Joseph Lofthouse taught landrace gardening at conferences hosted by the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, National Heirloom Expo, Organic Seed Alliance, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-NY), and Utah Farm & Food Conference. He serves as World Tomato Society ambassador.
“Landrace Gardening is brilliant. It’s a love story! And 2 parts gardening handbook. There are so many revelations I don’t know where to begin? AMAZING. In every way this is a book for the ages. Bravo Joseph.” Dan Barber, Blue Hill At Stone Barns, and Row 7 Seed Company
“There is magic in the way Joseph Lofthouse marries his no-stress approach to gardening with such deep love and passion. This book is as much a gardening manual as it is a reframing of our relationship with each other and the world. Landrace Gardening gives us a roadmap to the kind of joyful food security that we need for healing many of the most important wounds of our time.” Jason Padvorac
“Joseph Lofthouse has a focus upon something that all gardeners should know: Landrace varieties are the way to sustainability. The best part is that everything in his book is adaptable for any gardener. No high level knowledge of botany or chemistry is required. The versatility and diversity of growing landrace plants speaks for themselves.” Jere Gettle— Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.
“The western sustainable agriculture movement has long needed its own version of the 'One Straw Revolution'. Joseph Lofthouse provides just that. With revolutionary gusto based on heretical thought and age old human gnosis. In Landrace Gardening, Food Security... Lofthouse steps firmly into the role of Iconoclast and elder seed shaman.” Alan Bishop, Alchemist at Spirits Of French Lick
“Awesome to see this process beginning to work in just one year.” Josh Jamison, HEART Village
“Joseph's book is an eye-opener to a novice seed saver like myself. My growing conditions are not as extreme as Joseph's, but we do have a very short growing season. He has inspired me to start trying to produce my own landrace crops.” Megan Palmer
“Inspiring. Empowering. VERY important work.” Stephanie Genus
“Octavia E. Butler's Earthseed, John Twelve Hawks' Traveler Series, and Orson Scott-Card's Ender Quintet have delivered us to Joseph's fertile gateway. Not a gateway "drug", but yes a door of perception. In this book, Joseph removes from our lexicon Instant, Lite, Diet, Recommended Daily Allowance, Modern, Heirloom, Open Pollinated, Hybrid with just one shattering word: Promiscuous. Under the same condition he was once gifted a guitar, Joseph offers us Abundance for as long as we keep learning to play within it.” Heron Breen, Fedco Seeds
I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Joseph's Landrace Gardening and eager to read it. It only took reading the first several pages to clearly understand how important this book is. This book is survival.
Landrace gardening will be a foreign concept to most gardeners, even those of us who have adopted organic and permaculture gardening techniques. Landrace gardening is a new paradigm in food production. Joseph Lofthouse does an excellent job of explaining this paradigm, and has the experience to back it up. The reader quickly understands that this isn't just theory, this is reality.
The first chapter, "Survival of the Fittest," is an introduction to what landrace gardening is, how landrace seeds differ from commercially produced seed, and why it yields better results.
Chapter 2, "Freelance vs. Industry," details the history and politics of food production and the shifting balance between small-scale versus centralized trends. The author beautifully illustrates the dichotomy we now find ourselves in as a result of these opposing philosophies.
Chapter 3 is titled "Continuous Improvement." This is where the author makes his case for genetic diversity through landracing: reliability, productivity, better tasting food, less stress--for both the garden and the gardener! The information in this chapter is framed in personal experience, and gives the reader an understanding of how doable landracing a garden is.
The next chapter, "Heirlooms, Hybrids, and Landraces," explores the meanings of these terms, and for me, challenged a number of assumptions I've had about heirlooms and especially hybrids. In this chapter Joseph explains the problems with heirlooms and how to use hybrids to increase genetic diversity, as well as what to watch out for.
Chapter 5, "Creating Landraces," starts getting to the nitty-gritty of the book. The previous chapters equipped the reader with "why," now we start learning "how." We learn what kinds of seeds to use to get started, how to find them, and how to plant for desirable crossing. This chapter also explains which hybrids are useful for landracing and which are not.
The goal of landrace plant breeding is to create crops that thrive in our own gardens. Chapter 8, "New Methods and Crops," explores some of the techniques and possibilities of landracing garden seeds. It's filled with many, many examples, which further equip the reader for success.
Chapter 7 is titled "Promiscuous Pollination." Initially, I thought this was just a cutesy title, but promiscuous pollination is a real thing! Discusses the aspects of pollination, outcrossing, and mostly-selfing. Lots of examples clarify these subjects to the reader's advantage.
