Today I decided to give Ampetu a call on the phone, our conversation was engaging, deep, and very philosophical. It was a meeting of two similar minds with similar interests. We discussed GMO's, the current human condition, cereal crops, macrobiotics, oriental medicine and a lot more. I was sure to tell him about the Homegrown Goodness message board and I hope he gets a chance to stop by there, I have also added him to the tentative list of folks I would like to interview in the future for this blog as well as for the message board. Ampetu is working with some very interesting and important crops and I hope to purchase seeds from him in the near future for next year and to work with him more closely in the coming years.

For a SourcePoint Seeds Catalog send $4 to

Ampetu Oihankesi
1220 2640 Road
Hotchkiss, Colorado 81419

In the meantime, be sure to check out these audio interviews with Ampetu at Lighting The Fires Of Liberty archive and find the shows from February 5, March 18'th, and April 21'st 2008.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wow! Indiana to return to Gold Standard, someone in my state government has a brain!!??

From: Daily

If this turns out to be true (which from the looks of it it is) and you live in the state of Indiana it is your responsibility to stand up for this return to constitutional currency and don't let this fade from the spotlight or let the Federal Reserve prevent this from happening. It is our full right as a state to treat our state economy as we see fit and no one can tell us otherwise.

January 14, 2009

Indiana State Senator Files Gold Money Bill Senate Bill 453, The Indiana Honest Money Act Indiana Picks Up Where New Hampshire Left Off !

Indianapolis, Indiana -- State Senator Greg Walker of District 41, (R-Columbus), has officially filed a Bill that would allow Indiana to offer its citizens a choice of Gold (and Silver) coin or the Electronic equivalent in payable and receivable transactions with the state. This bold bill will finally bring Indiana back into conformance with the Constitution for the United States of America which states "No state shall...make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts..." Article 1, Section 10.

The Indiana Honest Money Act will be voluntary for citizens, but mandatory for certain, specialized businesses and will allow Indiana to fund the Treasury with enough assets insuring that no current state funds will need to be earmarked. S.B. 453 is NOT a replacement for Federal Reserve Notes, but more of a competing, Constitutional currency and an insurance policy for our current, tenuous "money" system.

Indiana is picking up where New Hampshire left off in their attempt to get essentially the same Bill passed back in 2003 and 2005. The Bill was written by eminently qualified Constitutional Money Scholar and practicing Constitutional Lawyer, Dr. Edwin Vieira of Virginia. Jerry Titus of Kokomo, a Senior Field Service Engineer, worked to take New Hampshire's Constitutionally compliant wording of Dr. Vieira's Bill, and adapted it for Indiana's unique purposes.

This exciting juncture is only the beginning of S.B. 453 as it needs to be approved by the Tax and Fiscal Committee for House consideration, etc., and will probably be subject to debate and possible amendments. There will be about 700 Bills under consideration in the current Legislature and only about 200 will survive to be voted on.

Here is the official wording for S.B. 453:

For more information you may contact: Dana Carter, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Walker at 317-232-9984 or 800-382-9467 Or, visit the Indiana Honest Money website at

For more background information you may contact Harvey Wharfield at 978-635-9586 who has been involved with the concept of a Gold Money Bill for the past five years and has worked with both New Hampshire, Indiana, and other states, in raising the conscientiousness of "sound money" around the country.

Special thanks to all who worked so hard to get S.B. 453 to this auspicious point.

Contact: Harvey Wharfield

Post Oak Public Relations 978 - 635 - 9586, 11am to 11pm, EST

>Indiana Honest Money Act introduced!! SB 453.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Brief History Of Homegrown Goodness/Hip-Gnosis Seed Development

Written By: Alan Reed Bishop/Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Bishop's Homegrown/Homegrown Goodness.

Mike and some others on the Homegrown Goodness Message Board had asked me to write an intro to a couple of projects we are working on, I decided to wax philosophical about this history and this is what I came up with:

A brief history of Hip-Gnosis Seed Development and the Homegrown Goodness Forum.

