Author Topic: The business of seed growing  (Read 2359 times)

Carol Deppe

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #15 on: 2019-03-11, 06:18:57 PM »
Five appropriate schools within commuting distance and your being willing and able for everything from 5th thru 12th makes the prep for teaching sound pretty solid.

I think you may be right that you might be able to have a larger impact on younger kids. Many kids who are smart in the verbal stuff, for example, become convinced they are dumb in math. I'm convinced that its all bad teaching and fear of math. Most grade school teachers are themselves uncomfortable with math.

Here are three stories you might like. Four grade school teachers, all of whom had much more impact on me than any middle school or high school teachers. Ordinary public schools, nothing elite.

In 1st grade, the teacher took me and a few others who learned to read faster than most and paired each of us with a kid who was having trouble. The teacher worked with the main class. The slower kids each had their own private tutor. That was where I started to learn how to teach. And how to explain anything in multiple ways. Learning to teach is so demanding, interesting, and complicated that it kept the faster students happy, occupied, and out of trouble. That was the only teacher I had who used that trick. I think it would work great on math at all levels. Whatever else, that was the beginning of my learning to delight in teaching, communicating well, and explaining things.

Second story. My family had just moved to Massachusetts, and I had just started 4th grade. Like many faster students, I read ahead in all the books while in class. Many such students report being punished for it. But I was very cagey. I would keep track pretty well of where the class was so I could answer if called upon. I also deliberately raised my hand and volunteered to answer the harder questions. That way I would get my participation quota in as well as be very unlikely to be called on if my hand wasn't up.

By the end of the second week, I had read all the books except math, and was working my way through that. That was harder, because you have to solve the problems. But we weren't allowed to take the books home. I thought the teacher was oblivious, but suddenly she asked me to stay after class.

She said, "I've noticed you've read all the books except math," she said. "That's harder to do in class, because you have to work the problems. Right?"

I agreed, very sheepishly. So much for teacher obliviousness. The teacher--Mrs. Bachelor--offered to let me take the book home so I could go at my own pace. I accepted eagerly. She also offered to correct any problem sets if I gave them to her. "And there are more math books after that one. I can get them for you."

So I worked my way through a few math books at home. I handed in a problem set once in a while, more for human contact than any other reason. And I started reading (adult) popular science books I got from the local library in class. I continued to be discreet about it and participate in class too. But I didn't presume to think I was fooling the teacher. I knew perfectly well I wasn't. But she was complicit.

I went to the same school for 5th grade. I remember thinking the first day how boring math was going to be now. But when the books were handed out, my pile was one book higher than everyone else's.... Lo and behold, the extra book was where I had left off in 4th grade, several grades up from 5th. The fourth grade teacher had told the fifth grade teacher, and the pattern continued. The whole thing was very discreet. Nobody ever knew about it besides me and those two teachers. Science was always my first love, though. By the end of fifth grade, I had read every popular science book in the local library.

Sixth grade, we moved to Florida, and the first day I took the state-wide Florida 12-grade Placement Test. It's scored relative to averages for the grade. I placed 12+ in everything except one area of math, probably calculus, which I hadn't got to in 5th grade. I continued my pattern of reading science books in school.

Soon I found myself invited to stay after class to talk with that teacher. To be punished for reading other stuff in class? Not at all. For a very frank conversation. The teacher said that given my placement scores, there wasnt much she could do for me in the ordinary course of class. Then she said she noticed I really liked science. I agreed.

She sighed. "Science is hard for me. I don't think I teach it well. I was an English major. I have a proposal." Her proposal was she would give me two hours a day and I could go off in the library and read whatever I wanted. I in turn would teach the science. Once a week, on Friday, I would give a talk on some aspect of science, my choice. I still remember some of those talks. One was on the structure of atoms, for example. Another was on the solar system, movements of planets, etc. So I got more opportunity to teach as well as do public speaking. (And was kept interested enough to not have to make trouble.) And the students loved it. They were getting it from someone who was really excited about it.


« Last Edit: 2019-03-11, 06:24:25 PM by Carol Deppe »

William S.

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #16 on: 2019-03-11, 09:49:44 PM »
Your teachers from what I am being taught did a good job of keeping you challenged. Serving gifted students well can require compressing lessons they get quickly and keeping higher level books on hand to challenge them- your fourth and fifth grade teachers did a good job of that. Using gifted students to teach others is tricky. You have to watch for them getting sick of it. Sounds like you didn't get sick of it! Your hand raising tricks might not work out in a modern classroom. Many teachers now call on students randomly- it is just fair.

Too often gifted kids just don't get any challenges or just have to sit when done early. I think I'll keep extra higher level books and challenge projects on hand.  Incidentally I'll also keep lower level books and a variety of alternate projects on hand- but not for the gifted kids. Ability is a bell curve and everyone on it is capable of getting something useful out of say a plant genetics unit.
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Woody Gardener

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #17 on: 2019-03-12, 07:21:24 AM »
For teachers: From Generation to Generation by Eli Rogosa Kaufman
An activity guidebook for teachers K-12 from Fedco Seeds. note: clicking link starts pdf download.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://permaculture-exchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/seedschool.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiU1p371PzgAhUEVa0KHRe2BuoQFjABegQIAxAB&usg=AOvVaw3j3xcbOzTCgdmk7twWYhxH

This is an attractively illustrated pamphlet full of activity suggestions for teachers.

Ellendra

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #18 on: 2019-08-10, 10:24:09 PM »
I know this is an old thread, but it caught my eye and made me want to join the forum.

I'm a contract seed grower. Most of my experience has been with Baker Creek, although I do occasionally take on contracts from individuals or other smaller companies. I have to say, its really exciting getting those little surprise packages from them every spring! Almost as exciting as the fact that they're paying me to play in the dirt :)

I agree that teaching is probably your best bet for a steady income, but if you decide you have time for a small growing contract, you can still make a little extra that way.

