The Root of Change. By Kim Pokorny. Photos by Serge A. McCabe. The Oregonian. Thursday, December 14, 2000.
“As sweet as it is, yacon is low in calories. Its sweetness comes from inulin, which, unlike sucrose, passes through our bodies unmetabolized so even diabetics can eat it. Another plus is the plant’s ornamental value. Its leaves are large, soft and shaped like an arrowhead with notched edges. Flowers aren’t always produced, but when they are, the blooms look small (1-Inch), bright orange daisies. Growing from 3 feet to 10 feet tall, yacon needs only one weeding in spring before it puts out enough growth to compete. It grows well in almost any soil and seems to have no pests or diseases. At the Corvallis farm, the Kapulers plant the crowns 12-18 inches apart as early in the spring as the soil can be worked. The bigger the crown, the bigger the plant and the more tubers are produced. But crowns can be divided to make more plants. Once in the ground, yacon doesn’t need fertilizer, but its important to give it enough water-once or twice a week during dry months. Come fall, the plants can stay in the ground until the first freeze, when they should be cut and lifted. Tubers should be separated from the crown, cleaned with a stream of water and stored in a cool, dry place, such as an unheated greenhouse, garage or shed. Then its time to eat. “
Ecological Sanity in an Era of Corporate Monoculture. By Genevieve Weber. Corvallis Advocate. August 30- September 6, 2012.
“Monsanto and DuPont and other companies always do conformist breeding, their stuff isn’t interesting. “ Dr. Alan Kapuler, Corvallis.
“When I met Dr. Kapuler at Brown’s Garden, a local three-acre research farm where he and his family organically breed and study a vast array of-sometimes unusual-edible and ornamental plants, he asked,
“How old are you?”
“I am 28,” I replied.
“No,” said Dr. Kapuler, “you’re billions of years old.”
He went on to explain that our genetic code is derived in part from simple, single celled organisms that lived billions of years ago. And energy and mass are conserved in the Universe-every atom of every person, insect, and plant has been in existence for billions of years. In other words, all life on Earth is interconnected.”
“Dr. Kapuler’s early achievements are both exceptional and prolific-at age 15 he won the Westinghouse National Science Talent Search for his experiments developing mutations in orchids. A Yale undergraduate, he entered college at age 16. He graduated first in his class, and his honors thesis earned him the highest grade ever granted by the university. He earned his doctorate in molecular biology at the prestigious Rockefeller University, and went on to study with the top researchers in his field, including future Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Howard Temin.
But Kapuler grew increasingly troubled by the trends in mainstream science.
“The problem is in the way the funding, the grants, the science is used for private gain and control.” He said.
Among other fundamental issues, he believes that while genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could provide tremendous benefit to humanity-envision growing avocado-like fruits on trees adapted to colder temperate zones-we are going about it all wrong.
With exceptions, current plant GMOs work focuses mainly on increased yield of a small number of over-produced species (such as corn, soybeans, and canola), as well as pest- and herbicide-resistance in these crops-but we have no idea what the ingestion of GMO plants producing chemical pesticides means for the human body. And consider the case of Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian canola farmer, whom Monsanto sued for patent infringement when trucks bearing their Roundup Ready canola seeds contaminated Schmeiser’s crop-corporate greed at its finest.”
“We are putting together an assembly of what will develop to be a sustainable organic food system right here-that’s what our work has been 40 years in doing,” asserted Dr. Kapuler. Through Peace Seeds and Peace Seedlings, the Kapulers promote the concepts of public domain plant breeding, wildcrafting (collection of seeds from the local ecosystem), and preservation of heirloom varieties while at the same time growing diversity. Open pollination, an important aspect of public domain plant breeding, increases biodiversity by allowing random pollination of crops through wind, insects, birds, and other pollinators. This produces new plants with greater genetic variability than plants bred using more limiting closed pollination practices, which result in future generations that have the same genetic traits. However, in plants that can be open pollinated, natural genetic diversity can lead to improved adaptation to the local ecosystem, and natural resistance to disease.”
