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.