The easiest way to get started is to email your favorite seed company and ask if they could use another grower. Each company will have a different pay scale and may have additional requirements, but they can send you that information. Include a few brief details about your gardening experience in your initial email. Treat it like a cover letter. They'll tell you what to do from there.

You don't need to have a huge garden. Some varieties don't need much space. Culinary herbs, for instance. There are enough varieties of Basil in most seed catalogs that they don't need much of any particular one, so a tiny backyard garden might be enough. Being able to isolate them so they don't cross-pollinate is very important, though.

About the contracts: The amount of seed you promise to deliver isn't so much a minimum as a maximum. It's a legal way of calling "dibs". If the contract says you'll deliver 10 pounds of seed at $X per pound, there's no shame in only being able to deliver 5 pounds. They'll still pay $X per pound for whatever you were able to deliver, and they won't hold the shortage against you.

If, on the other hand, you produce 15 pounds, the company is not obligated to buy the extra. They usually are willing to, but its negotiated separately. Baker Creek, for example, usually pays 1/2 of $X for any seed beyond what was stated in the contract, although if they expect a high demand they'll sometimes pay full price. But I'm not required to sell the extra to them, I can keep it or sell to another buyer.

What you can't do is produce 10 pounds, then refuse to deliver it because someone else offered you more. That would be a breach of contract.

I hope that helps paint a clearer picture. I'd be happy to answer any questions anybody has about the job.
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William S.

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #19 on: 2019-08-11, 04:48:41 PM »
Now that my seed collecting contract is over I've a summer job. However I am growing a lot of tomatoes. Wonder what the market for F2 tomato grex seeds is?

 I have a existing business because of the seed collecting contract I just finished. So is my plant breeding part of the business or is it a hobby? I would like to say definitively that it is a part of the business, add a tomato section to the website and start offering things. I wonder if I could / should list the breeding grex as OSSI material (it already is as Big Hill Ancestry is ~10% of the seed mix). Then offer that for sale as a breed your own tomato mix.

I've two tomatoes in my seed saving pile that could lead to new standard tomato varieties. Short season blue skinned tomatoes. I spotted a not yet ripe not blue stripey in the direct seeded grex. That could be fun. So the potential new variety count is growing.

Other way to go is to offer the new varieties to the local seed co-op at some point.
« Last Edit: 2019-08-11, 06:27:15 PM by William S. »
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian silty clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A with 100 to 130 frost free days

William S.

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #20 on: 2020-01-23, 12:56:09 PM »
Anyone know roughly how much seed is needed for a seed offering / how big of a tomato patch to plant to grow a seed offering? Was just looking at isolation distances and could make ~6 well isolated tomato patches on the land where tomato plants seem to coexist well with the deer. Was wondering if 100 plants might be enough of each variety/population.
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian silty clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A with 100 to 130 frost free days

spacecase0

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #21 on: 2020-01-23, 08:09:17 PM »
I have seen various numbers for numbers of plants to avoid inbreeding depression
tomatoes are sometimes listed at 15 to 20 plants, but many growers use way fewer.

William S.

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #22 on: 2020-01-23, 08:29:35 PM »
Yeah, is complicated a bit by size of plants too. I see some growers with full size varieties and they have these plants that are taller than they are. I can plant the same variety and its probably going to be about 3 feet tall at most. I think if I busted up my clay accumulation layer and added a foot of potting soil to the surface I might be able to grow a real monster. Though the trick might be not to give it too much nitrogen or it would never set a ripe fruit. Would kind of like to try it with one plant. 

Just was watching another video where the tomato seed grower was talking about growing in 100 foot long blocks and he had six rows visible in the block in the photo. Or 600 row feet of tomato for a seed grow out. I think that's too much for me, but interesting.
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian silty clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A with 100 to 130 frost free days

William S.

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #23 on: 2020-02-12, 11:09:11 AM »
I came across a website where people can post their own seeds, and the site handles the marketing and the payment processing. Kind of like Etsy, but for seeds instead of crafts. It would still leave the grower responsible for the sorting, packaging, and shipping, but for some of us here it might still help enough to make it worthwhile.

The website is https://www.seedwise.com/

Kind of moving my response to this to a different thread. This seems like a good option. Though sounds like you have to pack packets and ship.

Planning to grow some seed this year for a few things that I'm not sure how best to market.

Intrigued by EFN which is where Joseph is selling his seed this year. They have quite a bit of breeding material type stuff and I think they pack the seed.
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian silty clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A with 100 to 130 frost free days

Diane Whitehead

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #24 on: 2020-02-12, 12:50:34 PM »
We have Seedy Saturdays all across Canada from January on.  Many small seed companies sell at them, which would be a lot less work than selling mail order.

Diane Whitehead
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William S.

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Re: The business of seed growing
« Reply #25 on: 2020-02-15, 04:01:03 PM »
My current commercial grow out plan for 2020 is to grow 5 tomatoes for seed to sell, 1 fava, 1 squash, and 1 corn. With one of the tomatoes and the corn a contract grow. The others are all speculative growouts. I would like to list those with someone else and just do the growing, but if not will add a page to my website and list them there. Three things I am trying to pledge to OSSI. Three things of Joseph's that aren't available this year. So those are the things that will get priority in my 2020 garden and anything else will be extra. I will prioritize a buckwheat I need to grow out for EFN. Then except for the huge grow out I am planning of Big Hill x W_'s F2 year everything else is optional.

If that works out well, what I would like to eventually do is be able to quit working for agencies as a botany tech in the summer, teach science in the winter, and raise seed in the summer.
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian silty clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A with 100 to 130 frost free days