“One thing about collecting beans, each has a life in it, it’s not dead as collecting clocks, dolls, guns etc…. There is no end to the subject of beans. I was told as a boy I didn’t know beans and I find that now at nearly 85 it’s still the same.”
-Burt Berrier (circa 1978)
Burt Berrier, of Canon City, CO, collected beans because he enjoyed their stories, their diversity, and because it allowed him to meet people from all over the world.
Burt Berrier first got into bean collecting while traveling across the United States for his job as a farm machinery salesman, mechanic, and demonstrator. Bean growers would often be so impressed with his ability to use a thresher without splitting beans that they would give him beans to take home. Over his lifetime, Burt collected hundreds of bean varieties.
He became a member of SSE in 1977 and was immediately recognized as a resource for other seed savers to find bean varieties of the past. Burt only participated in the Seed Exchange for two years. In the spring of 1978, he died in his beloved bean patch of a massive heart attack.
Without Burt to steward his bean collection, it seemed as though his collection would be lost forever. Fortunately his wife, Maude, arranged for the seed collection to be sent to the USDA, as she recognized the uniqueness of what Burt had accumulated. Today, his collection lives on at Seed Savers Exchange and in the collection of the USDA.
Recently, SSE corresponded with Burt’s granddaughter Jolie Berrier and we were able to give her back a piece of her family history in the form of the ‘Canon City’ bean (pronounced “Canyon”). This bean is original to the Burt Berrier collection. It was given to SSE by John Withee, who named it after Burt Berrier’s home and the location of his bean patch. It is now back in the hands of a Berrier.