For our episode this month, we spoke with Ken Asmus, the founder of Oikos Nursery.  From 1982 till earlier this year, Oikos was one of the most important sources of rare fruit trees and other non-commercial perennial food plants.  Ken recently retired from the nursery business in order to better pursue his research into food-bearing plants for an era of climate change, as well as to contribute to large-scale public orchards and other biological reserves.

We asked Ken to go in depth on the origins of Oikos and his plant development approach, which stresses enriching plant populations rather than breeding specific, named cultivars.  He explains the importance of the Tree Crops vision to his work, the role of indigenous knowledge in understanding the range of acorn uses, and the contributions of grassroots plant breeders like Miguel Marquez in starting him on his journey towards developing easily-edible oaks.  Most importantly, Ken discusses how others can take up his work, contributing to a decentralized process of perennial crop development.

Sarah Mason’s ethnographic work on indigenous and traditional practices for oak and acorn use can be found here.

The book they refer to, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture, can be found here.