10,000 years ago a paradigm shift occurred. Humankind, in short order, went from a hunter-gathering society of nomadic peoples and evolved into a focused agrarian society centering much of their life on taming the wild plant and animal life and parlaying them into domesticated species for specific use as human food.

Even the earliest forms of agriculture were close approximations of “eco-logical” webs in that they mimicked to one degree or another what was naturally occurring in the pastures, forests, and desserts of the locale in which the gardens were planted.

For 10,000 years this system supported our entire food web.

Unfortunately during the 20’th century our evolving ancient technologies was commercially ripped from under our very feet and replaced by “modern” hybrids, unsustainable fossil fertilizers, and an inordinate amount of so called agricultural knowledge, but this is not the knowledge of our ancestors and certainly not the genetic memory of our 10,000 year agrarian history.

It is into this world that Hip-Gnosis Seed Development and the Homegrown Goodness Forum was delivered from the spiritual and physical womb of the earth herself. It was in this modern agricultural system that I first felt the alienation of what we were doing to the bio-diversity, the soil, the water, and the air of our planet and how this affected all of us and the extant “human condition”.

In the spirit of all the generations of our ancestors Hip-Gnosis was created to both foster the seeds which were saved for us by generations of our agricultural ancestors and to further their work with agricultural crops by creating new varieties and returning their genetics to the public domain in such a way that would allow others to affect the outcome of these genetics and leave their own fingerprint on our future food crops and their history. A public domain seed breeding and genetic material exchange. For the people and by the people, and with an emphasis on exploration. Seeds for inner and outer space explorers. Hip = New, Gnosis = Knowledge.

The Homegrown Goodness forum became an essential extension of such an endevor as a seed is only of value if it is shared, disseminated, and grown by others. As I gathered knowledge of self sustainable systems and plant breeding as well as agricultural history I knew that I had to have a way to let this excitement and enthusiasm for what would be possible in the future and for what has come by way of the past in order for this project to live outside of my own being, as such it was important to find like minded individuals who were interested in self sustainability, love, and knowledge and to share what I had with them and them likewise with myself. At first it was slow to grow, now it has a life of it’s own. It has become a self sustainable loose association of interrelated cells, each working towards a common goal.

This flower, this project, this fertility of Gnosis is blooming now.

The Green Intifada

I recently became aware of a group known as The Green Intifada in Palestine as they have contacted my friend/partner Michel over at the Homegrown Goodness Message board about recieving some of our seeds for their cause. Our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Israel need all the love in the world right now, so if you can, please visit their blog and give them your support however you can. In their own words the Green Intifada is:

a community based, grass roots democratic movement aiming to rebuild Palestinian society upon the ethics of sound environmental practice, sustainability and community cohesion. Green Intifada is not an organisation. It is the begginnings of a network of organisations, working together for social transformation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

If anyone from the Green Intifada is reading please contact me about working together in the near future. Alan Reed Bishop

Tim Peters Perrinial Grains Project and Associated News coming soon.

Big news is coming soon regarding Tim Peters/Peters Seed Research and Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Homegrown Goodness and the release of the Perennial Grain project! We have another interested association that will be working with us on this high value project! Stay tuned, big things are happening! Bigger than we ever could have expected!

Alan Reed Bishop
Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Homegrown Goodness

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monsanto, Vilsack, Obama, and Population control.

According to this article from Greepeace, Monsanto's GM products may work well for one thing that we have discussed in the past here, population control. Yeah, that's right, these Genetically Modified crops are either by proxy causing infertility in mice (which could lead to consequences in human fertility) or could it be that they may even have been engineered to do exactly that? Would that suprise you? It wouldn't me. Take a moment and do a little research regarding what is currently transpiring in the lawsuits by Monsanto against seed cleaners in Illinois and Indiana and their backhanded tactics.

Take a moment, look at your incoming U.S. president, do you think he represents anything close to change? Who did he appoint as the United States Secretary of Agriculture? Tom Vilsack, another Monsanto and GMO shill if ever there was one. Responsible for the introduction of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, effectively blocking local communities from regulating where genetically engineered crops would be grown and was the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership as well as being named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Change. Right, don't we wish.