“ As our population steadily rises and our planet plunges towards homogeneity, it becomes increasingly obvious that we need to reconsider our currently unsustainable approaches to modern agriculture. In this day of high fructose corn syrup, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, and pink slime, it’s urgent that we take responsibility for our own health and that of the ecosystems on which we depend so heavily for our survival. Support organic, support local, and absolutely support biodiversity.”
Golden Oldies in the Garden. Seed savers help keep the past alive in their backyards. By Bethanye McNichol. Oregonian. FOODay, Tuesday, February 7, 1989.
“It’s a personal sense of passing on a gift of life, of passing on something that has a living history: Alan Kapuler explained. He sees food crops as cultural and historical phenomena and feels that propagating and passing that heritage on “is our common responsibility. “Some of the joy of life is growing it, sharing it, and passing it on,” Kapuler said. “These things are all our responsibilities for future generations.”
Compost as an eco-organism. By Alan and Linda Kapuler. In Good Tilth. September/October 2006.
“The idea is to allow the plants we grow for food to complete their cycles both in the garden and in the compost. Rather than collecting and saving the seeds, an alternative is to plant them en masse by putting the maturing plats in the compost. A month or two later, with a simple turn of the plants, stalks, leaves, stems, flower tops, densely planted beds of salad plants with some unwanted weeds. The weeds are easily pulled as part of the next compost pile and what remains are fully planted food beds. This is done without buying any packets of seeds, sidestepping seed collection, drying, preservation and storage.
As a general process, we mix about half green and half dried material to the compost. This includes grass clippings, prunings from trees and shrubs, returns from previous compost piles and seaweeds from the local coastal shores. We consider the compost pile a compost organism. In the field, raw materials of all sorts coming from the garden are the contributors. In the home kitchen garden, scraps from meal preparation combined with weeds are mixed and fed to the head of the organism. The tail of the compost organism is fertile soil. Our composting organisms are not particularly hot, though sometimes the mix of fresh green with old dry brown heats up to pasteurization temperature. If we included maturing food plants with their seeds, then high temperatures will kill the seeds. High temperatures leading to sterilization are not particularly useful if the proportion of food-plant seeds to unpalatable weed seeds id high. Hence the soil coming from the compost is rich in food plants.
The key is to allow our favorite food plants to complete their cycles, make seeds and them sprout them up in the compost. In an increasingly more interesting process, composting allows us to deal with difficult weeds and to develop areas where the rhizomatous weeds have taken over. We pile “bad weeds” on top of “bad weeds” making difficult gardening locales amenable to fertility enhancement through compost location and development. By attending the composting process, rolling or moving the pile, feeding the head and weeding the body and tail, the compost organism becomes an integral part of organic gardening.”
Native Oregon plants need protection. By Alan Kapuler. Corvallis Gazette Times. August 5, 1992.
“We can get an estimate of the size of the local flora before humans disturbed the Pacific Northwest in an indirect way. Analysis of the world flora in 35 major plant zones (Takhtajian 1986) reveals that many regions of the world have 50-60% of their native plant species unique to their bioregion. We call these endemic species. Our bioregion has about 30 percent regional endemics. I suspect that this means that 20-30% of our plants were eliminated by people before we began keeping track.”
“This would suggest that the current estimate of 3,300 Oregon plant species is the remains of perhaps 4500 natives. How real is the estimate that only 36 species have been extirpated? Some of this is word-play. If one individual is left, does that constitute a species? Two hundred years ago, the Willamette Valley had waves of blue camas flowers covering vistas in the way passenger pigeons darkened the skies for days at a time. Now the birds are extinct and the camas confined to small patches in ditches by the roadsides.
“With about 107 flowering plant families in Oregon, one could lay out a kinship garden for each of them. A garden of gardens is a vision of a living reality we may increasingly come to appreciate. It will require generations to grow gardens that reflect the immense vitality and diversity of our planet. Have we the collective drive, vision, and sustainability to invest some of our land, resources, and lives in a biological sanctuary capable of becoming a model for the resurrection of our society? I hope so.”
