Seed Sources

Bill Shoemaker wshoemak at
Mon Oct 30 11:20:13 EST 2000

>Does anyone know of sources of seed that are less expensive than Johnny's?
>The farm where I work uses a large quantity of seed of herbs and vegetables
>steadily as the year goes on, not just in the spring. We have checked
>but they have a limited time when their seed is available.  Are there any
>other possibilities?  We are also interested in organic seed.
>Becky French
>Lanham, MD

    The business end of market farming always involves juggling expenses and
looking for ways to avoid overspending. However, I really believe cost of
seed isn't something you can examine by itself. You really need to be
concerned about whether it is fresh. Seeds are living and respiring. As they
respire they lose energy. That energy can make a huge difference when it
gets planted. The soil environment can make a short life out of weak seed.

    Let me suggest a simple experiment. Take a fresh batch of leftover seed
next Spring and split it into two packages. Put one in the freezer and put
the other on a warm shelf where it will stay dry and free from direct
sunlight. Label them with seed batch information and the date. Let them sit
until the following Spring. Plant them side-by-side. You'll almost always
see better performance in the seed from the freezer (which virtually shuts
down respiration). And seeing is believing. You'll see how respiration over
a year can degrade seed strength. Smaller seeds, like broccoli or carrots
will demonstrate this better than larger seeds like beans or pumpkins
because they have fewer energy reserves than the larger ones.  Seed to Seed
is a good book for understanding quality in seed.

    When you consider the cost of seed and it's related ability to get the
crop up and going and healthy, investing in high quality seed is worth the
extra cost because it can make a considerable difference in your harvest,
more than making up for the extra expense.

    That being said, there are many good seed sources out there, some
already mentioned. Personally, I believe Johnny's works as hard as anyone to
make sure their customers get their money's worth. And I've worked with
product from just about every seed source imaginable.

Bill Shoemaker
Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
Univ of Illinois - St Charles Hort Research Center

More information about the Market-farming mailing list