He’d lived a remarkable life, being born sometime in the 1850s when his tribe still practiced their traditional way of life as farmers and herders and dying well into his 90s (at least) in 1941. His real name was long-forgotten, lost with most of his people when they were moved to a reservation; people mostly called him John Green.

From the time his people were forcibly resettled around 1885 until his death, John Green lived a quiet life in his ramshackle government-provided reservation house, tending to his true passion: gardening. As a youth he’d been trained in the cultivation of the Three Sisters: squash, corn, and beans.

Finding himself with nothing but time on his hands, John Green set out to perfect them.

He carefully bred and nurtured new varieties of each in his garden, year after year, decade after decade. The cultivars that worked were sold out of a small booth in the nearest town every other Sunday. John Green was intensely private, but did show the occasional interested party around his garden; a notebook from a state official that visited him in 1927 is the best source for many of the varieties he created.

Ordinarily, that’s where it would have stopped; John Green, the interesting footnote in botanical history, the humble man responsible for over 45 varieties of corn, beans, and squash.

But that was before the contagion that began sweeping through the cornfields of Middle America, resulting in massive crop failures and the specter of a supply chain collapse for the first time in centuries. The only strains resistant to it?

John Green’s.

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