Peace Seeds founder aims to preserve plant ‘kindom’ By Suzanne Johnson. Capital Press. March 13, 1992.
“Kapuler has respect for the seeds and plants that feed man, provide him with paper, cloth and rope and help him fight disease. “We humans have had a species lifetime of about 2 million years,: he said.
“Flowering plants are 50 times older.”
He lays his catalog out biologically in superorders (there are 36); orders (106) and families (540). He’s convinced that interrelationships that intrigue him will also intrigue the home gardener. For instance, there are more than 25000 species of daisies on the planet, broken into 14 tribes. Daisies belong to the superorder Asteriflorae-as does lettuce. “Most people who grow lettuce don’t know it’s a daisy,” Kapuler. They certainly don’t know its in the lettuce subfamily and they don’t know its in the lettuce tribe.
Kapuler is a life member of Seeds Savers Exchange, which gives him access to 14,000 varieties, he said. “One reason I’m into heirlooms is they’ve been tested in human life,” he said. Then the weather turned bad, and that bean variety you planted fed you and your family, that was a treasure. But these varieties don’t always fit into our monoculture.”
Peace Seeds. One Corvallis grower may hold the future in his hands. Story by Tim Leslie. Photos by David Grubbs. Gazette Times.
“…Kapuler, who holds a doctorate in molecular biology, does more than just grow and sell seeds. On a half-acre plot surrounding his south Corvallis home, the shaggy-bearded seedsman shelters wild, heirloom and endangered species of plants in an attempt to preserve what he calls “life’s botanical heritage.”
Numerous species of plants are being lost every year because their habitats have been destroyed, Kapuler said. When plants disappear, so do opportunities to discover important new sources of food and medicine for future generations. And their extinction limits adaptability to environmental change and severs poorly-understood interactions with other living organisms. “The Earth is the bank,” Kapuler said. “It’s the bank of life. If we lose these plants, we don’t have anywhere else to get them back. It’s our heritage, and its also our future.”
Agriculturist wants a future filled with plants from the past
“Alan Kapuler has a dream. He wants to help create a “world class botanical garden” near Corvallis. The owner of Peace Seeds envisions a “garden of gardens” where people can enjoy and study plant varieties native to the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest. “It would be a legacy for everybody, a botanical ark,” Kapuler said. “I want to make a plant ark.” Ninety five percent of Oregon’s wild plant species have disappeared from the state, said Kapuler. Destructive forestry techniques and the grazing of cattle on public land are partly to blame for the extinction of plant species, he said. But our culture’s tendency to discard anything that lacks obvious and immediate value (A trait he calls “use-ness”) is also responsible, he said. “I want a world-class botanical garden for the state of Oregon to show people what grew in Oregon before we’d done what we’ve done with it.” Oregon State University, as a leading school of agriculture, should have created a garden long ago, he said. “The university could have had a really good botanical garden. Instead, they wanted a football team.” Now, Kapuler wants to build the garden at the grass-roots level, without using government funds. “Just to give people an idea, imagine if you had a lot of room to do this,”he said, motioning to the crowded greenhouse and garden plots surrounding his south Corvallis home. “There are probably more species of stuff on this half acre than there are species in maybe the whole county.”
Kapuler’s wife, Linda, shares the dream. The cost of such an undertaking would be huge, she said. But future generations would reap the benefits of more jobs and a stronger economy.
So the Seeds of the Past Can Give Future Delight. By Ann Raver. The New York Times Pastimes. Sunday January 19, 1992.
