Last week, the agriculture community and food lovers everywhere lost one one of the most influential plant scientists in the modern era. Dr. Calvin Lamborn, eminent plant breeder and the inventor of the sugar snap pea, passed away on August 19, 2017 at the age of 83.
Dr. Calvin Lamborn began his career as a botanist while working in the forestry service, after which he was hired by the Gallatin Seed Company in Twin Falls, Idaho. In 1969, While studying a way to grow pea pods straighter, he followed a hunch and crossed a snow pea with a mutated pea pod that had thick walls. The resulting, sweet tasting cross would eventually, after ten years of further development, become the sugar snap pea that we know and love today.
At age 63, Dr. Lamborn left Gallatin and founded the Magic Seed Company, where he began growing and developing his own unique crosses of sugar snap and snow peas. His work produced fantastical new varieties with more color, shape, flavor, resistance to disease and overall hardiness than any other pea out there. Until the last few months of his life Dr. Lamborn was out and active in his test fields every day, painstakingly transferring pollen from one plant to another and nurturing his crosses, always finding ways to innovate and improve his product.
His peas have been used by top chefs like Jean-George Vongerichten of Jean-George, Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 and Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, and are beloved by farmers, including Rick Bishop of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm in New York. His seeds are also available to home gardeners through his website eatmorepeas.com. His son, Rod Lamborn, a gifted cinematographer based in New York City, has worked hard over the past few years to bring more attention to the peas his father created, and make his peas more accessible to consumers.
Fans of his from afar, we had the sincere pleasure to meet with Dr. Lamborn (we knew him as Calvin) last year at the Union Square Greenmarket. Surrounded by adoring farmers, restaurateurs, food lovers and chefs who came by to pay their respects, the impact of his work on our food and agriculture system, and the need for the plant scientists and breeders of the future to follow in his footsteps was made clear.
Dr. Calvin Lamborn was a giant of agriculture, and we will miss him. In a field, Dr. Lamborn’s peas were instantly recognizable for their sun-catching shine- a trait bred specifically to them and known as one of Dr. Lamborn’s trademarks. Like them, his legacy will live on, shining brightly, a testament to the lifetime of hard work, commitment and love required to grow one humble, little pea.
Liz & Shelley