Chapter 8 discusses food security. It stresses the importance of community, inbreeding vs. diversity, crop cloning, full season growing, multi-species diversity, and foraging. Again, the many examples from the author's observations and experience are treasured added value.
Chapter 9, "Landrace Maintenance," explains how to maintain a large genetic base for healthy landrace crops. Discusses adding new genetics, keeping older genetics, the value of larger populations, selection, and crossing.
Chapter 10 deals with "Pests and Diseases." If landrace varieties are more productive, then are they more resistant to pests and diseases? In this chapter, Joseph discusses how he deals with pests and diseases, and how he encourages and selects for resistance.
Chapter 11, "Saving Seeds." The goal here is to breed plants that become localized to the growing conditions in any particular garden. Saving seeds as a landrace gardener alleviates the isolation issues that are difficult for people who are trying to maintain purity in highly inbred cultivars. Discusses dry and wet harvesting, seed viability, and best storage conditions.
Chapters 12 through 16 take a detailed look at five common farm and garden crops: tomatoes, corn, legumes, squash, and grains. Each discusses advantages and problems of growing, breeding, and selecting seed for the many varieties existing within each group. Also contains tips on cooking and storing. The author's talent for plainly explaining technical information really shines in these chapters.
Chapter 17, "Landrace Everything," begins to extend the landrace concept beyond grain and vegetables: chickens, honeybees, mushrooms, and trees. Once again, this chapter contains good information and tips for extending a landrace program.
The appendix contains a quick, easy-reference summary of the book, and a very handy chart entitled "Ease of Developing Landrace Crops." It guides the reader as to the ease or difficulty of landracing various crops including which F1 hybrids to avoid.
In his preface, the author says, "The take-away message from this book is a message of hope." And it absolutely is. So, if you are a discouraged gardener, frustrated with germination failure and poor performance, then this book is for you. If you are interested in food security and diversity, then this book is for you. If you are looking for a practical way to "do something" to counter the world's many problems, then this book is for you.
I have ordered the book from lulu and it came surprisingly fast.
I hardly ever finish books, but i devoured this one.
It reads like a love story to plant breeding, to life to nature and all plant breeders that came before. Joseph takes the reader by the hand on an adventure into the world of land races without unnecessary overcomplicating things. Much appreciated.
The book shows that everybody can start helping everybody growing healthy tasty food chemical free in their own way, in their own pace. It shows everyone matters and we have a beautiful tasty future ahead.
The pictures are great too.
Loved it and recommend it to every seed saver and grower.
Max acorns, ten acorns out of ten acorns.
Creating edible biodiversity and embracing everlasting abundance.
This book is a quick, easy read with a highly accessible style. It wasn't my plan, but I finished it in an afternoon. Lofthouse makes a strong case for growing gardens with the goal of enhancing genetic diversity in individual crops. From greater genetic diversity one can then select desirable, locally suitable traits.
I was interested in the topic, but expected the approach to only be useful for gardeners with a lot more space than my small suburban lot. I was pleasantly surprised that the author argues that a lot can be done in small gardens. His advice goes against that of standard, heirloom seed-saving techniques. Plant different varieties right next to each other to encourage hybridization he says. I was also surprised at how quickly you can get a well-adapted landrace --- as little as 3 generations. For me, this is wonderful news. I often plant multiple varieties of vegetables next to each other out of necessity and I've avoided saving seeds from these potentially hybridizing plants. No more. I'm excited to see what hopeful monsters sprout from my seeds.
The only thing I wish the book had was more explanation of some of the underlying genetic issues. I understand why the author kept the story simple, but I would have appreciated more details on topics like the severity of tomato genetic bottlenecks and why to select multi-gene pest resistance over single-gene resistance. This is a very minor complaint though---I can read about these issues elsewhere.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Lofthouse has encouraged me to save seeds even if (especially when) hybridization is a potential factor. As he emphasizes, it's low stress gardening. Plant lots of stuff, accept what works, cull what doesn't, and enjoy the result. It's a lovely book.
A wonderful team of readers critiqued the beta versions of the book. I sure love my jargon. They weren't happy about complex words and ideas, so writing the book taught me about simplification. It left a permanent mark on me, changing the way I write.
Early readers of the book reported that they felt like I neglected backyard gardeners. I feel happy that the current version brings hope to them.
I struggled about whether to create a more expensive book in beautiful full color, or a frugal text only version. I'm delighted that I finally settled on brilliant color. It tells the story a lot easier. Another decision that was guided by reader feedback.