“An heirloom seed could be a runner bean brought from the time of Columbus to Europe, which the colonists then brought back here,” Dr. Kapuler said. A traditional is a seed that has been handed down directly from an indigenous people. Quinoa, for example, a nutritious, nutty-flavored grain that now flourishes in the Northwest, has been grown in the Andes for 3,000 years However they were passed down, these seeds were saved for their high nutrition and hearty characteristics, said Dr. Kapuler, who was trained in Yale University and the University of Rochester. “They were passed on for 5, 10, or 20 generations,” he said, “not because they were tested in a laboratory, but because they made your sick kids well, or in a season of no rain, you still got a crop and they fed you when you were hungry.” One of Dr. Kapuler’s personal favorites is the Hutterite soup bush bean, an heirloom that was grown in Austria in the 18th century. The Hutterites were a religious sect that fled to Canada and brought their seeds with them,” Dr. Kapuler said. He got about 10 seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, and grew enough beans to make soup during a weeklong snowstorm. “You know how most beans have to cook all day?” he said. “Well these made a delicious creamy soup in about two hours.”
Giving thanks for old-time seeds. The Oregonian Food Day. Tuesday, November 15, 1994. Volume 8, Number 24.
Kapuler is one of the many people who is concerned about the increasing loss of wild, heirloom and rare varieties of fruits and vegetables. The founder of Peace Seeds is a passionate saver of those plants’ seeds. For him, Thanksgiving celebrates this living heritage of the land and the home gardeners who help preserve it. “Some of our ancestors’ stuff is better,” Kapuler says of the old varieties. “They compete well. They’ve lived through drought, bad weather, tough times. They’ve been tested by live and death. “ “The self-proclaimed “hippie, bucket-and-shovel farmer” grabs a letter from one of the high stacks on his desk. “Please take care of these seeds,” he reads. All the letter writers share their family stories and send along packets of five to 10 precious seeds. A Eugene man sent him purple onion seeds that his great-great grandfather brought from Switzerland in 1853. Someone else sent pioneer pinto pole beans that his grandmother brought over the Oregon Trail in the 1880’s; another writer offered seeds from his family’s farm back in Italy. Encased in the tiny seeds that blossom into the food we eat are good memories from the past: the best apples, husk tomatoes, pole beans, Oregon giant snap pole beans or onions that the lamenting letter writers can’t find anymore. The 52-year-old molecular biologist started Peace Seeds in 1975 to rescue tried-and-true old varieties and rare ones in danger of dying out. He also crosses lines of heirlooms to develop hearty new varieties. In several small greenhouses and garden plots, he plants the seeds, harvests them and patiently plats again and again, until he has enough seeds to sell-this takes about five years. While doing this, he creates maps tracking the seeds’ intricate biological ancestry. A tall, gaunt, gray-bearded man, Kapuler looks like a modern-day Abraham Lincoln-in green socks and Birkenstocks. His devotion to his cause sends his mind and tongue into a whirlwind pace, and he can rattle off a string of Latin biological names faster than anyone can listen. But out back in his small seed shed-where jars, plastic bags, and buckets hold seeds that have been meticulously counted out, categorized and alphabetized- their official names are forgotten. There, he dips into buckets and gently closes his long, bony fingers around green fava beans and pomegranate-red corn kernels, a sweet corn variety he developed. That’s what his work is really about: love of life. The shed, which threatens to leak in a downpour, is a treasury of seeds that may exist nowhere else in the world. But Kapuler doesn’t hoard them. The whiz kid who graduated from Yale at age 19, gave up a career as a cancer researcher and dropped out at age 30 to farm in Southern Oregon, knows the value of sharing the bounty.
