John grew up on a farm 30 miles west of Brambling Rows just south of Staples. Primarily a dairy farm and they had other livestock and raised their own grain and hay. John’s dad taught him the value of selection of strong blood lines in their dairy herd and that has carried over into his present projects on the berry farm. John’s mother taught him to save seeds, how to germinate them, when to start and transplant them.
They even saved their own grain seed and did germination tests so they knew how much grain seed to clean and how thick to plant it. As for the plant breeding, John and his two younger brothers learned about cross pollination quite by accident. To insure a good crop of squash and pumpkins, their mom taught them at a very early age how to identify male and female blossoms on the squash vines. Then armed with feathers from the chicken coop, they were to collect pollen from the male blossoms on the feathers and pollinate the female blossoms. In a sort of Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn “Take the easy route” fashion, they got a good supply of pollen from the pumpkins and after pollinating the pumpkins went straight to the squash without collecting more pollen. Their mom saved seeds from the Chicago WartedHubbards for the following year. Well, they grew some of the nicest looking Golden Hubbards that next year! They were less stringy than the Hubbards usually were also.
It was during this stage of life that horticulture found a home in John’s blood. The family would take a one week vacation each year to visit his mom’s family in Onawa, Iowa. He collected poppy seeds and hollyhock seed when he was eight or nine years old and their farm in Staples was soon full of Holly hocks and Poppies. Also, in Onawa, Black cap raspberries flourished. John never did get them to grow in Minnesota until 1993 when he made his first raspberry crosses using plants from Ruth’s childhood home by Waterville.