Dream of Wild Health Indigenous Corn Propagation Program

2006 Annual Report for FNC05-569

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:

Dream of Wild Health Indigenous Corn Propagation Program


Dream of Wild Health will explore the process and cost of growing and protecting the integrity of indigenous heirloom food crops. Specifically, we will regenerate 10 varieties of near-extinct indigenous corn in order to serve the rural American Indian communities in our area.

Peta Wakan Tipi, a 20 year old nonprofit organization, operates the Dream of Wild Health farm in Hugo, Minnesota. The Dream of Wild Health is an American Indian agricultural education program. We have a rare collection of 400 indigenous heirloom seeds gifted to us by elders, reservations, and seed savers around the Upper Midwest. Our purpose for this project is to explore the process and cost of growing and protecting the integrity of indigenous heirloom food crops. Specifically, we will regenerate up to 10 varieties of near-extinct indigenous corn in order to serve the rural American Indian communities in our area.

In April of 2006, after meeting with a variety of community members, we selected 9 varieties of indigenous corn seed to propagate based on seed availability, viability and community needs. Working with CURA at the University of Minnesota and Dr. Albert (Bud) Markhart of the U of M Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition & Department of Horticulture, we entrusted our seeds to their laboratory environment as the DWH greenhouse was not yet ready at that point.

Table 1: Seed variety, number of seeds provided and percent germination of each lot.
Variety, Number of Seed, Percent germination

Chip Amber, 34, 44%
Mandan Red Clay, 8, 50%

Mandan Blue, 18, 22%
Bear Island, 55, 50%
Cherokee Flour, 19, 10%
Lenape Blue, 4, 50%
Quapaw Red, 10, 40%
Red Lake Hominy, 61, 5%
Cree Corn, 62, 2%

In May of 2006 Karin Kettering photographed the supplied seed and imbibed a portion of each variety along with a control organic sweet corn from Seed Savers Inc. Imbibed seeds were planted in 5 gallon pots containing Sunshine Professional Growing Mix. Pots were placed in an isolated greenhouse section in the Plant Growth Facilities at the University of Minnesota. Plants were grown at 30 C day, 25 C night temperatures with supplementary light provided by HID lights for 16 hours per 24 hour period. Germination was variable, but we were able to establish at least 2 plants for each variety (Table 1).

At the end of May 2006 Karin left to take a full time job in Washington DC.

On June 8, Dr. Albert (Bud) Markhart imbibed and planted most of the remaining seed in flats and allowed them to germinate under mist. When plants were 7 days old, they were planted at one of two field sites. Site one was the Student Organic Farm on the St Paul Campus. Site two was May Farm CSA at the Wilder Forest in May Township. These sites were selected because they both follow organic practices.

Greenhouse Grown Plants: Between July 17 and August 20 plants were hand pollinated. Individual cobs were trimmed and bagged; pollen was collected from several plants, combined, and used to pollinate silks that had emerged overnight. Plants were watered and fertilized with dilute a high calcium fertilizer daily. Plants were taken to maturity and cobs harvested when plants turned brown and cobs drooped. Cobs were taken into the lab, allowed to dry till seed was easily removed from the cob. At this writing only Red Lake Hominy needs to dry longer before seed removal is optimal.

Field Grown Plants: Transplanting the young seedlings into the field was very successful. 95% of the transplanted plants survived. Unfortunately, about 5 weeks after transplanting 8 days of very high temperatures significantly affected plant growth. The major problem was that the plants produced pollen before the silks were ready. It was therefore not possible to pollinate silks with pollen from the same variety. Only one small cob of Mandan Red was produced from the field experiment. Plants were planted later than was optimal. We do not anticipate a similar problem if seeds planted earlier next year.

Yields: On September 28, cobs were photographed; seeds were removed from the cobs by hand and placed in paper bags. A sample of 10 seeds was randomly selected and weighed. The total seed yield was then weighed and an approximate harvested seed number was calculated by dividing the total weight by the weight for ten seed and then multiplying by 10. The percent seed increase was then calculated by dividing the approximate number of seed by the number of seeds supplied and multiplying by 100 (Table 2). [For a copy of Table 2, contact NCR-SARE at: [email protected] or 1-800-529-1342.]

Table 2: Peta Wakan Tipi Indigenous Corn Seed Increase

Variety Seeds Supplied, Harvested dry Weight (Grams), Weight per 10 seed (Grams), Approximate Harvested Seed, Percent Seed Increase

Chip Amber, 34, 503.8, 2.15, 2343, 6892
Mandan Red Clay, 8, 92.15, 2.2, 429, 5358
Mandan Blue, 18, 43.2, 2.8, 201, 1116
Bear Island, 55, 237.3 , 2.1, 1104, 2007
Cherokee Flour, 19, 118.2, 4.5, 550, 2894
Lenape Blue Flour, 4, 139.5, 3, 649, 16221
Quapaw Red, 10, 97.4, 2.6, 453, 4530
Red Lake Hominy, 61, 150, 4.3, 698, 1144
Cree Corn, 62, , , 10, 16

Significant seed increase was achieved for all varieties except the Cree Corn. Although the Cree Corn was reported to have been grown in 2002, we had only 2% germination. This germination rate yielded only 2 plants in the greenhouse and the one harvested cob had only 10 seeds. Despite our best efforts the Mandan Blue had one ear that was contaminated with another pollen. The blue seed was separated from the yellow, only the true blue seed is provided. Overall, the seed from all varieties looks good and we anticipate it should grow well next year.

Seed should be stored in a cool (4 to 8 degrees C) dry place over the winter and planted according to best practices in the Spring/Summer of 2007.



1. Planting/production of seed stock
from greenhouse propagation on
DWH farm;
DWH staff, interns;
June 2007

2. Hand pollinate corn; DWH staff, interns;
July 2007

3. Harvest and dry corn. Distribute to
community, and save corn for future
growing seasons at DWH;
DWH staff and interns;
Aug.- Nov. 2007

4. Utilize a portion of corn produced for
cooking traditional foods like hominy;
DWH staff and Urban
Am. Ind. Women’s Group;
Winter 2007

5. Write, print, distribute DWH newsletter &
share documentation of process w/ sponsors;
DWH staff;
Dec. 2007

In the Dream of Wild Health educational program, 60 urban American Indian young people received information on and demonstration of the propagation and hand pollination process.

There were weekly field trips to the farm from several organizations including the Saint Paul American Indian Magnet School, Ain Dah Yung shelter for American Indian youth, American Indian Family Services whose participants (some 90 youngsters) all witnessed these demonstrations.

The DWH Women’s Group (17), volunteers (12), the Celestial Bodies from the College of St. Catherines ( 9), and over 250 community members attending 4 feasts at DWH all became familiar with this project.

We produced 1,500 of the DWH newsletter to distribute with an article and photos about our project. In addition, staff spoke at 8 conferences in 2006 about this project and other work of Dream of Wild Health before hundreds of conference participants from the U.S. and Canada. We will send copy under separate cover.