Think Sunflower Follow the Sun. Brilliant flowers kindle year-round memories. By Kim Pakorney. The Oregonian Dec. 16, 1999
Down the road at the Seeds of Change garden, Kapuler has been crossing sunflowers for almost a decade. Helianthus spun onto his radar screen while he was researching daisies for a paper. “I was struck by the fact that Helianthus all come from the U.S.,” he says. “That got me interested intellectually.” Once interested, Kapuler was hooked. He got some seed developed in East Germany from Lon Rombough, an Aurora grape grower, author and horticultural consultant. Some of the plants from that seed produced flowers with a ring of red on the inner portion of the petals. They reminded Kapuler of gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta). Through time be selected for this type, which eventually was named ‘Gloriosa’ and has become an important parent for new varieties. Later on, Kapuler crossed red-ringed ‘Gloriosa’ to the double ‘Lions Mane.’ After five generations, the now stabilized cross has been named ‘Tiger’s Eye.’ It features a large, partly double eye that can be a mixture of purple, red, brown and yellow-orange, surrounded by single ray petals of yellow-orange. Flowers are not the only consideration in breeding. What Kapuler calls the architecture of the plant also comes into play. In a cross between gangly H. annuus, the most common species in cultivation and parent to dozens of hybrids and varieties, and silver-leafed H. argophyllus, the offspring was shorter, more branced and sturdier. As he continues to experiment, Kapuler hopes one day to come up with a group of multi-branched sunflowers that grow in different sizes “with 15 to 20 flowers on one stem, 35 to 40 spikes of flowers opening all at once.”
True to the Earth. Home and Garden Albany (OR) Democratic Herald. September 26, 1999.
He started out by saving seeds which emerged into a seed company – Peace Seeds. It’s taken off from there. “It’s part of growing, having beauty,” said Kapuler, who is in his 10th year of battling lymphatic cancer. “Why organic? I don’t want to poison anybody.” The recent growth in genetically modified vegetables has especially strengthened Kapuler’s ties to his organic roots. Skeptical of how healthy the modified plants truly are, Kapuler has taken on the challenge of collecting heirloom seeds and plants – some dating back as far as 1820- and cultivating others that have nearly been wiped off the face of the planet. “Who would have guessed we would have heirlooms that even the USDA doesn’t have,” Kapuler asked. But Kapuler’s specialty is sunflowers. He shows two articles he penned for his journal. He points out subtleties on more than a dozen flowers spread over his plot. Forty-two flowers boom on one plant. “On the same bush!” Kapuler exclaims, clearly proud of the productivity of this particular plant. “This is a nice thing. It’s very healthy for the garden.”
Honor Roll Food Day. By Amy Martinez Starke. The Oregonian. June 12, 2001
Alan Kapuler has always been a generation ahead of his time. When biodiversity was a distant concept for the average person, he had already dedicated his life to saving seeds, kinship gardening and helping found the organic seed company Seeds of Change, preserving plant varieties that otherwise would be lost.
He shelters rare, wild, heirloom and endangered species plants in an attempt to preserve life’s botanical heritage. Numerous species of plants are being lost every year because their habitats have been destroyed, and large seed companies and agribusiness are narrowing the choices available, Kapuler says. When plants disappear, he says, so do opportunities to discover important new sources of food and medicine for future generations. Unlike many of his colleagues in the academic world, Kapuler has sought no patents for his work. He has bread dozens of varieties that are in the public domain: grown hundreds and hundreds of heirloom varieties; and taken hybrid heirlooms(which don’t produce seeds that can be saved) and turned them into open-pollinated varieties (which do). “I oppose the ownership of life. I think it’s a mistake to patent life or any living organisms. All living creatures belong in the public domain. It’s become the civil rights issue of our time. “How can you patent the pea plant? How can you patent cows when you didn’t invent the cow? How can you suddenly have property rights? If you have no choice of seeds, you have no freedom. I call it tyranny.”
Nurseryman touts ancient Andean tuber. By John Schmitz. Capital Press. May 13, 2005.
When Oregon nurseryman Alan Kapuler’s car gave out near Vista, Calif., several years ago, what followed was pure serendipity. Kapuler, owner of Peace Seeds near Corvallis, Ore., eventually wound up in Stephen Spangler’s Exotica Plant Nursery, where he first learned about yacon. Native to the Andes mountains in South America, yacon (pronounced Yah-cone) is an ancient plant related to the sunflower and dahlia that produces nutritional as well as medicinal tubers, and Kapuler believes it can become a viable crop in this country. In 1989 the National Academy of Sciences wrote yacon up as one of the “Lost crops to the Incas, a little known plant in the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation,” a statement Kapuler fully believes. “I’m looking for a crop that improves our lives. It improves the soil. It gives you leaves for tea. It gives you roots for food. The amount of medicine involved with this plant is profound. It clears the blood. There’s an amazing number of properties associated with this plant.”
