Header photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange
Today’s post comes from Jim Tjepkema
Robert Lobitz passed away before I got a chance to meet him in person. I knew about him from seeing his seed listings in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and from exchanging seeds with him by mail. He didn’t come to any of meetings of seed savers that I attended and apparently stayed close to his home near Paynesville, MN.
As a member of SSE, Robert exchanged seeds with other SSE members. He also obtained samples of seeds from Federal seed collections which he grew in variety trials to learn about their characteristics. In one of those trials he discovered a pea that had yellow pods and shared seed from that pea with other seed savers. Several seed companies are now offering this pea for sale under the name, Golden Sweet, which is the name given to it by Robert.
Red Swan snap bean, developed by Robert, is also available in commercial seed catalogs. This bean is a product of Robert’s work on creating new bean varieties. Snap beans and some other beans are self-pollinating. However, bees will sometimes carry pollen from one variety to another by getting into the bean flowers before they have self-pollinated. Robert looked for beans produced from flowers cross-pollinated by bees and saved these seeds to serve as starting points for his work on developing new varieties.
All of Robert’s work with seeds was done in his own gardens as a hobby. Peas and beans were not the only vegetable seeds that he collected and studied. He also collected many kinds of potatoes and soybeans. Among the members of SSE he stood out as one the best seed savers sharing hundreds of kinds of rare seeds from his collection with other seed savers.
For me, Robert was an outstanding example of how a person who is not a paid professional can make significant contributions in a field where most of the workers are highly trained specialists.
In what area are you a significantly talented amateur?