Glass Gem Corn

Like many heirloom treasures, Glass Gem corn has a name, a place, and a story. Its origin traces back to Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer living in Oklahoma. Barnes had an uncanny knack for corn breeding. More specifically, he excelled at selecting and saving seed from those cobs that exhibited vivid, translucent colors. Exactly how long Barnes worked on Glass Gem—how many successive seasons he carefully chose, saved, and replanted these special seeds—is unknown. But after many years, his painstaking efforts created a wondrous corn cultivar that has now captivated thousands of people around the world.

Approaching the end of his life, Barnes bestowed his precious seed collection to Greg Schoen, his corn-breeding protégé. The weighty responsibility of protecting these seeds was not lost on Schoen. While in the process of moving in 2010, he sought out a place to store a sampling of the collection to ensure its safekeeping. Schoen passed on several unique corn varieties to fellow seedsman Bill McDorman, who was owner at the time of Seeds Trust, a small family seed company then located in central Arizona. (Today, Bill McDorman is Executive Director of Native Seeds/SEARCH.) Curious about the oddly named Glass Gems, he planted a handful of seeds in his garden. The spectacular plants that emerged took him by surprise. “I was blown away,” McDorman recalls. “No one had ever seen corn like this before.”

The bounty of genetic diversity our ancestral farmers and gardeners created in this way was shared and handed down across generations. But under today’s industrial agricultural paradigm of monocropping, GMOs, and hybrid seeds, this incredible diversity has been narrowed to a shred of its former abundance. A 1983 study compared the seed varieties found in the USDA seed bank at the time with those available in commercial seed catalogs in 1903. The results were striking. Of the 408 different tomato varieties on the market at the turn of the century, less than 80 were present in the USDA collection. Similarly, lettuces that once flourished with 497 heirloom varieties were only represented by 36 varieties. The same held true for most other veggies including sweet corn, of which only a dozen cultivars were preserved out of 307 unique varieties once available in the catalogs. Though this data leaves some questions around actual diversity decline, the trend toward dwindling crop diversity is alarming. In just a few generations, both the time-honored knowledge of seed saving and many irreplaceable seeds are in danger of disappearing.The story of Barnes, Schoen, and their remarkable corn is not unusual. For millennia, people have elegantly interacted with the plants that sustain them through careful selection and seed saving. This process, repeated year after year, changes and adapts the plants to take on any number of desirable characteristics, from enhanced color and flavor to disease resistance and hardiness.

Though much of this diversity may be gone, all hope is not lost. The emergence of a breathtaking heirloom variety like Glass Gem reveals that the art and magic of seed saving lives on. It reminds us that we can return to this age-old practice and restore beauty, wonder, and abundance to our world. Indeed, this renaissance is already underway. The rising seed library movement is encouraging local gardeners to become crop breeders and empowering communities to reclaim sovereignty over their food. Our pioneering Seed School program at Native Seeds/SEARCH is training people from all walks of life in building sustainable local seed systems rooted in ancient traditions. And as eye-popping images of Glass Gem continue to spread around the world, Carl Barnes’ kaleidoscopic corn has become a beacon—and perhaps an inspiring symbol—for the global seed-saving revival.

  1. syotturu reblogged this from shortcutss
  2. mandel-s reblogged this from the-infinitesadness
  3. the-infinitesadness reblogged this from theartyandtheparty
  4. theartyandtheparty reblogged this from shortcutss
  5. livedooor reblogged this from shortcutss
  6. shortcutss reblogged this from proto-jp
  7. 14212510 reblogged this from shortcutss
  8. juzu reblogged this from shortcutss
  9. allerearlgrey reblogged this from shortcutss
  10. hayakasa reblogged this from kenji0728
  11. f2g reblogged this from shortcutss
  12. h0515e reblogged this from shortcutss
  13. voya9er reblogged this from shortcutss
  14. kenji0728 reblogged this from nwashy
  15. nwashy reblogged this from shortcutss
  16. phdeeznuts reblogged this from meowinahole
  17. pomeranion reblogged this from shortcutss
  18. wingfeet reblogged this from shortcutss
  19. incubus0 reblogged this from shortcutss
  20. mmmmmar reblogged this from shortcutss
  21. hiimakemyownpickles reblogged this from fernsandmoss
  22. kundrygraal reblogged this from colorfulplace
  23. pfmusique reblogged this from shortcutss
  24. agentdoorhinge reblogged this from shortcutss
  25. vis-ima reblogged this from shortcutss
  26. thearmsoftheoceann reblogged this from pawmelo
  27. pawmelo reblogged this from j-k47
More Information