Understanding Genetic Diversity

If I could be granted just one wish before people ordered anything from us it would be that they understood what genetic diversity is. This “passion” “ job” whatever you want to call it that we have taken on requires many many hours of work. I love the work! Most days during the summer it's 14 hours a day 6 days a week with 6 to 8 hours on Sunday. While it may seem gruesome and horrible to be out pulling weeds on a hot humid day to make sure you get a crop or shoveling manure when it's cold and crisp outside to keep a chicken pen clean both provide me relaxation and a chance to learn more about the material that we deal with. It is so difficult for most of the people who find us on the website to understand what genetic diversity is. They are so used to being able to get something immediately without having to wait. They think everything is the same and everything performs at the same rate. That is not what our whole operation is about.

I will start out by commenting about sweet potatoes. Most people at least in this area can't stand them because all they have had is the stuff that's in a can which for me shouldn't be fed to people even those who have committed the highest crimes against the state.The canned ones are nasty and awful. I remember my first year of teaching when I routinely ate school lunch and the cooks asked me one day if I wanted sweet potatoes. I had never had canned ones before so I said sure with great anticipation of a tasty treat. They gave me a lot because the students weren’t taking any. A member of the clean your plate before you leave the table club I thought I was going to throw up before I gagged them down. I had never been exposed to such vile concoction. I think that may have started me on my quest to educate about the diversity of flavors and textures in sweet potatoes. The diversity in sweet potatoes and other crops is amazing and was all put here for us to understand and appreciate the wonderful things that God has provided for us. There are sweet potatoes that are so dry you could probably choke when you cook them. There are some that are so moist that they are just a big gooey mess when you cook them. Not only are the taste textures and flavors diverse also are the growing habits. We attempt to start every sweet potato variety the exact same day in the starting beds from where they were all kept in the exact same location from the harvest time the year before all conditions being the same. If there wasn't such a thing as diversity they should all come up at the same time and all produce the same amount of sprouts at the same frequency, at the same everything. If you get the point it doesn't work that way. When I look for key varieties to let me know when things will start going I can always count on Ivis White Cream and Qualls being the first ones up in the bed. When they come up I know that certain ones will follow and eventually I know sometime later ones like 8633 and Arkansas Red will sprout. Arkansas Red seems to know when the calendar hits July 1st and then it bursts forth with massive amounts of sprouts. Sometimes one sweet potato of certain varieties will produce 20 to 30 to maybe 50 sprouts others one or two, again an example of diversity. Most people have such a hard time understanding that if it's a slow sprouter then it must be late so they can't grow it. Not true, some of the latest sprouters are some of the fastest growers while some of the earliest spouters are some of the fastest but some of the earliest spouters are some of the last to mature. When growing, I can plant Ivis White Cream and Qualls on the exact same day and even though they sprouted at the same time, Ivis White Cream will be ready at least 3 weeks before Qualls.

We have had many suggestions for how to run our operation. One gentleman even suggested if we can't send them all out on the exact same day then we should quit. Perhaps he's right it would be pretty easy for me to do that if I chose about 10 varieties that I know are going to sprout early and heavy. However our post office couldn’t handle the volume and we couldn't find enough help to pack every order on one day. This is a person who doesn't understand diversity and how things operate.

When it comes to poultry just because a bird has five toes doesn't make it a Dorking. There is a whole set of traits that go with each breed. When we first started selling Welsummers before they were available commercially you knew what their temperament was. They are a pretty calm cool collected breed that doesn't get too excited about anything. 5 or 6 years down the road commercial hatcheries started carrying them and Linda started getting the phone calls. They did not want Welsummers because they were to flighty. We responded back that there's no way, they are not flighty at all. Then I ran into some and it was obvious from looking at them that even though the single comb light brown leghorn is a similar color pattern commercial places crossed them destroying the dark egg color, destroying the temperament and created something entirely new. They look somewhat the same on the outside but don't have the same traits.

My poultry sees me at least twice a day, morning and night everyday of the year rain or shine 100° or 30 below. I am in and out of each pen usually twice a day. I can walk in the Buckeye pen and they will all run over to me get under feet and sometimes I even step on one. One time I killed one accidentally by stepping on it. My Silver Pencilled Hamburgs which I appreciate but yet never will understand as I walk into the pen each day they go berserk and fly all over the place put somebody new in that situation and they go absolutely bananas. Those are traits that aren't just color genes feather genes, comb type etc. Those are specific traits that breeds have. There's a good reason why Dorkings aren't commercially available from many hatcheries. They don't like to lay eggs all the time. They like to go broody, lots of the time. It's sad when commercial places will take something like that breed and breed out non visible traits so you get something that looks like a Dorking but doesn't act like one. It's a Dorking in toe and color only not in all of its traits. One of our things we do here is we try to keep all the traits that are representative of a particular breed of variety with that regardless of the consequences it would be much easier for me to make money if I bred all of the broodiness out of the Dorking or the broodiness out of the Kraenkoppes or selected only for certain breeds that laid high production eggs regardless of what else went with it. That's not the point of understanding diversity. When an illness no matter what it is goes through either the plants or the poultry you can easily figure out which ones share similar traits. I think way back to when laryngotrachietis was first introduced to my farm by someone dropping off diseased birds in the ditch. Sussex no matter what color are highly susceptible and I lost almost all of them. Dorkings don't get it as bad. I watch coccidiosis as I don't use medicated feed in the young ones, certain breeds are very susceptible others won't even be phased. Those are true genetically diverse traits something we need to appreciate. To put all of our eggs in one basket and just put into one type opens us up to susceptibility for something we don't know in the future. I'm a firm believer that there are chicken breeds out there that will withstand Avian Influenza. We unfortunately as a society have selected for only production, only confinement adaptability and have forgotten that we need to expose these birds to the real world so that they can adapt and we can figure out which ones have the traits that we want. We never know what we will need in the future. Who thought a few years ago as soon as 2019 that there would be something called covid that would paralyze the world for such a long period of time. If we discard particular genetic traits now because we don't view them as valuable we could be throwing away our future. It is and has been the goal of our operation to maintain as much genetic diversity as we possibly can. No one knows what the future holds and what will be valuable. It is however very frustrating when people who don't understand anything about this order some product and can't figure out why all chickens don't lay eggs at the same time hatch at the same rate. They get flustered and it takes valuable time away from our operation to try to figure out how to explain to them what's going on.

The picture shows a box of all kinds of fowl each one so different from the other. Who knows which one in that photo that may have a special gene that we will as a world some day desperately need.


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