I am excited your book got published I was very happy to buy you seed collection to help support the book. I am looking forward to reading the book I'm sure it'll be very eye opening and helpful in my journey into landracing my garden.
The more time I spend on here the crazier my wife thinks I am.
It's hard to say quite how important I think this book is. I've only once before given a perfect score to a book, but this is one that has the capacity to change the viewpoint of anyone who reads it giving them the inspiration and tools they need to step up and create their own landraces suited to their own needs, desires and growing conditions.
If you thought heirlooms were the way to go, this book is likely to blow your socks off and open your eyes to the full potential that small-scale growers have to influence food security, genetic diversity and produce awesome tasting food that grows with minimal care and inputs.
For years Joseph resisted writing a book on the grounds that landrace gardening was so simple and had been done for so long by illiterate farmers that a book obviously wasn't necessary as everything that anyone needed to know could be written in a couple of pages. Of course to a large extent that's right, but in the book he's shared not only a lifetime's experience of actually doing it but also a lot of the background needed to really understand what went wrong with modern plant breeding, how bottlenecks happen, and how to undo those bottlenecks and get the genes flowing freely again.
Leigh Tate's review above gives a wonderful taste of what each of the chapters is about so I won't repeat any of that. But one thing I really want you all to know is the joy that is inherent in this book. Not only is it a wonderful read, but it's a complete inspiration to take control of your garden, your life and your place in the community.
Here are a few favourite quotes to give you a taste...
"The premise of this book is that growing food, saving seeds, and plant breeding are the common inheritance of humanity. Illiterate plant breeders brought us every crop that we now grow. The seedkeepers didn’t read or write. They didn’t know about genes. Without book-learning, they collaborated cooperatively with each other and with the plants and ecosystem to bring us wonderful crops."
"Worrying about purity is one of the biggest impediments to seed saving. Maintaining purity leads to inbreeding depression. I don’t worry much about isolation distances or keeping cultivars pure. Plants are stronger when cultivars cross-pollinate each other. If a Hubbard squash and a banana squash cross-pollinate, the offspring are still squash. They grow like squash, they look like squash, they cook like squash."
"A friend at farmer’s market asked why her tomatoes get dirty,and mine stay clean. I didn’t have an answer for her. Next time I picked tomatoes, I noticed that the landrace tomatoes have a different type of vine than commercially available tomatoes.When I’m saving seed from tomatoes, I don’t save seeds from fruits that are laying in the mud. I had inadvertently selected for tomatoes that have an arching vine structure that keeps the fruits off the ground. The tomatoes took care of it themselves without any labor or attention from me."
"Domesticating tomatoes created a number of genetic bottlenecks. A bottleneck occurs when a small sample of a variety separates from the larger population. The small sample has a limited subset of genes. The limited genetic background creates inbreeding depression and loss of vigor. The new population may be missing genetic intelligence for dealing with specific pests, diseases, or environmental conditions.
Tomato’s accustomed pollinators didn’t make the bottlenecking journeys with them. To cope, tomatoes became self pollinating and highly inbreeding.
People selected against cross-pollination, inbreeding the heirlooms for fifty to hundreds of generations. Together, these events caused a loss of 95% of genetic diversity. Tomatoes today are among the most genetically-inbred and fragile crops. They are very susceptible to system-wide collapse."
"Single gene resistances are susceptible to failure, leading to system wide failure due to the resistance depending on that one gene. In the promiscuously pollinating tomato project, we intentionally chose to start with older varieties that are not known to have named resistance genes. Because they are 100% outcrossing, they re-shuffle genes rapidly, to re-combine many genes with small effect into highly-resistant plants."
"One of my favorite fruits is a pear grown from seed. The skin on green fruits is bitter. The bitterness disappears upon ripening. The advantage of bitter skin is that insects won’t eat the green fruits. That makes it possible to grow organic pears without crop protection chemicals."
"The animals and crops grown by the hill people retained their genetic memory about how to deal with bugs, diseases, farmers, soils, and ecosystems. The intelligent, diverse crops grown by the hill people produced a rich abundance of healthy food, offering peace and freedom to the hill people.
The hill people frequently celebrated their good fortune, and the wisdom of their plant and human ancestors. They gathered together for singing, dancing and giving thanks for the beautiful flavors, robust plants, natural world, and their communities. Their music and dance was spontaneous, made with their own bodies, imaginations, and instruments. Joy, peace, and cooperation filled their villages."