Now here they are destorying another facet of our health, destroying our fertility, and we are supposed to support these monsters?

GM "Glow in the Dark" pigs have been bred and given birth to piglets which express the same traits!

Here is the Link refering to this scientific "breakthrough". The claim is that these pigs were modified with a protein which causes their skin to be bioluminescent in order to study if the pigs could pass these traits on to their offspring in order to discover weather or not future Geneticly Modified pigs could pass on the traits bred into them for growing human replacement organs. I don't see how that could go wrong at all. We already know of the dangers that pork can pose to the body in terms of parasites and health problems, what do you think is going to happen when you start harvesting and implanting organs from such chimeras?

From the article:

The glowing piglets' birth proves transgenic pigs are fertile and able to pass on their engineered traits to their offspring, according to Liu Zhonghua, a professor overseeing the breeding program at Northeast Agricultural University.

Several years back researchers pulled the same "hat trick" using monkeys with the intention of advancing technology to be used on humans. Others have used mice and even fish which were marketed as pets and subsequently made it into the wild which led California to place a ban on the sale of the glowing Zebra Fish. In India and Africa there have been reports of GMO "glowing" monkeys escaping into the wild and still sighted regularly.

And just like in plants, now they want to grow medicine in animals used for human consumption, read more here.

This is really starting to get out of hand.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Organic Seed and Public Domain Plant Breeding:

'shroom was kind enough to send this to me to post here for your enjoyment and as research for the upcoming interview, please keep the questions coming, do your research and come up with some great questions, this will be very interesting my friends! Be sure to check out the two Kinship garden layouts in the previous post as well.

Here is the article:

Organic Seed and Public Domain Plant Breeding:

By Alan M. Kapuler Ph.D.
Peace Seeds

Biopiracy is big business. So is owning and controlling the foodsystem. Tied to the land, water, and resources, our prevalent agriculture is suffering from monocultures, petrochemical inputs, the tyranny of machines, insufficiency of human labor and the hegemony of the wall street banking system.

So control of the seeds, particularly the control of availability, variety and diversity of crop plant seeds which in turn reflects the directions of collecting, breeding and selection by governments, corporations, universities, plant breeders, seed companies and backyard gardeners determine what is available to us as consumers, cooks, gardeners, farmers, eaters, ecologists; people all.

It is with some of these things in mind that in the 1970’s and 1980’s we began collecting seeds and breeding new varieties for the organic movement and the public domain.

Mendel began breeding peas more than a century and a half ago. His legacy endures. We found a copy of his paper on peas in which he shows how to unfold the flower, distinguishing pollen from stigma, and learned how to transfer pollen from one flower to another.

In the 1980’s, we made a public domain vine snap pea (Sugaree) because all the available ones were plant variety patent protected (PVPed). The company controlling these peas wasn’t interested in organics. Yet organically grown snap peas were important plants in our diets and our cuisine. So we used classical plant breeding to liberate some garden peas. This work continues. We developed a yellow podded vine snap pea with unusually sweet leaves (Opal Creek) and in collaboration with Carl Jones a vine snow pea with delicious 8-9” pods (Green Beauty). Recently we used the parsley bush pea which has leafy fronds rather than tendrils to develop hypertendril peas, ones with large, many fingered tendrils that have snow, snap and shell characters in different lines. This year, in collaboration with Phil Gouy, we identified several traits likely to increase the productivity of bush and vine peas by 2-3 fold and began crossing them into our favorite cultivars.

From this we reckoned that organically grown, organically adapted and organically selected cultivars held by the public would be vital for the organic movement and for humanity in general. In addition, these cultivated varieties would have to reflect as many aspects of the local gardening food system as possible; namely, temperate zone crops adapted to the coast, the valleys and the mountains. We needed to explore and develop new, superior and original varieties to promote, enhance and distinguish organic, biological agriculture. Recognizing that F1 hybrids and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) were further aspects of the privatization of the genome pool, our organic varieties would be open pollinated, free from imposed transgenes and selected under organic conditions.

