THE BOTANICAL EXPLORER
Biology was probably my first curriculum, one of my earliest “lessons in biology” that I remember was a phrase that my mother taught me. I was running around at 3 years of age re-iterating “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”. Many years would go by before I comprehended the meaning of that expression, yet in a whimsical way it introduces how I became who I am. My mother’s dedication to teaching her first son introduced me to a world that was—and is—still mesmerizing. From my earliest childhood I remember chasing insects, looking at flowers and playing with seeds. The autonomous dynamism of an inert object transforming itself into green life so enthralled me that I would incessantly unearth seeds just to follow their progress. When I was four years old, I was traumatized to discover that the white rice that I had planted in a cake pan full of mud, rotted instead of grew!
From there onwards, plants never lost their influence over me. For my seventh birthday party I adamantly requested squash as presents instead of a G.I. Joe. I learned of squash thanks to my father. He had several old-timers as friends, older gentleman who were former miners, woodsmen and even trappers. One of these guys was named Orville, he lived in an old cabin along side Fountain Creek in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I remember, while joining my father to visit Orville and his cats, seeing in the entry way a pile of squash. I got a couple of them from Orville, (who by the way used his cat litter as fertilizer) and needed more, that is how my birthday wish was formed.
By the time I was 12, I had already become an orchid collector, begonia collector, vegetable gardener and even an African violet specialist. My fodder for research in those days was “The Golden Guides” nature series, edited by Herbert H. Zim. I always liked the name Herbert H. Zim, it went well with other characters of my childhood… like Dr. Seuss. I thought Zim must have been an amazing man. The books he “wrote” were so wonderful. The field guide series included such titles as Fish, Non-Flowering Plants, Orchids, Butterflies and Moths, Cacti, Exotic Plants, Fossils, and more.
I had them all. I put to memory the scientific names of all the orchids and plants and had childhood fantasies of being a famous botanist, “Dr. Orchid”.
Botany and plants never left me as I went through high school.
I continued to study and think about plants but I never imagined that I needed to study something like that in school. When I went to college, I chose to study things that were outside my sphere
of ease. I chose mathematics and philosophy. Why? To challenge myself to think… I hated math, and philosophy came a
I graduated from university, traveled the world and had a family. I returned full circle to the pursuit of plants when a dear friend and great mentor; Steve Brack suggested that I could also make a living with my passion. Steve encouraged
me to combine my yearning to travel and discover, with my love of plants to make a new career collecting seeds. Because
of him, it was not long before seed collecting became a way
of supporting us, our travel, and discovery.
My brother Patrick joined us in mid-2006, he became my right hand man, and was a quick apprentice. We traveled the globe.
We studied. Between Alicia, Patrick and myself there were not too many teams that could have accomplished the acquisitions that
we did in such a compressed time frame. In less than 10 years we logged several million miles together. I now have decades worth
of field experience which is absolutely the best way to learn. I am ready to share my knowledge with the world. This is only the beginning…
—Joseph Simcox, The Botanical Explorer
EXCERPTED FROM PERMACULTURE VOICES PV2
Joseph Simcox is a World Food Plant Ecologist and Ethnobotanist. As a Botanical Explorer he travels the globe to identify the world’s food plant resources focusing on under-utilized crops and wild species. The basis of his work is to promote the use and cultivation of plants for food and useful components. The harmonious balance between modern man’s infrastructures and nature is necessary if man is to continue to prosper on the planet. His goal is to ensure food security and nutrition for all while developing food systems that mimic nature. Joseph asserts that the identification of wild food plants and their appropriate habitats is the first step to creating sustainable ecosystems.
The improvement of these suitable plants should be one of the world’s foremost civic agendas. Science is often viewed as the sole source of inspiration in our present day psyche, but Joseph argues that much of the greatest inspiration will come when we re-examine the life ways of peoples past. “When we “know” as a society rather than as “experts” what nature offers us all will have the keys to live better, healthier and more rewarding lives. Many of the causes of poverty in today’s world are overlooked because few categorize non-economic indicators of impoverishment. Losing traditional ways, is often looked upon as advancement by the people who are trying to “advance” but in the process they ironically become even more poor. We are like those people, but we lost our ways a long-long time ago, its time to rediscover what we lost!”
Joseph is an international speaker presenting at diverse conferences and symposiums around the world and introducing new perspectives on food resources, food production and the environment. He collaborates with independent growers, industry, universities, governments and non-government organizations in this worldwide effort. He has visited more than 100 countries to date for his field experience.