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Why do we grow seeds? - Hayley

Updated: Feb 26, 2022

Why did we start a seed company?

Basically, Jack and I were looking to have a project to bring us together. We were both farming in different places and wanted to share some of that life with each other.

The project could have been anything, why seeds and farming?

Farming has always felt “right” to me since my first season on a research farm in Colorado. Which I guess ties into my answer for “why seeds”. I’ve never been a successful capitalist. Despite the joy I was able to find in production farming and selling food, the production-oriented lifestyle has never fit right on my shoulders. If I could run a seed company that offered 5 varieties a year, with new varieties every year, that would be the dream. Research farming at both universities and commercial seed companies gave me a taste of farming for pure curiosity and excitement. It’s been hard to leave that approach, and growing seeds allows me to keep some of that mindset. Fortunately for me, I have a partner who can share my perspective while keeping some business sense about him.

All of that said, we discussed starting a hot cocoa drive-thru stand too, but the seasonality of demand seemed like a challenge we wouldn’t be able to overcome.

I first moved to Oregon to work at Horton Road Organics. Here you can see me laughing and probably not picking beans fast enough.

If it is about fun and curiosity, why run a business at all?

Well, it’s a good question. A little background might help… I’ve been working with and for plant breeders for the better part of the past decade. I have two degrees (almost!) to my name in that field, and a mountain of information that is gradually growing in my brain. To waste the technical training that I’ve been given by so many generous, brilliant people would seem unethical… Nearly as unethical as working for any corporation that believes that their right to lock up plant germplasm (wild species, special varieties, etc.) with intellectual property laws supersedes the inherent human right to do what we damn well please with whatever seeds happen to end up in our palms and pockets. These viewpoints don’t leave me with a lot of options, so I figured my best bet would be to start out by subsidizing the fairly high costs of plant breeding with a garden seed company.

Why should anyone support my selfish plant breeding dreams?

Because the perfect tomato is just around the corner.

Also, the “job” of plant breeder has been around for millennia (check out this Assyrian bas-relief of a god-like human doing some hand pollinations on date palms in ~850 BC here ). For thousands of years breeding work was practiced alongside farming (really in the same field), but in the modern era of uniformity and consolidation in every sector of the food system, the work of plant breeding has been relinquished to the companies that can afford to pull land out of food production and put it into plant breeding or research.

You won't find Navajo Robin's Egg dry corn in any store. We steward (but don't sell) this stunning variety.

I have enough friends and colleagues who work for these big seed companies to recognize the value of what they provide. Without them, the higher yields and greater efficiency that allowed so many of us to leave a life of farming to pursue other dreams (like architecture, literature, engineering, and science) may never have been realized. Every time you pick up a book or watch a movie, you’re benefitting from the fact that we don’t all have to grow food to survive. But these seed companies are competing in an international market, where seizing the intellectual property rights to a crop is in their best interest for business and cash flow.

Pumpkin pie that was made with green squash
Another oddity that you won't find at the grocery store: Green fleshed winter squash! We hope to have seed to share with you soon.

So, while I don’t condemn the existence of the seed corporations, I believe it is in the (contradictory) best interest of humanity to temper those industrial actions with a grassroots approach to preserving biodiversity and plant genetic resources for the masses.

If that makes sense to you, maybe you’ll buy some of our seeds. If you don’t really care about all this and you just want to grow an epic veggie garden, that is totally good too.

Stay tuned for Jack’s perspective, coming up next!

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