To us, the organic evolution has moved from 60 Centuries of Chinese Agriculture, from the Indore System of Composting, from Steinerian Biodynamics to the era of the Molecular Biology of Organisms. In particular, microbes that make up an essential part of organic soil cooperate to form biosomes, groups of interacting creatures that promote, enhance and sustain plant growth and health. Bacteria and archaea integrally connect to mycorhizal fungi and viruses in the soil network that biologists call the rhizosphere, the root zone of plants.

A recent microbiological discovery: for decades farmers have been using reduced nitrogen fertilizers like urea and ammonium sulfate to enhance the growth of the plants they grow. Yet plants don’t utilize reduced ammonia very well, they prefer and concentrate nitrate, oxidized nitrogen in their cell vacuoles. The conversion of reduced nitrogen provided by a variety of microbes, like blue-green bacteria, to nitrate has recently been discovered to take place thanks to a previously unrecognized group of archaea called ‘crens’. They are present in most soils, in most ecosystems on planet earth. Bacteria don’t convert much ammonia to nitrate, crens do. This opens up vistas for further developments in microbially enhanced fertility regimes to increase the output of organic food.

Since part of our work with seeds was to provide for the kinds of foods we love to eat and flowers that improve our moods and gardens, we began with our favorite garden crops: sweet corn, broccoli, onions, winter squash, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias.

At the same time, we were fortunate to collaborate with Dr. Sarangamat Gurusiddiah, head of the Bioanalytical Laboratory at Washington State University at Pullman, WA (since retired), in making hundreds of amino acid analyses of organically grown crops looking of nutritional selection criteria for many of our crops. Nutribud broccoli, one of our brassica cultivars was found to have significant amounts of glutamine, one of the energy sources for our brains, hence the name.

Since we originally began growing food with heirloom cultivars, it soon became apparent that some heirlooms did better than others in terms of vigor, productivity, seed production and food quality. We chose and continue to look for fine heirlooms as parents in making new kinds.

After growing more than 200 varieties of tomatoes during our decades of organic gardening, we had established preferences and picked our favorites for parents. It takes just a few minutes to make a cross. It takes many months and years to follow the cross to new and improved varieties.

While our first crosses were with heirlooms, now many new kinds come from the intercrossing of varieties that have taken us years to develop. Familiarity and experience is necessary to sustaining and developing worthwhile new cultivars.

A key aspect of laying out a garden for developing new varieties is to know the how’s, what’s and when’s for each and every kind of plant. Are the plants insect, bird, bat, ant, wind or water pollinated? Are there complete flowers, ones with both pollen and stigmas, or plants with male and female flowers on the same plant or are there both male plants and female plants? And then there are the critical issues of inbreeding and outcrossing. Some plants like sunflowers, brassicas and cucurbits prefer to outbreed. Others like tomatoes, legumes and marigolds are usually self-fertile.

Then there is timing. So many aspects of fertility have to do with timing. When the flowers open, when the pollen is mature, when the stigmas are receptive, whether the sun is shining or rain is a’fallin, the emergence of insects thru their metamorphosis from larva to pupa to adult, the direction and timing of the wind, the daily and diurnal temperature and the many kinds of intervention that a gardener or plant breeder can interpose to aid or limit pollination are all important in the conjunctions that lead to seed production.

Taking your hand to seed collecting and plant breeding opens possibilities for uniquenesses in your garden, new vistas that unfold with each crop and each garden with the unknown as a friend and ally involving yourself in sustainable ecology and the paradigm shifts coming with new discoveries about life.

Kinship Gardening Maps-the core of biodiversity conservation

I have been corresponding back and forth with Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds and former Research director of Seeds Of Change, via e-mail recently about an interview in the near future for both this blog as well as the Homegrown Goodness Message Board

We will be conducting the interview in the next few weeks so if you have any questions about Alan Kapuler's amazing work, please let me know so I can pass them along during the interview.

Alan was kind enough to send me the following new Kinship Diagrams as well as this message:

Latest updates on the bed diagram-kinship gardening maps using the APGII system
best to you

Friday, January 9, 2009

Know Thine Enemies:

"Boulder, CO – Scientists from around the world have pledged to speak out publicly in February, 2009 on the problem of the size and growth of the human population. Speaking out as well will be environmental and science writers, social activists, and representatives of environmental groups. The event, called the Global Population Speak Out (GPSO), aims to weaken a decades-long taboo against open discussion of population issues."