“(Yacon) gives three times the yield of potatoes,” Kapuler said. While nobody has grown a full acre yet in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Kapuler said that 1,000 plants, about a quarter of an acre, have yielded 2 to 3 tons on two valley farms.
Seeds of Change. An Interview with Alan aka Mushroom. By Dave Smith.
Why Should Gardeners save their seeds?
One aspect is that you complete cycles. As gardeners, you usually buy the seeds and grow the plants, but you do not complete the cycle. Every year you garden is a year of your life. What do you want to get out of your life, just a bunch of tomatoes? Or do you want to get the next generation of seeds that you grow that allow you to keep growing those crops and be able to adapt them to your backyard, and to actually be more mature about what it takes to have it in your own hands….to growing the food. What happens routinely is that you get a variety, you like it, you grow it, and after a few years it is no longer being offered! The only way you’re going to stop that is to buy ones that you like, grow them, and save your own seeds. So completing the cycle and being more authentically involved seems to me important. The reason we want people to garden is you take it into your own hands, you pick your beans and your tomatoes and your melons and your corn in your own backyard and what have you got? You’ve got stuff that you grew, you know what happened to it…if someone happened to dump an herbicide on it you would know that because you were there, you could smell it yourself. You are in more control than any other aspect.
Diversity is disappearing in the world at colossal speed. Maybe when you first start gardening you don’t recognize it and you think there are only three kinds of tomatoes. After you garden for awhile you realize that there are three thousand kinds of tomatoes. Then you hit the tomato genera and you realize that there are another ten of those. Then you hit the tomato family and realize there are thousands of species and another 90 genera you knew nothing about. So you get increasingly into level upon level of the depth and profundity of the earth’s fertility. You begin to find out the earth is sacred and we really need to treasure that sacredness and build spiritual character so that life can go on. We are failing in this world because we do not give enough recognition and respect….and respond to the whole integrated fact that the biosphere supports us, that we are just a part of it. We would like to believe that we can exist independent of it and we are destroying it.
Peace Seeds Odyssey. By Peter Gilman. 1987
We plant Picassos. In our work of growing paradise on this planet we have broken from the rectilinear constraints of machines and begun exploring earth sculpture and cosmic relationships in the construction of ecosystems that maximize niches for all kinds of creatures providing love as food, shelter, and happiness. We’ve recently conducted an extensive energy exchange with the cucurbitaceae: pepo, mixta, moschata, maxima. A placental family, 90 genera, 700 species, excellent food. The need for a warmer growing area led us to build a 40-by-60 foot pole frame greenhouse over beds designed as a labyrinth with three-foot-deep paths in the form of infinity. We covered it first with 4 mil polyethylene and a year later with 6 mil 602. One pumpkin seed we planted May Day, 1981, grew in three months to a plant 60 feet long and 15 feet wide. We harvested five fruits outside from 25 to 50 pounds. Godiva squash grows like a pumpkin with hull-less seeds. The seeds make a butter akin to peanut, walnut and hazelnut butters. We estimate 1,000 pounds of seed could be grown per acre. There is considerable primary variation in these seeds. Some are high in protein, others high in oil. We are directed to transfer the naked seeded trait to a bush cultivar. We have fifty F1 seeds of godiva x zucchini towards this end.
From the insights of nutrition based on the internal feeding system of our cells, one sees plenty of room for work on the development of foodstuffs that contain the genetic sugars, ribose and deoxyribose, for the replication, transcription and repair of our DNA. The DNA is the great causal body. The genetic material of DNA/RNA is the core of all seeds and all cells. Each of our nucleated diploid cells has about six billion base pairs of DNA.
Seeds. Growing Up and Giving Back. By Ayla Rogers Sustainable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest. December 6, 2010.
