Help save Landreth Seeds. September 26, 2011Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: heirloom seed sources, historic Landreth Seed Company, Landreth Seeds, Landreth Seeds threatened
It’s not too often that you get to order seeds from the same company that supplied George Washington (and every President through FDR). But thanks to Landreth Seeds’ focus on heirloom varieties, you can not only order from the same company, you can order some of the same veggies that Washington grew and ate at Mount Vernon! But probably not for long.
Loving both gardening and Early American history as we do here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, we’ve been rooting (if you’ll pardon the pun) for Landreth’s success ever since we first read an article last year about the company’s return to its roots back here in scenic PA. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood quickly wrote a post about Landreth, “New life for an old seed company,” which you can find by typing the post title or “Landreth Seed” in our search bar at upper right. And of course we ordered a catalog from the company’s website (www.landrethseeds.com).
To say that Silence and I were speechless when the catalog arrived is not only an understatement but a lie, given our chronic inability to shut up under almost any circumstances. Instead, let’s say that we had never seen such a gorgeous catalog in our lives. It wasn’t just a catalog, it was a keepsake, a journey through 225 years of American and gardening history, a treasury of heirloom plants, a magnificent collection of 300 color photos of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Packed with delightful illustrations and tips from historic Landreth catalogs, the company wisely created a vintage look for the catalog itself and put the photos in a central insert on very high-quality, high-gloss paper that gave the veggies an almost holographic quality. The catalog quickly joined our permanent horticultural library collection.
Having worked for publishing companies ourselves, part of our discussion was how Landreth could afford to just give away such an expensively produced catalog for free. Turns out, they couldn’t: It was a one-time promotional deal, with subsequent catalogs selling for $5. Which brings us to the present.
Silence and I were horrified to see a story in Yahoo’s local news section, “Venerable seed company in last-ditch bid to survive,” from yesterday’s (9/25/11) Philadelphia Inquirer (read it at http://www.philly.com/). Gack! Was Burpee going down the tubes? Alas, it turned out to be Landreth that was circling the drain.
The company, which was purchased and reinvented by venture capitalist and passionate gardener Barbara Melera in 2003, has finally turned a profit this year. But to keep the business going, the owner must put that money back into Landreth, and meanwhile, investors are getting antsy about not recouping the money they put up for the relaunch. One is suing, and as a result, a judge has frozen Landreth’s assets. Determined not to give in without a fight, Ms. Melera is trying to raise money from seed sales and pre-sales of the 2012 catalog before this coming Friday. If she fails, Landreth, in continuous operation since 1784, will have to close.
Now, we realize that being asked to pay $5 for a catalog when every other garden catalog we’re aware of is still free could be a stumbling block. But this is not just any catalog. In a time when almost every throwaway magazine on the racks costs at least $5 (uh, we mean $4.99), buying a beautiful, informative, richly historical catalog the size of a large magazine strikes us as a good use of money. We guarantee you’ll want to keep yours, too.
And preserving a great source of heirloom seeds is a worthwhile investment for every gardener. To quote the article: “Were Landreth to go out of business, or be sold and materially transformed, John Torgrimson, executive director of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, says more than a business would be lost.” In the fight to preserve the diversity of our vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers, we can’t afford to lose such a valuable resource.
If you’d like to help, you can go to Landreth’s website to order seeds, garlic for fall planting, and etc., and/or to preorder the catalog; they apparently also have a busy Facebook page.