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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Seed Buying

One of the big events in winter for us farmers is the seed order. Since we garden on acres this is a far larger undertaking than when we did home gardens. Ordering has happens much earlier for us growing commercially than for home gardeners. In fact we get our commercial catalogs about 3 weeks earlier than the home gardener catalogs (we know this because several of the companies we use have both). So in mid December we get our first catalogs-Johnny's and Fedco Followed by Seed Savers Exchange. A those are the 3 main companies we use for our seed supply.

There are a whole lot of companies we will not use due to the fact they source most of their seeds from companies owned by Monsanto (Peto and Semenis seeds). Jung's is one of them. Okay, another big reason we will never ever buy from Jung's Seeds ever again is they have sent us a lot of horrible plants and seeds. The rhubarb we got from there all died within 12 months, 95% died within 3 months. Than there were the trees they sent us last year that should have come in March or early April but cam in mid June and all but 1 were dead. We also do not like the policy of no refunds, store credit only. And they have bought up a lot of smaller companies (that people think are still independents) such as Totally Tomato
Vermont Bean Seed Co., Burpee, Cook's Garden, Earl May Seeds, Gardens Alive (not really a seed place they are more into fertilizers, pest control, etc.. and used to be a really good place to buy organic inputs), Lindenberg Seeds, Mountain Valley Seeds, Park Seeds, T&T Seeds, Tomato Grower's Supply, Willhite Seed Co., Nichol's, Rupp, Osborne, Snow, Stokes, R.H. Shumway, The Vermont Bean Seed Co., Seeds For The World, Seymour's Selected Seeds, HPS, Roots and Rhizomes, McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers, Spring Hill Nurseries, Breck's Bulbs,
Audubon Workshop, Flowers of the Month Club, Wayside Gardens, Park Bulb's and Park's Countryside Garde.

I also have quit buying seed from Baker Creek because they have send too many wrong or poorly bred seed. This is a shame because I really like Baker Creek. they are independently owned, they do not sell any GMO seed nor source with companies that do. All things that are important to me. but the seed quality for the most part sucks and in my market garden I have to have good to great seed quality and the seed should match up with what it says on the packet. I would say with Baker Creek, 3 out of 5 times there have been mistakes on their part.

Now savvier readers will note I order from Johnny's Selected Seeds and that Johnny's does indeed source some seeds from Semenis/Peto Seeds (though I hear rumors saying they have stopped or will stop buying from these corporations). The reason I make this exception for Johnny's is because I have been a happy customer for over 15 years, the seeds are top flight. There are very few mistakes made and when they happen they always make good, often within hours. they are an employee owned independent seed house with inhouse seed breeding program that is second to none. They are an official AAS trial site because of their location and great breeding program and they have one of the best seed catalogs in the world. And they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge (This link has a list of all the seed houses that have signed this pledge in 2009).

Around Christmas time we get the first catalogs (Johnny's first than Fedco a week later and finally SSE) and we start looking through them and also looking at the list of seed needs I complied last year as we used up the seeds (this is something that I had not done before 2009-or if I did I lost the list before seed ordering time. This saved a lot of time and made the order far more accurate than in the past). this year Eugene did the order and I was the one who got to put the orders on the order blanks, check to make sure we got everything (we never do and this year has been no exception. IIRC we still need a few tomato types) and than the order is calculated, checks are written and than everything is put into the correct envelopes, stamped and sent out.

This year Johnny's got $193, Fedco $207 and SSE $17.50. I know we still have to order strawberry plants which will be another $75 or so. And there will likely be other orders for seeds due to various reasons. And believe it or not this is a relatively small seed order for us. Many years we spend over $600 on seed alone (and several thousand on other inputs and equipment).

After the orders are dropped into the mail box at the Post Office we go home and sit around and await the incoming orders.

As per usual, Johnny's was the first to send us our order. About a 10 days ago the UPS guy delivered a box full of seeds and we were happy. We took the box inside and went through the seeds and found 3 kinds on back order. But within 3 days those seeds had also arrived at the post office. After the Johnny's order came the Seed Saver's order of heirloom tomatoes arrived. And yesterday we picked up the Fedco order at the post office. Or at least the majority, as many things are on back order and one thing was out of stock Even'star American Rapa which seems to be something for spring mixes so not a big deal that there is none. Besides I contacted Fedco and asked if they could send Hamburg Parsley instead of a refund and they said certainly (because they are flexible like that). one thing i am very happy about is the fact our onion seed arrived yesterday. You see CR Lawn, Fedco's founder always includes a newsletter with the order and he wrote that 6 varieties of onions have been on back order but during his writing 3 types arrived at their wearhouse and thus Fedco was able to fill some of their onion orders, including ours. This is important because onions (and leeks and shallots) really need to be started by Feb 1st for best results. It really sucks to see the term "Back Order" next to the seeds you need early as possible (and it is even worse when there is a note stating those seeds will not be available for 2 to 3 months and you already know there are none to be had anywhere because you already checked out 15 different companies for the variety-this happened to about 10 years ago mainly because we were not ordering our seed early enough, so we got smart and got into the habit of ordering early in the year).

Now that we have our seeds let the planting begin! And it will today with onions, leeks and shallots (and maybe kale and lettuces too).


Nicole said...

I'm shocked at the totals of your seed orders. We only grow on an acre and our seeds and plants allotment is usually around $3000.00, mainly ordering from the same three places as you! Do you grow potatoes? That order alone for us is at least a few hundred.

Lucy said...

We save a lot of seed, including seed garlic and seed potatoes. generally we will get around 150 pounds of potatoes (red and white-we save our own fingerlings and other specialty taters)every year but at $50 to $60 a bag that is still under $200. If we had to buy the 200 or so pounds of specialty taters we plant than we would spend another $500 or more (and some years we do have to replace that supply, usually due to the seed taters not making it through winter).

I figure growing our own garlic for seed saves us another $250+ annually as we plant thousands of cloves and we get better plants from our own stock than using stock grown elsewhere.

AndreaD said...

So far my Baker Creek orders have been ok and their seed has done well for me. Their catalog is nice, but I think they exaggerate their descriptions and they start running together for me.

I did not know that information about Jung's and am glad I do. I was going to place a nice order with Park's but not now I don't think.

I do like Fedco and have organized a fundraiser at my son's school with their seeds, which I am very excited about.

Thanks for your imformative post!

DennisP said...

Many thanks for this posting. We have a Jung's store in town and have bought seeds from them in the past. I've had no problem with their seeds but did not know about them sourcing their seeds from the Monsanto companies. I do not want GM seeds, so we will avoid them from here on. You performed a nice public service. Thanks!