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

Plant seeds an inch deep.

Stomp them in really well.

Add one inch of water per week (rain or irrigation).

Weed, weed, weed, weed, weed, weed.

Ryan M Miller wrote:Do you keep the soil covered with a cover crop or mulch over Winter? I'm currently looking into methods of reducing soil erosion and subsidence.

Snow covers my fields for 5 months each winter. The ground is in stasis during that time. The desert soil sucks in every bit of moisture it can acquire. There is no soil erosion.
3 days ago
Chicken moats are popular around here for keeping rhizomous species from invading a garden. A chicken moat is two fences spaced about 6 feet apart, that totally enclose a garden. Enough chickens are kept in it to keep the area between the fences eaten down to bare dirt.
4 days ago
Mark: I also make exceptions to the rule of one seed jar per species or variety. For example, the promiscuous tomatoes are a very active breeding project, therefore, I often save seeds separately from each plant. I found a few Delicata squash with fuzzy fruits. I saved seeds from them separately, because I want to explore the trait without committing wholeheartedly to it. I save specific strains of inbreeding domestic tomatoes.

I can't believe that I was so slow to adopt the strategy of one jar per species!!!
4 days ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:I ordered some of these Chariot tomato seeds through Experimental Farm Network, and they sprouted up really fast. The other tomatoes I started from seed didn't sprout nearly as fast.

Interestingly enough, I planted about 900 tomato seeds a few days ago. Brad, the ancestor of Chariot was the first to sprout. Brad usually ties with Jagodka for earliest to produce fruit.

4 days ago
I sorted seeds today. Emptied jars of old seeds from breeding projects into a bucket. Washed the jars. Emptied hundreds of seed packets into the bucket. I'm intending to broadcast them into non-cultivated areas of the farm. I'm getting much better at simplifying seedkeeping, and only keeping one jar of seeds for each species/variety.

1 week ago
The Wildling, and Q-series are sister lines, and were both grown in the same field. There is probably crossing between them.  
1 week ago
I really like the semi-runner beans. I lump them in with the bush beans. They are more productive for me than bush beans, but a bit longer season, which makes harvest problematic some years. I think that there are 4 types of vines in common beans. I only select against the super-long vines that twist tightly around things (that's the type that I call pole beans). The floppy vines that just lay on top of things are really nice! I grow beans sprawling on the ground.
My network of collaborators use Köppen Climate Classification to describe our gardens.

It might be nice if we also adopted a Soil Triangle classification.

soil pH might be useful.
1 week ago
I plant them in warmer weather, say after the apple trees have flowered.
1 week ago