George M. Darrow

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George McMillan Darrow (1889-1983) was known as the foremost American authority on strawberries. He worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) for forty-six years (1911-1957) as a pomologist and small fruits breeder.

Life and career[edit]

Darrow was born on a dairy farm in Springfield, Vermont on February 2, 1889. He graduated from Middlebury College with a BA in 1910 and from Cornell University with an MA in horticulture in 1911. In his career with the USDA-ARS from 1911-1957 he authored over 230 published works. While the bulk of his career was spent in Maryland (Glenn Dale and later Beltsville), in the late 1920s-early 1930s he initiated the small fruit breeding programs in Oregon for the USDA. While he is predominantly known for his strawberry breeding, he had an impact on all small fruit crops including, blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry as well as with his personal passion for daylilies. In the late 1920s, Darrow began tracking down reports of a large, reddish-purple berry that had been grown on the northern California farm of a man named Rudolph Boysen.[1] Darrow enlisted the help of Walter Knott, a Southern California farmer who was known as a berry expert. Knott had never heard of the new berry, but he agreed to help Darrow in his search.

Darrow and Knott learned that Boysen had abandoned his growing experiments several years earlier and sold his farm. Undaunted by this news, Darrow and Knott headed out to Boysen's old farm, on which they found several frail vines surviving in a field choked with weeds. They transplanted the vines to Knott's farm in Buena Park, California, where he nurtured them back to fruit-bearing health. Walter Knott was the first to commercially cultivate the berry in southern California.[1] He began selling the berries at his farm stand in 1932 and soon noticed that people kept returning to buy the large, tasty berries. When asked what they were called, Knott said, "Boysenberries," after their originator.[2] His family's small restaurant and pie business eventually grew into Knott's Berry Farm. As the berry's popularity grew, Mrs. Knott began making preserves, which ultimately made Knott's Berry Farm famous.

In 1956-1957 he surveyed the native strawberries of Chile and collected germplasm in Andean South America. After he retired in 1957 he co-wrote his classic book "The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology" which was published in 1966. The three chapters on strawberry history were written by D. Vivian Lee. It is available online via the National Agricultural Library.[3] He died in 1983 in Maryland.


  1. ^ a b "Oregon Boysenberries". Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  2. ^ "Knott's Berry Farm's History". Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  3. ^ Darrow, George M. (1966). "The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology." National Agricultural Library. Retrieved December 5, 2012.

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