I'm sure this is brought to you by the same Eugenicist families who brought us Hitler. Listen up, if you think I'm a conspiracy crackpot that is fine, but those of you that are "Awake" and preparing, pay close attention to everything that is going on right now, what we have said for years, what our grandparents told us about the New World Order is slowly coming true, press releases like this are proof that they are no longer afraid of their positions being revealed. Big things are coming my friends, please prepare.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Priori Proof: The Mob Rules Sweet Corn

Above you can see an image of Country Gentleman/Howling Mob sweet corn, alongside the image of some Astronomy Domine breeding material. I am expounding upon/once again stealing Tom Wagner's idea of a Priori Proof of future existence of a home bred plant (see cotton for more info on this).

Anyhow, here is the premise. I bred/am breeding Astronomy Domine in my image of what an Open Pollinated sweet corn should be; colorful, nutritious, attractive, beautiful, hardy, cold soil tolerant, productive in poor soil, survival food, sweet and starchy without tasting like candy. Idealic if you will. Dreamy. Day dreamy for me and my hungry stomach and corn tooth here in the middle of winter. This is part of why I named it Astronomy Domine, it is the most idyllic and psychedelic of all sweet corns, the color lends it to that credence, it's free will to be sexually promiscuous with other corns evokes the "free love" message of early Pink Floyd and Syd Barret, so it is named.

OK, that indulges the Hippie part of my soul.

Now lets make something "kick ass", Sexy, Metal, the other side of my Ego and Id.

How better to do so than create a corn just like Astronomy Domine, but literally looking chaotic? Like it's falling apart, doesn't know what it's doing.

I've always liked the look of shoe peg corns (even though I generally prefer larger kernels) and though I'm not sure if they are the same cultivar or two different but closely related cultivars (info is hard to come by about this on the net, got any?) I think it's funny that both Country Gentleman (evoking a specific image, corn dressed up for Sunday Church?) and Howling Mob (evoking another completely different image Corn worth fighting over, going to war even?) refer to a very similar looking set of corns.

But then I tend to over analyze everything.

However, here are my thoughts. Let's corrupt some Astronomy Domine. Let's select for darker anti-oxidant colors (to kick cancer in the ass a few good times) darker purples and reds, do sway with the pastels, whites and yellows. In this line it will be all or nothing, let us put those colors in a Howling Mob arrangement! Let's name it after the metal god's themselves, Black Sabbath, and their greatest album (with their best singer) of all time. I shall give birth one day to "The Mob Rules!" Sweet corn!

Now, I will track down a lb. of Country Gentleman or Howling Mob and make the cross! My will be done!

Further honing my new winemaking craft!

Started two new 4 gallons (each) fermentations today. These are practice runs using canned fruit and juice in order to prepare for the main season wine making.

One batch is a pure blackberry wine, I used Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast for this one, looking for a dry type wine.

The second is a mixture of blackberry, raspberry, apple, and blueberry using Lavlin D-47 as the yeast. The airlocks aren't bubbling yet, but I just pitched the yeast at around 11:00 this morning.

This will at least give me some idea of what to expect come next season when fresh fruit is available. I've still got a gallon of honey coming from a good friend of mine

More Chickens!

I've been letting the larger counterparts of the chicks mentioned below free range for the past several weeks, they have learned their respective territories and times to enter and leave the coop fairly quickly. Not to mention they are obsessed with cleaning up the leftover greens and picking at the cover crops on the small garden next to their coop, effectively fertilizing and tilling that spot for me for next spring!

Look what I woke up to this morning!

Suprise! Easter Egg Chicks from the Hovobator Genesis! Awesome!

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Vernacular regarding plant breeding.

I struggle a lot with words like "segregation" and "De-Hybridization" when speaking about the art of creating an F1 hybrid and then growing out the save seeds through the various filial generations, mostly because the words sound negative and kind of, well...eugenicist. It bothers me. Little things often do. They are called "ticks" and I have plenty of them.