While “Mushroom,” or even the abbreviated “Shroom,” often serves as a sufficient introductory title in casual conversation, his esteemed tag-line runs something like Alan Kapuler Ph.D., Public Domain Plant Breeder and Molecular Biologist, President of Peace Seeds, and Retired Research Director and Co-Founder of Seeds of Change.
For those who don’t comprehend the significance of its meaning, a name is just a name. Scientific designations of phylum, genus, and species would be of scant interest to Kapuler did he not already possess a profound appreciation for the natural wonder and majesty of our fertile earth’s flora. The experience that first enticed Kapuler into the biodiverse realm of botany and the delicate art of plant breeding is the elegant orchid. Indeed, it was the dazzling orchids at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and in the commercial greenhouses in Long Island, he and his father used to frequent that first enraptured him.
There is much unique, Kapuler explains, about the Pacific Northwest ecosystem. Flora of the genus Lomatium is particularly characteristic of the area, but in general Kapuler raved of “all the endemic flora, fauna, microbes, rocks, hills, valleys, water courses, drainage systems, (and) trees, particularly the remaining old growth trees.” He also emphasized, however, that through negligence and mistreatment of this fine ecosphere, we have already lost much of what once characterized the region. Kapuler coaxes us to ask ourselves, what happened to the huge sitkas that once graced our coastline? What about the massive ponderosas and the wapato (Any of the various plants in the genus Sagittaria?) What about the local cuisine the natives once subsisted on? Where is the camas, alliums, sagittarias, biscuit root and pestle parsnip? These lost treasures may not be at the forefront of our daily consciousness, but perhaps they should be. It is clear that their memory plays poignantly on Kapuler’s heartstrings.
The synergy of talent, and the flourishing ecosystem of the valley, only catalyzed Kapuler’s passions. Besides local expertise, he says, “we needed clean ground, clean water, opportunity and friends devoted to the organic movement, to…our own healthy food, our own interests in the food we grow, the plants we eat, the flowers we love and the herbs we cherish.” A fine and fertile soil and an uncommonly eco-conscious community compelled Kapuler to take up root, settling with his seeds and the dearest of saplings-his children-here in the Willamette Valley.
If you ask Kapuler, the most valuable asset his real estate can yield is the fruitful proliferation of his food crops for seasons-and even generations-to come. One of the crucial aspects of gardening that makes it so economical and ecologically friendly is the consistent practice of seed saving. As Kapuler puts it, “if we don’t save seeds we are slaves to institutions that wish to run and control our lives-if we don’t grow organic, local foods, we are fools..” Saving a continual line of seeds from our own home-grown crops, is vital for food security.
Sustainable gardening need not be limited to the hippie-elite. Any community member with a little land, a little patience, an optimistic vision and a thirst for knowledge can start up their own home-garden project. While you shouldn’t expect to be breeding your own orchids anytime soon, there’s no reason you can’t start raising a bit of your family’s table produce. If expert advice is what you seek, you needn’t look any further. First of all, because skillful gardening takes both great care, and a certain amount of experience, Kapuler advises beginning gardeners “to begin with food plants that are relatively easy to grow.” He also encourages amateur agronomists to keep up with their crops, season after season, as it is well “worth completing the cycle of plant, to seed, to plant many times to get into the habit of completions..(because) life depends on completions, (and) sterile matings yield no progeny.” A key piece of advice Kapuler offers to the beginning gardener in the Pacific Northwest is to utilize a greenhouse. A greenhouse is important, Kapuler says, “for extending seasons, providing alternatives to wind, snow, and karma, and making other crops and plants possible.” Use of a greenhouse makes crops such as citrus, jasmine, and even such unique fruits as the Peruvian ground cherry possible in this temperate zone. If you are just beginning to flex your green thumb muscle, don’t be too ambitious with your expectations, and be forgiving of yourself. Kapuler himself will be the first to tell you, “gardening is not easy, or simple, or trivial, or obvious.”