By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 4/02/19 (Tue)
Today’s message starts out with a two-part question. How many of you are gardeners and how many of you have ordered supplies from a gardening catalog?
Most people are familiar with Gurneys, a gardening catalog that is sent to many of us from its headquarters in
There’s also a catalog that no longer exists, but I suspect a number of people either ordered from the Oscar Will catalog or remember their parents ordering from it.
From 1886 until 1959, the Oscar Will Co., in
I’m hoping to find out how many people may remember the Oscar Will catalog, or still have some?
If you do, please send an email to (firstname.lastname@example.org). I have a friend in Sykeston who is doing research on the Oscar Will catalog.
I vaguely remember my parents talking about it. It went out of circulation the year I was born in 1959, but I suspect they were talking about residual catalogs lying around.
Many of the products in that catalog dealt with varieties that were acclimated to
You can go back to the beginning, leading up to about the early ‘40s in which regional varieties were a rarity. But Oscar Will carried many of those varieties and it was a huge boost to Dakota Territory and
This guy was 50, probably 75 years ahead of his time. When he came to
He took the varieties that the
In addition, one of his Indian friends gave him a bag of beans. He continued to build the seed stock of those beans and today it is one of the top production crops in
I’m not sure what Steve Zwinger’s end goal is with his research, but wouldn’t it be a gem if we could order from the Oscar Will catalog again, or something like it?
Surely, there must be these old catalogs lying around in somebody’s basement gathering dust. If so, look at specific variety names, days to maturity and price of product.
There’s a lot of emphasis placed on those three things these days. It would be interesting to compare, or actually obtain some of the products that were featured in the Oscar Will catalog.
In fact, there is a company in
The company is called Heritage Harvest Seed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t ship to the
There’s also Frank Kutka in
When you come right down to it, there’s actually quite a push to build up heritage seed, especially with ancient grains, something the Farm Breeding Club, based in LaMoure, has been doing. You’ve probably heard of spelt, kamut, einkorn, quinoa and emmer?
I still remember my uncle Elmer Baker growing spelt in the late 1960s in
I believe both Steve and Frank would like to see their projects go to the next level. Whatever happens, Steve Zwinger and Frank Kutka are a lot like Oscar Will.
So when you go out this spring to plant your garden, take a moment to think about Oscar Will and what he did for all the gardeners of
There was nothing like it for many years, so it was a blessing this man moved here from
But because of him, today we can all try to grow the largest potato or cabbage. For some of us gardening is work, for some of us it’s pleasure. Whatever it is for you, it started with this pioneer named Oscar Will and the annual catalog he produced.