Landrace Gardening, developing seeds adapted to your garden.
Landrace seeds come from a domesticated variety of plant that has, over time, adapted to local growing conditions. Landrace seeds are from open pollinated plants of diverse genetics and produce stable yields under the growing conditions they have adapted to over time. Since landrace seeds come from diverse genetics, they can also adapt to changing conditions.
Joseph Lofthouse's Adaptivar Landrace webpage explains this well: "An adaptivar landrace is a foodcrop containing lots of genetic diversity which tends to produce stable yields under marginal growing conditions. Landrace crops are adaptively selected via survival-of-the-fittest for reliability in tough conditions. The arrival of new pests, new diseases, or changes in cultural practices or in the environment may harm some individuals in a landrace population, but with so much diversity many plants are likely to do well under the changing conditions."
"Race" in the term landrace is referring to the use of the word race in biology. For example, "human race," not running a race, even though a landrace is developed by survival of the fittest. Landrace also applies to animals as well as plants.
I live in Northern Minnesota, and I have tried to raise honeybees. The winters here are long and cold, so the bees need 60 lbs. or more of honey to stay warm through the winter. That is more then $150 worth of honey, so the "economical" way to raise bees here is to kill them in the fall and buy new bees in the spring.
I couldn't kill my bees. The first year, I took 6 quarts of honey from the two hives I had and left the rest for them. I spent $600 on equipment and bees that first year, so my wife teased me that my honey cost $100 a quart. My bees barely made it through the winter, and I had to feed them sugar water in the spring so they would not die before the dandelions bloomed. They struggled most of the summer, and when I thought they might be able to save enough honey to make it through another winter, a bear came and destroyed my hives.
There are several other kinds of bees here that pollinate my garden and the flowers in the yard, and they make it through the winter without my help. Why do the honeybees struggle so, even with my help?
This last summer my son started talking about Mr. Lofthouse's website and landrace gardening. I had never heard of the terms landrace, or landrace crops before, but that is exactly what I want to try with honeybees. I want to develop landrace honeybees that can over winter in Northern Minnesota. My ultimate goal is to develop a landrace of honeybees that can survive without interference from me.
Honeybee species that we have here in the US are so domesticated that they cannot survive well on their own anymore. Even the managed honeybees are dying at an unprecedented rate. I want to develop a landrace honeybee that is adapted to Northern Minnesota. I think that if they can survive here they can thrive elsewhere in the US.
Here are links to some articles Mr. Lofthouse wrote for Mother Earth News about landrace gardening.
The methods of landrace gardening can provide food, even when social or family troubles take us away from the garden.