Leah Gauthier is an intermedia and relational artist who lives and works in Brunswick Maine. Her work explores food–growing, eating, cooking, preserving, scent and memory, food as sculptural material, history of food and agriculture, revival and protection of endangered food plants, urban agriculture, sustainable and transitional growing, food as cultural identity and as an agent of social change. She is sharing the Marshall to make sure this rare and delicious strawberry is available for future generations to enjoy, and help ensure a diverse and healthy food supply for us all.
The Marshall strawberry, once deemed by James Beard, the Father of American gastronomy, as the tastiest berry ever, was discovered by Marshall F. Ewell of Marshfield, Massachusetts in 1880, and introduced in 1883. It was then widely grown in Washington, Oregon and California until the 1960s when it was phased out, due to its modest production, delicacy and and therefore incompatibility with modern industrialized agricultural practices. By 2007, the last remaining plants existed as a single clone at the USDA’s Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.
The Marshall produces juicy delicate berries meant to be enjoyed as soon as they ripen. They don’t travel well, so the only way to enjoy them is locally!
In 2006, while in graduate school in Boston, Leah requested some runners from the scientists at Corvallis. Since she was growing them for food not for research, and also returning them to their native east coast, they generously and enthusiastically FedExed her several baby Marshalls, and it was love at first sight. Three plants took from those first runners, and since then they have traveled with Leah to New York City, Bloomington, Indiana and Brunswick, Maine. Now hundreds are healthy, happy and making more!
Reviving something delicate and precious from near extinction take a village. Right now, besides the U.S.D.A. Germplasm Respository in Corvallis, Oregon, Leah is the only certified distributor of Marshalls. Her mission is to help create a community and network of growers, farmers, backyard gardeners, and urban agriculture enthusiasists across the country, so plants will rise in numbers and Marshall Strawberries can become available locally for everyone. She is working on plans for a rare herb and berry farm in Mid Coast Maine where she lives to serve as the permanent home for Marshalls.