So, from now on I will refer to the F1 generations as "mothers", the F2-F4 generation as De-Evolution and anything past this point as "REvolution". Yeah, I made up another word or phrase, that's another tick.

Whatever Will, Becomes What Is:

Whatever Will, Becomes What Is:
Landraces and Folk Seed Varieties in Self Sustainable Agricultural Systems. A “post-historic” method (post-modern, pre-historic). Or the “Back to the Future” solution to modern, sustainable agriculture.

By: Alan Reed Bishop
Bishop’s Homegrown/Homegrown Goodness/Hip-Gnosis Seed Development

There is not enough room on the internet to archive the many discussions between home gardeners and market farmers regard Hybrids vs. Open Pollinated varieties. The issue itself stirs the passion of many enthusiasts and many debates have see-sawed back and forth across the tide of many a gardening forums and popular opinions. Here we seek to explain the importance of both, but particularly the relevance of Open Pollinated and Landrace regionally adapted seeds and the potential that new hybrids provide the intrepid plant breeder in regards to new genetic recombination’s.

Humankind has been cultivating the soil for anywhere upwards of 10,000 - 20,000 years, selecting, adapting, tilling, planting, growing, and ultimately eating varieties which are well suited to their circumstances, climates, and tastes. Seed has been saved and passed from generation to generation and much pride has been taken in this, the most important aspect of civilization building. All of this seed is representative of the cumulative hopes and dreams and history of specific agrarian societies encompassing the entire globe. Wherever there is civilization, there must be some type of agriculture; even invasive societies have to rely on the weight of agriculture on the backs of their captive towns and districts.

Genetic diversity and inherent observation are the keys to sustainable agriculture and its development at that point in our past. At some point in our distant past multiple hunter gatherer societies must have found seeds germinating in their fertile waste piles, or otherwise early and accidental compost, this knowledge (gnosis) fostered the idea of permanent agrarian civilization and thus began the cultivation of the earth. Many mistakes must have been made, many may have perished from starvation from the worst of these catastrophes but each mistake made was a new collective lesson learned. Surely the biblical book of Genesis makes the clearest metaphor and record of such an occurrence. Could the Tree of Knowledge have been the first cultivated food crop, the exile from the Garden of Eden representative of having this Gnosis which will change your life forever, once you have this Gnosis you can never go back to a Hunter-Gatherer society (we were provided by nature), because now it is forever ingrained as part of the human experience? (Thus begins greed and power mongering, Kane and Abel?)

These lessons and genetic memories are still carried in our collective psyche, our DNA spiral, our universal mind and in the genes of the seed that we plant; we only have to listen and observe closely to read this unwritten history book.

Looking at the genetic diversity of the past, present, and future of our edible heritage one can see the lines, sometimes drawn clearly, other times nearly invisible, a living mystery, of the evolution and selection of our various food crops. One thing is for sure, all are the result of some form of genetic hybridization (accidental or purposeful, nature made or man made), stabilization, further hybridization, selection, and ultimately preservation of Genes (sometimes the genes are more important than the variety)

Take for example corn, developed at some point in our distant past by messo-Americans from the grassy weed Teosinte and developed into the worlds largest staple food crop, to the extent that corn was making the long trip across the Atlantic and Pacific long before Columbus arrived to claim that he had “found” Amerika and making the trip from South America to Canada by way of the indigenous Native American Tribes and their trading long before Henry Ford created the first Model T or the Spanish introduced horses.

