Fedco Seeds Customer Letter
Dear Seed Lover,
Welcome to the annual early bird edition of our customer letter, our answer to the small sheaf of advertisements that appear in some of those other folks' seed boxes. Like the old Crackerjacks that I had as a kid (do they still sell those things?), a prize in every box. After a mild December, real winter Maine style has settled in, with seasonal temperatures this week. That means brrrr, but still nothing like the extreme winter we experienced in 2013-14 that we hope will not repeat anytime soon.
As always, we appreciate your orders and strive to execute them crisply, accurately and swiftly. Thank you for your support.
Though a little slow out of the gate for the 2nd year in a row, seed orders are now streaming in at an impressive pace. So far, more than ever, they are coming from our website, which we gave a major makeover this year. Thanks to Clayton Carter and his crew, it is much easier to find varieties on the online catalog than it used to be—I know because I just accessed it to update this letter! If you have not yet checked it out closely, it is worth a look. 77% of our 1,863 seed orders so far were electronic, but I still get enough in the mail to keep me busy collating and help me stay out of trouble. It is too early yet for us to discern clear sales trends from our winter catalog. Our Trees catalog, now further along in its ordering season, has been a great success generating 15% more orders and 10% higher sales than at this time a year ago. In keeping with this year's theme, we hope there will be some cross-pollinating success between these two catalogs.
As of Sat. Jan. 4 nine items in the seed catalog had generated at least 200 orders, topped so far by Bright Lights chard with 286. Caribe cilantro was close behind with 280, followed by Tall Sugarsnaps at 265. As has been the case most years, over-all the #1 ranked cultivar is Provider beans, both organic and conventional, generating 333 orders. Of the double-listed items, Early Wonder beet is next at 273.
How much does price matter? It matters. Of the double-listed items, conventional Krausa, even though offered only in 2 sizes in the catalog, has twice the orders of organic, which is considerably more expensive. In most of the other double-listed items where the price differential is less marked, organic and conventional are close to even in sales early in the season. Offering organic Krausa is one way for us to test the organic market.
Our purchaser Nikos Kavanya will be overjoyed to learn that so far Caucasian Mountain Spinach has generated the most interest among our 48 new items, with 119 orders. This one was her baby. A shot in the arm for our continued efforts to find intriguing oddballs and unusual permaculture crops, the success of CMS so far is heartening. Next at 100 orders is the Green Super broccoli. Regrettably, it is still on our back-order list. A pack of five other cultivars is hanging around the 90 mark: Napoli organic carrot, Boldor beet, Watermelon radish, and both the Vates varieties, collards and spinach. Miyashige daikon and Camelot shallots have each performed respectably, epazote is making the biggest splash among the new herbs and Phacelia among the new flowers. My pre-season pick for #1 among this group, Astro arugula, currently ranks no better than eighth, but is likely to rise through the ranks as the season progresses. Last year's leading introduction, Perfection fennel, continues to sizzle with 127 orders, about four times more than the old Zefa Fino. Green Beauty snow pea and Plum Purple radish lead among those items returning after a year's or more absence.
Seed continues to arrive at our warehouse almost daily and our back-order list has settled into the low eighties. This is average or perhaps a little better than average for this time when we begin shipping. Notable denizens include Space spinach, currently in eighth place in # of packets sold, not due till February, tall Sugarsnaps (ranked #3 in sales), and two popular hybrid kale varieties, Winterbor (5th in sales) and Redbor, each of which had a crop shortage last year and for which we won't have an estimated time of arrival until at least the end of this month.
Oh, those onions! As part of our commitment to quality, we don't carry over hybrid onion seed from one year to the next because it can drop precipitately in germination. Most of our hybrid onion seed comes from abroad, and we eagerly await it each January, timing critical because it needs an early indoor start. So we were buoyed by the arrival two days ago of four of our Bejo onion varieties: Expression, Ailsa Craig, Red Bull and especially Copra (currently 6th in over-all sales). Still to come, ETA mid-January, Prince and our two wingers, Whitewing and Redwing. We hope they all wing their way soon. Winless Varsity had a crop failure so we are sending Copra in its place, pretty good for a jayvee sub!
The days are already lengthening and we hope that they will soon bring, along with the missing onions, kales and sugarsnaps and other items, some warmer temperatures and an early spring.