Joseph Lofthouse

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since Dec 16, 2014

Joseph Lofthouse grew up on the farm and in the community that was settled by his ggg-grandmother and her son. He still farms there. Growing conditions are high-altitude brilliantly-sunlit desert mountain valley in Northern Utah with irrigation, clayish-silty high-pH soil, super low humidity, short-season, and intense radiant cooling at night. Joseph learned traditional agricultural and seed saving techniques from his grandfather and father. Joseph is a sustenance market farmer and landrace seed-developer. He grows seed for about 95 species. Joseph is enamored with landrace growing and is working to convert every species that he grows into adaptivar landraces. He writes the Landrace Gardening Blog for Mother Earth News.
Farming Philosophy
Promiscuous Pollination and ongoing segregation are encouraged in all varieties. Joseph's style of landrace gardening can best be summed up as throwing a bunch of varieties into a field, allowing them to promiscuously cross pollinate, and then through a combination of survival-of-the-fittest and farmer-directed selection saving seeds year after year to arrive at a locally-adapted genetically-diverse population that thrives because it is closely tied to the land, the weather, the pests, the farmer's habits and tastes, and community desires.
Joseph lives under a vow of poverty and grows using subsistence level conditions without using cides or fertilizers. He prefers to select for genetics that can thrive under existing conditions. He figures that it is easier to change the genetics of a population of plants than it is to modify the soil, weather, bugs, etc. For example, because Joseph's weeding is marginal, plants have to germinate quickly, and burst out of the soil with robust growth in order to compete with the weeds.
Joseph is preserving the genes of thousands of varieties of plants, but does not keep individual varieties intact or pure. The stories don't matter to him. What matters is the web of ongoing life. For his purposes a squash is a squash is a squash. Plant purity doesn't exist in Joseph's world, other than in very broad ways like keeping hot peppers separate from sweet peppers. Some landraces might even contain multiple species!
Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Recent posts by Joseph Lofthouse

It's very difficult for me to grow annuals in a forest. Seems to me like food forests are most abundant, and easy to maintain, when they contain predominately perennial species.
22 hours ago
Two new verbs have arisen in the 13 years that I have been writing about landrace gardening.

People tell me that they are lofthousing their garden, and that they are landracing their gardens.

All I can do, is go with the flow. Since English doesn't have a regulatory body, each person gets to choose for themselves. I always write "landrace" as a single word, so I would likewise skip the space, and write "landracing" when converting it to a verb.
4 days ago
In an hour, I can harvest enough wheat, rye, or barley to feed 20 chickens for a week.
1 week ago
Thank you for asking. I will dig sunroot tubers this week. It was a drought year last year, and the tubers are small. That means that more varieties will fit into the small flat rate box. They contain the same great genetics. They are ready to start growing now, so please plan on planting them when they arrive, or storing them refrigerated until you can.

With gasoline being so expensive, I'm asking $20 this year for a small flat-rate box (shipping included). Shipping within usa only. Send me a Purple Mooseage to make arrangements.
1 week ago
I make bean pickles every year, bottled in a water-bath canner, using a tested recipe, and standardized 5% vinegar.

2 weeks ago
The su and sh alleles are on different chromosomes. When combined, they produce flour corn, instead of sweet corn. It is possible (with several years of effort) to select for strains that have compatible alleles to produce sweet corn. These varieties are called "synergistic".

In my own plant breeding, I will not use the sh2 allele, because it produces seeds that lack vigor, and fail to thrive. They are only viable with heavy application of poisons to the seed.

I minimize the use of the se allele for the same reason.

The problem with breeding for "all known resistances", is that we can't possibly know what that would entail. There are resistances to soil, farmer's habits, sunlight, clouds, humidity, aridity, viruses, microbes, fungi, bugs, wind, mammals, birds, reptiles, etc, etc, etc. If we inbreed a crop enough to say that it is resistant to every known thing, then it becomes an industrialized variety that is doomed to failure when something unknown comes along.
I love landrace beans. They are the most productive beans that I grow. That is because for many generations, their ancestors have been the most productive beans that I grow, and the unproductive beans have died out. Also, because they are grown landrace-style, natural hybrids are occurring. The productivity of the natural hybrids far surpasses the productivity of the inbreeding heirlooms.

I only allow natural inoculation in my fields, with naturally occurring microbes. I don't have any tolerance for people that are trying to sell me something that I observe to be ubiquitous in nature.

Common beans are 5 times more productive in my fields than Tepary.

Tepary is much more productive for me than Runner Beans, or Cowpeas.

Adzuki and Soy don't even produce as many seeds as went into the ground.

Results may vary in different ecosystems and with different gardeners.

Peas are very productive for me, but I don't grow them for food, because a pea weevil infests my fields.
2 weeks ago
Thanks all for the kind words, and shout-out for my book.

If a seed company doesn't tell me which farm each packet of seed comes from, then I assume that they come from far away places like Thailand, Oregon, or China. I assume that the soils, climates, ecosystems, and farmer's habits were much different than mine.

So often, people blame themselves when crops fail to thrive. A more realistic explanation is that when you grow seeds that were produced far away in a completely different ecosystem, they are likely to fail. Just because a seed company has a nearby address doesn't mean that the seeds are local.

If you can find a seed company that is in your bio-region, and tells you that every seed was grown on their farm, or that tells you where each variety was grown, then that's the seed company that I'd recommend.

Second best would be a walk-in seed store that sells bulk seed, of varieties that they have tested to do great in your area.

Long term, the best seed you can possibly get, is that which has grown in your garden for many generations.

I'm cynical... To me, "open-pollinated" means that every scheme known to humans has been used to insure that an OP variety undergoes one more generation of detrimental inbreeding. That's why I advocate "promiscuous pollination" -- to get rid of the inbreeding.

2 weeks ago