Friday, March 29, 2013
The Story of 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."
All Glass Gem Corn photos shown here are copyrighted by Greg Schoen and used with his gracious permission.