PARADISE- Joseph Lofthouse knows how difficult it can be to grow certain crops in Cache Valley, and that's why he turned to landrace gardening. Landrace gardening is a procedure where genetically diverse crops that are localized to the climate and soil are grown. To do this, Lofthouse grows his own variety of seeds, plants them, and uses a "survival of the fittest" method. Those plants that do well will have their seeds gathered and planted the following year.
"I prefer landrace gardening for the reliability. I always get a harvest of some kind or another from it," said Lofthouse.
Lofthouse has been serious about landrace gardening for five years now. The first crop he experimented with was a sweet corn called astronomy domine.
"It had red cobs, gray cobs, and multicolored cobs," Lofthouse explained. "I fell in love with it because of the beauty, but it also grew well because it had about 200 different varieties of corn in it. So among those 200 varieties, there were some that really thrived here in Cache Valley."
Lofthouse then experimented with spinach, beans, and melons. He said his favorite has been cantaloupe.
"The first year I grew cantaloupe, I got maybe five or six fruits out of 100 feet of row. That was so discouraging to me," he said. "I've planted over 100 varieties of cantaloupe since then and let them cross pollinate and mix up their genetics. So last year, I was harvesting 100 pounds of cantaloupe two or three times a week. That's a really good feeling."
Lofthouse explained that landrace gardening has worked really well for him and he thinks it's a good style of gardening in an area like Cache Valley.
"It's difficult to grow warm weathered crops in Cache Valley because our season is so short. With landrace gardening, we're putting genetically diverse crops in the ground that can produce a crop really quickly in spite of our weather."
Lofthouse and his father can be found at the Cache Valley Gardeners' Market every Saturday selling their crops. Lofthouse also writes a series of articles on landrace gardening for Mother Earth News.