Biodynamics Now! Podcast Episode 3: Dr Alan Kapuler

DR ALAN KAPULER, Public Domain Plant Breeder and, apparently, cat lover.  (Photo by Scott Vlaun)

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Public Domain Plant Breeding by Dr Alan Kapuler, PhD.

Peace Seeds Website and Plant List

Alan Kapuler is considered by many to be the founding father of the organic seed movement. He was the first Research Director of Seeds of Change and, along with his wife Linda and his three daughters Kusra, Elyria, and Dylana, has been saving seeds and breeding plants for over thirty years. His Peacevine Cherry tomato, Rainbow Inca Corn and other varieties have become known throughout the world. (From an interview by Scott Vlaun)

As a child growing up in Brooklyn, Kapuler was twinly obsessed with orchids and baseball, equally able to reel off lifetime home run statistics or botanical names of obscure flowers. At age 15 he won the Westinghouse National Science Talent Search for his experiments testing the effects of a mutagenic chemical on his beloved orchids. He entered Yale at 16, the youngest student in his class of 1,000 and graduated first in his class. His undergraduate honors thesis earned him the highest grade Yale had ever bestowed and was eventually published in the Journal of Molecular Biology. After earning his doctorate in molecular biology at prestigious Rockefeller University he worked with world expert on nucleic acids A.M. Michelson and apprenticed at the lab of future Nobel Prize winner Howard Temin.

Those were heady days of discoveries in his field. He looks back with awe at that time “when the structure of the genetic code was being discovered…it was the greatest self-revelation about our common unity with all organisms. They were the mystery of the ages, and we were uncovering those secrets.” Yet Kapuler, dismayed by colleagues who were producing lethal viruses for the U.S. government, suddenly left his fast-track career at the University of Connecticut and headed for the west coast with his dog, green van and $1,000. “I had to find my beloved wife and my kids and a life that had a heart.” He found Linda Sylvester in Oregon. Together they lived in poverty and he started saving seeds because he was too poor to buy them, eventually collecting more than 6,000 varieties and founding Peace Seeds which later merged with Seeds of Change. Currently he serves as Director of Research for Seeds of Change. His recent breeding work focuses on developing increased amino acid concentration as a way of increasing the nutritional value of food plants. (From an appreciation of Dr Kapuler in the FEDCO seed catalog.)

Al Kapuler has been an inspiration for me throughout my holistic organic farming life. His accomplishments as a plant breeder have been incredible but more to the point he presents an example to the world of a gifted man chosing Right Livelihood although he could have had everything that working for the mainstream culture gives to talented people. Al chose the Path of Peace. More than that, directly, and through his seed sales, he’s brought thousands of people into quality holistic farming and gardening with seeds that contain the intentions of our ancestors through their genetics. I want to make it clear how much I appreciate what he’s given me personally, to people around me and to the planet we all live on. (-Allan Balliett)

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