Dr. C. Reed Funk and Dr. Clarence Funk formally organized Improving Perennial Plants for Food and Bioenergy, Inc., (IPPFBE) on November 11, 2005, but its history extends well before that time. Reed and Clarence purchased their parents’ Richmond, Utah farm in 1964 and took over its operation following the death of their father in 1975. They created the Crow Mountain Farms partnership in 1976 and then transferred this real estate to the Springhill Ranch, LLC (SHR) in 1997, when Reed decided to experiment with the breeding of trees in the Intermountain West for improved yields, drought tolerance and cold endurance. In 2005 the land owned by SHR was leased to IPPFBE for thirty years for an annual lease payment of $1.00 per year.
Reed initiated a program for the breeding of underutilized perennial plants in 1996 at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Cook College, Rutgers University. He desired to develop population improvement programs and plant breeding methods to improve a few varieties of perennial plants for food, bioenergy, timber, soil improvement, and environmental enhancement. The direction of Reed’s very successful turfgrass breeding program was also transferred in 1996 to Dr. William Meyers, one of his former graduate students. Hundreds of superior turfgrass varieties had been developed during Reed’s leadership of this program over several decades. These improved varieties of perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescues, chewing fescues, creeping red fescues, hard fescues, blue fescues, fine fescues, creeping bent grass, poa, and poa trivialis are widely used throughout USA, Canada, Western Europe, and Eastern Asia. Many genetic improvement programs throughout the world are based on the plant breeding technologies and improved germplasm created from the Rutgers turfgrass breeding program.
The program to improve perennial plants for food and bioenergy continues to grow at Rutgers University under the capable leadership of Dr. Thomas Molnar, Reed’s last graduate student, who also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of IPPFBE.
The program to breed superior perennial plants for the Intermountain West on the SHR property in Utah was initiated in 1998 and the research is done in cooperation with the plant breeding work at Rutgers University. Both programs use the same plant-breeding methods and share the germplasm collected from Central Asia and Russia. Dr. David Zaurov has been instrumental in this collection effort. Dr. Zaurov is a native of Uzbekistan and received his plant breeding education in that country. He is fluent in Russian and several of the languages of the countries in Central Asia. He and several of the members of the board of IPPFBE have made trips to Uzbekistan, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan to obtain germplasm and collaborate with other plant breeders.
The Intermountain West has climate and soils that are similar to much of central Asia, which is the area of origin of many genetically diverse species of interest to the program. They include Persian (English) walnuts, apricots, almonds, apples, pistachios, and many range grasses and forbs. Rutgers and Utah State University have developed and continue to expand cooperative programs with institutions in central Asia of special value to the agriculture of the Intermountain Region of the USA.
Under Reed’s direction, SHR began a tree breeding research program in 1998. The program began small with a few black walnut, hazelnut, apricot and other fruit trees and increased in scope each year. Kenneth and Ramona Turner were hired as contractors in 2000 to manage the day-to-day operation of the program. Additional land in southern Idaho was leased from the J7, LLC (J7) in 2001. The J7 was created in 1997 from a farm partnership created in 1988 by Reed and Clarence with their nephew, Jeff Johnson. Jeff is the manager of J7 and farms the land. In 2004, J7 sold most of its land near Dayton, Idaho, and acquired a larger farm near Malta, Idaho. Reed retained his ownership of fifty acres of the land near Dayton, Idaho, and he contributed this property to SHR. These fifty acres of prime cropland are included in the property leased to IPPFBE.
During 2005, the final year that SHR operated the plant breeding research program in northern Utah and southeastern Idaho, 5,817 trees were planted including black walnut (2,055), Persian walnut (1,495), pecan (1,268), hickory (515), and a collection of 484 other trees (almond, apricot, Asian pear, Bur Oak, butternut, Dawn Redwood, hazelnut, heartnut, hican, oak, peach, plum, pomegranate, and prune). In the same year Reed and Clarence created a section 501.c.3 public, non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable scientific research organization that would ensure the continuation of the tree breeding research program begun by SHR. Improving Perennial Plants for Food and Bioenergy, Inc., (IPPFBE) was formally organized on November 11, 2005. The original directors of IPPFBE were Dr. Reed Funk, Dr. Clarence Funk, Carol Petersen, Tim Ford, and Dr. Tom Molnar. The directors elected Reed Funk as the President, Tim Ford as Vice President, Clarence Funk as Secretary/Treasurer, Tom Molnar as Chairman of the Research Committee, Carol Petersen as Chairman of the Audit Committee. All board members serve on a voluntary basis. Tim Ford has since become the President and Director of Plant Breeding. Carol Petersen now serves as the Vice President. Jeff Johnson was added as the sixth director in October 2007 and serves as the Agricultural Advisor to IPPFBE operations. Reed Funk continues to serve as the Chairman of the Board.
In addition to the 320 acres of land in Utah and the fifty acres of land in Idaho that IPPFBE leases from SHR, IPPFBE also leases 10 acres in Richmond, Utah, owned by David and Tamara Funk, 35 acres in Thatcher, Utah, owned by Brian and Carol Petersen, five acres from J7 in Malta, Idaho, and two one-acre parcels in Richmond, Utah, owned by Ken and Ramona Turner and by Reed and Donna Funk, respectively. Ken and Ramona also lease the greenhouse and shade house located on their property to IPPFBE.
President Tim Ford has been associated with Reed in plant breeding research projects for many years and is a professional plant breeder who lives in Hyde Park, Utah. Tim is listed as a co-inventor with Reed on the plant breeding protection certificates for "Masterpiece" tall fescue, "Picasso" tall fescue, and "Rembrandt" tall fescue. Tim and Reed are also the co-authors of plant registration articles published in Crop Science for "Affinity" perennial ryegrass, "Picasso" tall fescue, "Masterpiece" tall fescue, "Exacta" perennial ryegrass, "Oxford" hard fescue, "Pathfinder" strong creeping red fescue, "Affirmed" perennial ryegrass, "Rembrandt" tall fescue, "Champagne" Kentucky bluegrass, "Secretariat" perennial ryegrass, "Cabernet" Kentucky bluegrass, "Churchill" perennial ryegrass.
Chairman of the Research Committee Tom Molnar received his PhD degree from Rutgers University and became an assistant professor in 2008 after being associated with Reed in plant breeding research for many years. Tom is continuing the tree breeding research program initiated by Reed at Rutgers University. Tom is listed as a co-inventor with Reed on the plant breeding protection certificate for "Jefferson" Kentucky bluegrass. Tom and Reed are also the co-authors of plant registration articles published in Crop Science for "Jefferson" Kentucky bluegrass, "Secretariat" perennial ryegrass, and "Lakeshore" Kentucky bluegrass. Tom is also listed with Reed in the publication of several important technical papers.
All the board members are involved because they share a commitment to developing superior trees and perennial plants which will provide better food and shelter and employment and energy for all the world.