CR Lawn, 2007

Welcome! “Rain Rain go away—does Fedco carry aquatics?,” plaintively queried market grower Don Beckwith after our soggy 2006 season. “Hope we have a good year, before I get too old,” chimed in Paul Zinglaub of Lebanon, ME.

Well, Don and Paul, I hope you got your wishes. At Shooting Star Farm, 2007 was that one year in ten or even twenty that we growers await so patiently. To be sure, some folks could have used more rain and others might have wished for a little more heat. But with a few notable exceptions, the year was devoid of those dreaded extreme weather events that have been so prevalent recently. Even most of the black flies and mosquitoes took a year’s vacation. I don’t know what we’re going to do to keep Maine’s population down without them! It was so pleasant that I kept wishing it would last forever. And to top it off, after a mid-September frost or two that hit only some of us, we continued to enjoy one of the most heavenly stretches of perfect weather deep into October that I can ever remember. Us MOFGA folks are ecstatic because we had a record Fair, and some farmers are grinning from ear to ear because their fall crops and sales have been so good.

So How Are We Doing? Two years ago when Monsanto bought out Seminis, we decided to phase out our Seminis line. For more information, see our 2006 catalog or visit our website at fedcoseeds.com. At the time of our decision, Seminis was our biggest supplier, accounting for 70 varieties and more than 11% of our gross sales. We set about, through our research and trials, to replace the Seminis selections with the best varieties we could find. In two years we have fulfilled exactly half our quest. For 9 of the varieties we have found alternate sources and for 26 more we have found comparable or superior replacements. We pledge to persevere. Some niches will be easier and quicker to fill than others. Some holes may persist, but already we have filled a few, like #3837 Revolution for Fat ’n Sassy, that we had feared would prove impossible.

In a 2002 catalog chart we highlighted our increasing proportion of small-farm grown seed, at that time 14.4% of our varieties. I am pleased to report that we achieved our goal of 20% by 2007. Incidentally, 86.6% of these varieties were certified organic and many of the remainder were sustainably grown. In the coming years we expect to continue gradually increasing our farmer-grown selections. We also hope to see more high quality wholesalers developing to specialize in organic seed production to help us better serve this growing market.

year # of varieties offered small-farm grown %
1991 440 4 0.9%
1992 479 18 3.8%
1994 572 31 5.5%
1998 714 66 9.3%
2002 870 125 14.4%
2007 935 195 20.8%

Our third area of assessment is seed quality. Although in recent years we have greatly expanded the resources we devote to ensuring quality, we are not yet wholly pleased with the results. We’re finding too many off-types in the seed supply. Some folks mistakenly correlate the increased incidences of off-types with the increasing percentages of small-farm grown seed. In fact, most of the problems are not from our own seed growers, they are in seed we are getting from the trade.