Many methods have existed and have been created parallel to the development of our genetic heritage for implementing various genes from one variety of food crops into another closely related variety. In the past I have discussed the cultural mixing of various seed types in order to create a diversified genetic family tree or pedigree for many varieties, often resulting in recombination’s of genes that add specific benefits to the original seed in the form of environmental adaptation, disease or pest resistance, or nutrition. Another method that is still incorporated today in Mexico via the very genetically diverse Maize crop grown there is a form of natural wind pollination by way of planned field integration. Say you are growing a variety of corn that you really have faith in, but particularly enjoy the traits shown by a friend’s crop, perhaps you would grow your corn next to his corn to ensure cross pollination, you gain something you wanted in your crop from his and he may gain something from yours. The results of course are hybrid seed which will in the F1 generation show some degree of hybrid vigor but over time will be selected for the traits that the grower finds the most important. Without this type of naturally occurring but human manipulated crossing, many of our food crops would long ago have gone into extinction and with it any number of important cultures and information. Of course over time man developed more complex hybridization and selection methods, particularly timed out and thought out methods of cross pollinating one crop variety with a closely related crop variety by hand, leading to more refined plant breeding programs after Mendel had thoroughly explained dominant and recessive genes, ironically using a food crop, namely peas, to prove his theories.

Thus far we have made no mention of the anomaly of modern GMO crops, some will argue that Genetic Modification of crops, or the movement of genes between two wholly unrelated species is just a natural advancement of the principals of traditional plant breeding, but this is far from the truth as it works against all that nature has shown us about the movement of genes between species and how those genes are then tested by time and nature. This breakdown of cell walls and movement of genes between completely unrelated organisms can hide many unexpected and hazardous consequences including allergic reactions, pest and disease control issues, and other unknown variables. These, my friends, are quite literally Chimeras.

As we can objectively look at our agrarian past and the natural evolution and selection of crops used to feed agrarian societies we can see just how important that hybridization has been to our agricultural heritage and civilization as a whole. Without hybridization the list of crops that we currently enjoy and which we have enjoyed for hundreds of years would have been forever altered, particular emphasis has been placed on work with grains, those most essential of human food crops.

Of course hybridization is one thing, segregating out those genes, or bringing them into their fixed and open pollinated states is equally important. These inbred and Open Pollinated (self replicating) lines formed the basis for stable agrarian cultures to rise up, thrive, and flourish in growingly complex systems. A quick look at ancient Mesopotamian agriculture and South American agriculture (Peru and the Amazonian Basin) in particular will give one a concrete sense of exactly why cultures and regions are so closely associated with their crops and will give us an anthropological basis for speculation of the rise of religious belief and spiritual certainty and the importance the ancients placed on sacrificing food crops to perceived notions of gods (often representative of the combined forces of nature and their effect on cropping and harvest).

Many Open Pollinated varieties can also be considered folk varieties or landraces, this is to say varieties particularly adapted to, associated with, and traded and grown amongst the people of a certain bio-region and or culture. These varieties have withstood the test of time, disease, drought, pests, famine and more and still stand with us, nearly unchanged, years later. The current rise in interest of OP and “Heirloom” varieties is proof that at some point during the “Green Revolution” that what worked 1,000 years ago, still works now. As we have learned since the time of the “Green Revolution” the trade off for self sustainable fertility and regional adaptability of open pollinated and landrace seeds in exchange for
cheap and unsustainable energy and fertilizer was neither a wise or warranted trade, leading almost completely to an eroded food base in regards to lost and extinct genetic varieties, less nutritional food, and the whole sale polluting of millions of acres of valuable crops land, waterways and more via petrol based inputs which are not necessary for landrace and regionally adapted varieties.

The modern farmer concerned with self sustainability has more options that ever, but would do well to study up on Open Pollinated, Landrace and Folk Varieties while also not discounting the worthiness of home created hybrids for the sake of segregation or the segregation of non-GMO hybrids with useful genetic traits into an Open Pollinated Derivative. To discount any of these options is to miss out on an equal share of what we have experienced in the past 10,000 years in regards to agriculture. The thing is, these decisions are hard to make without the proper information.

Part of the problem is that so many are concerned only with growing anything that they find interesting instead of growing only those crops which have been time proven to grow well in your particular climate and situation. Often times one will hear others make mention of the superiority of hybrid seed over OP because the user had a bad experience with an open pollinated crop. More often than not this failure is to be blamed on a poor variety selection then on the fact that such varieties were “Open Pollinated”. Now more than ever the heirloom seed movement is making available a terrific amount of diversity, certainly suited well to the intrepid backyard plant breeder who sees the value in the genes contained in that crop more than the value of that particular variety to his particular environment. Unfortunately many first timers and non plant breeders don’t make this distinction, poorly choosing a variety from the High Dessert Southwest to grow in the Humid Deep South river deltas, failure is almost always guaranteed in these situations to some degree or another.

