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This rare, vibrant heirloom corn is the work of a Dust Bowl farmer with Carolina Cherokee roots

Glass Gem is a beautiful and rare variety of heirloom corn (sometimes called- calico, flint, or Indian corn) that looks like candy, or maybe beads .

It was developed by Oklahoma farmer and breeder Carl ‘White Eagle’ Barnes and was originally only given to tribal members. Barnes, who passed in 2016, was half-Cherokee, half-Irish-Scotch and was a native keeper of seeds.


As a youth, Carl began to seek out his Cherokee roots, and to explore the knowledge of his ancestors and of Native American traditions in general. Much of this quest centered on the ceremonies surrounding planting, harvest, and honoring of the seeds…

In the course of growing some of the older corn varieties still being farmed at that time, Carl began noticing ancestral types re-appearing in his crops As he isolated these, he found that many of them matched up with traditional corns that had been lost to various Native tribes, particularly those peoples who had been relocated to what is now Oklahoma during the 1800’s. Thus he was able to re-introduce specific corn types to the elders of those tribes, and this helped their people in reclaiming their cultural and spiritual identities. Their corn was, to them, literally the same as their blood line, their language, their identity.

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