Seedsmen on Ferry-Morse Sale

“It’s disappointing to lose our older seed houses,” said Jere Gettle, Founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Gettle’s comment echoes the sentiment of many learning about the layoff of 200 people and the eventual closing of the Ferry-Morse seed operations in Kentucky and other locations.  Like Gettle, there’s even deeper concern among passionate growers with an understanding of the importance of diversity in our seed sources.

Ferry-Morse was recently purchased by Seed Holdings; a company that appears to have ties with Plantation Products – a firm with a history of buying up small companies.  And yes, there are companies – other than Monsanto – that do seedy things that aren’t so great for the industry.

Gettle said the purchase and closing was part of the larger trend of corporations and investment companies buying up older seed companies.

Barbara Melera, owner of D. Landreth Heirloom Seed Company, agreed.

“My guess is its part of an consolidation strategy.  Investment companies will buy up several small companies, consolidate them, make them into one huge company which can dominate a certain market, then flip it, “ said Melera.

She says the problem with this is that the investors don’t know anything about horticulture and make stupid mistakes along the way.

“Investors see these companies as investments.  They don’t have any real passion for seeds,” says Gettle, “ They don’t see it as a way of life.”

The layoffs have the small town Fulton, KY, home to part of the Ferry-Morse operation, concerned for its economic future.  An additional numbers of people were dismissed in Fremont, IN.  No one could be reached at Ferry-Morse for confirmation.

“Horticulture is something that you really have to understand.  It takes training,” says Melera, “It’s irresponsible, as a business, to lay off that many people who have experience and knowledge.  It’s not only irresponsible in a time when jobs are at a premium, it’s unpatriotic.”

It’s also unpatriotic to further reduce the sources of seed.  We need a widely diverse seed stock, that’s clean, and we need to preserve heirloom varieties for food security.  See my take on history and food diversity.

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About the Author

Laura Mathews

Laura is a garden writer and photographer. She writes online content for gardening websites, writes for gardening publications and blogs for three gardening blogs. Her interests are local food, organic gardening, backyard homesteading and native plants. She assists gardening related clients with social media. And occasionally, she'll offer a solicited opinion as a garden coach.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for this good piece on this bad news – AND: could you please, please correct your sexist language? “Seedsmen,” really?

    # Posted on June 3, 2012 at 8:08 am by Milkweed
  2. I will be buying my seeds from small independent seed companies such as the 2 mentioned in this article. It is important to maintain this quality for our food supply!

    # Posted on June 3, 2012 at 11:43 am by Geni
  3. Jere should look at this as opportunity. Someone is going to eff up a great name like Ferry-Morse, which is burned into the minds of generations of backyard gardeners. And there to fill the gap is Jere Gettle and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. For every company that falls into a gaping hole (Ferry-Morse), a shining light emerges (Jere). We’re still in good hands.

    # Posted on June 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm by Bill Bird
  4. Hi! Glad you thought much of the article was ok! Thanks. Hey, I checked with a good friend who is a cattleman. She’s a female rancher and her family have many seedsmen in it. I agree that there’s a lot of power in language. But sometimes a noun is a noun is a name. I meant no disrespect to Barb Melera here. She’s become a friend and she’d feel comfortable dressing me down if she disliked the headline. I do appreciate the criticism. Keep me on my toes! xo. Laura

    # Posted on June 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm by Laura Mathews

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