The trick is hunting down varieties that have been stewarded and selected to grow in your area over a number of years. Folk varieties, landrace varieties, commercially released Open Pollinated varieties. There is an art to such a search and much to be learned. Some of my favorite moments in life have been gleamed from visiting with locals who have produced their own seed from local varieties for generations, often glad to have someone to “gift” the seed to as their gardening years are long over. These varieties produce better on our farm and under our “Eco-Logical (read organic without certification) conditions than any modern commercial hybrid and don’t often succumb to pest or disease or drought conditions that have taken down varieties that are otherwise not adapted to our conditions.

Using these landrace and open pollinated varieties we can create the sustainable farms of the future using the footprints of our past. These varieties are adapted to the natural fertilizers of organic gardening in conditions that modern hybrids have not been engineered to handle, they can fend off most of the blights associated with agriculture without the use of petrol chemicals and carcinogenic pollutants and they honor our agricultural past.

Filling in the gaps then becomes the issues, as many times there are gaps in local seed varieties. For example, here in Pekin Indiana in the Ohio Valley we found that we were without a local watermelon variety adapted to our climate which is unfortunate given the large allotment of watermelons grown in the White River Valley in Jackson County Indiana to our immediate north. As such, it was necessary for us to create a pool of new F1 hybrid varieties using parent plants which could donate the required genetic dispositions and traits to our new varieties. These F1 varieties were then grown and selfed and seeds from the projects were bulked, the F2’s have been evaluated and seed once again bulked, next year the F3’s will be evaluated and selections made, in a few years we will have created (with any luck) an Open Pollinated variety that is well suited to our climatic farm conditions and which represents our cultural bias in regards to looks and taste. A new piece of Americana if you will. With any luck others will help us distribute this new variety in our region, to keep it alive, and in time it may indeed become a “folk variety” or “heirloom.

If one approaches such projects knowing the importance of the work and the artistry that goes into all the facets of seed saving, plant breeding and selection then one already knows that the outcome of such a project can only further their grasp on self sustainability, culture creation, and spiritual importance. If it doesn’t exist then you must help it evolve, it is part of your heritage to do so, as such "Whatever you will, becomes what will be." With the exception of Mother Natures own selection criteria of course!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pekin Indiana's Agriculture History and Future (Part of a future series of blogs)

Just a quick post. Recently Kim and I joined the Pekin Historical Society in order to help further preserve our hometown's past and secure it's future with firm footing in the steps of our forefathers in this small Indiana town. The more research we do the more we see just how important that agriculture was in our small town and what type of contribution it truly made to our economy. Now days Pekin is a very depressed economy, but there was a time in days gone by, when a family could gain a firm economic foothold by way of agricultural production.

In the coming "Agricultural History and Future" posts throughout 2009 I will detail some of the diverse agronomic history of my small town and Washington County as a whole. I will also cover some other topics concerning the history of my family, particularly our history in agriculture in Green and Clay Counties in Kentucky, we will also cover more of the history of those two areas, two places which we also call "home".

A few interesting topics we will cover will include the orchard which once graced the fields of our farm here in Pekin Indiana, The Cotton Mill and cotton industry based on the neighboring farmland and also on one of the many forks of Blue River at the heart of town, the importance of the Monon Railroad system to our town, lumber industry, mills, hatcheries, and breweries. I will also touch base on our claim to fame "The Longest Consecutive Fourth of July Celebration in the United States."

For Now I'd just like to post a couple of images of some packing crates from the infamous Borden-Pekin Fruit Growers Association, at one time the largest packing point of berries in Indiana. In the future expect many pictures of our agricultural past as the Historical Society has an endless library of wonderful pictures, one of my favorites that I will try to post at some point soon is a picture of Main Street including a large front yard garden complete with strawberries, pole beans, corn, pumpkins, watermelons and more!