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She Specializes In Colorful Corn Varieties
Amyrose Foll, a U.S. Army veteran and Penobscot and Abenaki Indian descendant, says she gives indigenous corn varieties special attention to help preserve a way of life for her community. She grows and preserves native seeds at her farm in Central Virginia.
Foll spent much of her childhood learning about cultivating and preserving food by helping her family and learning how to hunt and fish with her father. “My two sisters and I spent a lot of time working at our uncle’s farm, and because we didn’t have brothers, we did all the dirty work most girls are spared growing up,” says Foll. That experience paid off when she started her current farm business called Virginia Free Farm.
The farm raises poultry, pigs, goats and several varieties of produce. Foll is an advocate for saving and sharing seeds, which help to feed others the way her ancestors did. Her farm produces unique varieties of native corn.
Abenaki Rose, whose seeds have been passed down from generation to generation in Foll’s family, is an average size flint corn. The cobs have light-colored kernels which contain a halo of color ranging from pink to burgundy. Originally grown in New England and the Maritimes of Canada, it’s a short growing variety that typically matures at 80 to 90 days. Foll says “its traits were carefully selected by generations of indigenous farmers to produce even with late spring frost or early fall frost. This was essential when the whole community depended upon a successful harvest.”
Native tribes used it for cornmeal in traditional journey cakes and other baked goods. When it’s picked early and eaten like today’s sweet corn, Abenaki Rose tastes somewhat bland.
Foll also raises Maiz Morado, known as Kulli. It’s a sweeter corn with dark indigo-colored kernels. Foll says, “it may leave your mouth the shade of lavender after you eat it, but it tastes great.” Maiz Morado is a large subtropical variety that needs a 120 to 160 day growing season. Raised for years by Incan people in Peru, Foll says it contributed greatly to the rise of the ancient Incan empire. On Foll’s farm, its stalks have reached up to 15-ft. tall. The cobs can be picked young to eat like sweet corn, roast or use in other corn dishes. Mature Maiz Morado is made into flour and fabric dyes.
After harvest, Foll grades the dry corn and keeps the best seeds for replanting and to improve her seed stock. “I also give seeds to other native people who plant them in tribal gardens around the area to help save a fairly uncommon cultivar from being lost to history,” says Foll. “Anyone can organize what I’ve done. My hope is that others will replicate my project in other areas.”
Much of the food harvested from the farm goes to feed those in need in nearby communities. Seeds from the Virginia Free Farm can be purchased by visiting shop.etsy.com/virginiafreefarm.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Virginia Free Farm, 75 Green Ln. Dr., Kents Store, Va. 23084 (ph 804-591-5575; www.virginiafreefarm.org).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #2