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Alter Egos: Laura Krouse

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Laura Krouse, biology lecturer and lab instructor
My avocation is farming. I bought my farm on Abbe Hills Road in 1988 from Jeri Neal and Barb Thomsen Neal. I was also very lucky to be able to acquire from them the seeds of a heritage variety of corn that has been grown on this farm since 1903, when Jeri's grandfather, Burt Neal, purchased the seeds at the World Corn Exposition in Chicago. It was common then for farmers to develop their own corn, specific to the needs of their farm and their ecosystem, and to sell seed to their neighbors. Burt continued to select and improve the variety his whole life, as did his son and grandson. I sell the seed all over the upper Midwest.

My education is in agronomy and I have wanted to be a farmer since college. I grow modern corn, soybeans, and oats. I also grow vegetables that I sell to about 60 families in and around Mount Vernon and Lisbon. But the enterprise that is the most interesting to me is the old-fashioned seed corn. I get to participate in the preservation of very old genetic material, and I get to meet people with similar interests from all over the world.

One of the best benefits is that it provides a living laboratory for our students. They help with planting the research plots in the spring, the hand-harvest of the seed ears in the fall, and the evaluation and selection in the lab of the best 100-or-so ears that we will plant again in the spring. My farm is in the process of becoming certified organic. I am able to take students to my farm to see sustainable practices actually being applied to the land, to give them a place to do their own research, and to show them how rewarding and interesting it is to live well in the place where we find ourselves.

I am very interested in food-how it is grown, how it gets to us, who gets to have it, how our policies impact its production and availability. By farming myself, by being involved in the preservation and improvement of this variety, and by teaching my students about food, I feel like I can make a positive impact on the world.

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