Joseph Lofthouse

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since Dec 16, 2014
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bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert

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

L Munro wrote:would you recommend we continue waiting for a 2018 seed listing or change plans and make our US orders from one of the other Oregon seed houses who carry some of Carols excellent varieties?

Until further developments, I'd recommend alternate sources. Many of Carol's varieties are carried by growers with the open seed source initiative:

Maximoss Winter Squash

Some of my varieties are stable and consistent. Others are unstable, and inconsistent, for example Maximoss Squash, which is recently descended from an inter-species hybrid between maxima and moschata squash. It's a new project for me. Some of the plants are male-sterile, and thus don't produce male flowers, so I recommend that they be grown near a maxima and/or moschata pollinator. Due to the rearranging genetics, germination averages about 50%. I don't typically release seeds with such low germination, but this is experimental seed, and well worth the risk.

I am releasing Maximoss early in the breeding cycle, because I think that there is a lot of value in getting seed like this into as many hands as possible. People will select for things that I never would have thought to select for. Traits that I might eliminate in my garden may be just the thing that someone else is looking for. I want to switch traits between species, for example, what if someone finds a squash that has the glorious maxima taste that grows on a plant with the squash bug resistance of moschata squash? That would be really clever. What if someone finds a squash that combines the taste of a maxima with the long-necked traits of moschata? Or how about a long-keeping squash with the flavor of maxima? Hmmm. Can you tell that I am really impressed with the flavor of maxima squash?

Because of how I grew this seed, there is even a possibility that pepo or argyrosperma genetics got into the mix. Wow! The possibilities: Kobocha squash on bush plants? Summer squash that make excellent winter squash? Zucchini that are not bothered by squash bugs? And no telling what sorts of disease resistance might show up.

Anyway, I expect that a number of people that grow this out during the coming season will discover great new varieties, and ways to grow squash. That's what I do best: Create novelty. Then I pass that novelty on to others who select something more stable and consistent from among the diversity.

1 week ago

I am also growing the chia species Salvia colombiana. Working on adapting it to my growing conditions.
John: I have spent a lot of time and effort the past few years selecting for species and varieties with anti-freeze in their veins.  As I like to think of it, for varieties that grow even when covered with snow. So far this year, we are enjoying a maritime influenced weather pattern, and have missed the cold arctic jet-stream blasts. Snow is a great insulator, and we had snow cover since December. Still, the ground here freezes, to an unknown depth, and all the plants pictured were able to survive that, and even grow through frozen ground. I have been eating fall planted spinach, parsley, and bok choi all winter. I've been really impressed with sorrel as a winter crop.

I planted the poppies too late. They germinated through the snow, and got way etiolated. Perhaps I'll see how they do. Perhaps I'll replant.

In addition to the domestic species, I have been paying attention to wild-things that grow during the winter.... We have sorrel, mallows, chickweed that are pretty much edible any time that they are not covered with snow. The sunroot tubers survive the winter outside.

Julia Winter wrote:Wait, clary sage is chia?  I have essential oil of clary sage, didn't know those were the same plant.

Clary sage is in same genus as other species that are called chia. They have the same culinary uses,  mucilaginous seeds, and omega-3 fatty acid profile, etc... 

ellie acorn wrote:Do Potatoes transplant well?

Very well.
1 week ago

Elizabeth Sweet wrote:I can only imagine how financially difficult it would be to make up for a failed season and a big batch of unfilled, paid orders.

Yup. And the emotional cost takes it's toll....

The genetics keep getting more and more refined. We are able to grow peaches now even into zone 4b. Yay! Bit by bit, decade after decade, we grow trees from seeds, and gradually find combinations that extend the range of our favorite crops a little further north, and a little higher into the mountains. We find varieties that flower a little later in the spring, and avoid the early frosts more reliably.

2 weeks ago

Greg Martin wrote:You don't sell seeds of these by any chance???  (extra question marks representing hope)

Sorry. Not yet.
2 weeks ago