Why bother growing your own seeds when there is so much other work to do in the garden?
Today I begin a series to answer the question Why Save Seed?
First up, will saving seeds save you money?
How Much Does Seed Cost?
On a small scale market garden, you might
- spend $500 to $1500 an acre on seed
- generate $20 000 – $40 000/acre. (or more!)
Let’s take an average of $1000 of seed to generate $30 000 on an acre.
That means your seed cost is about 3.33% of your gross sales.
Is saving 3.33% of your gross sales worth the effort of saving seeds?
How Much Work Is Saving Seeds?
Growing your first seed crops is exciting and fun and can be very satisfying but it isn’t easy.
Seed saving also takes time. Your first seed cleaning attempts can leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed. It can take a ridiculous amount of time to get your seeds as clean as you find in a purchased seed packet.
When you’re starting out, saving seed might cost you more in labour than if you simply bought the seeds.
It is best to start small when you start saving seed. Save only one or two seed crops at first. Slowly integrate seed saving into your farm so you can build up your seed skills and lay a foundation for future success.
Once you’ve become a seasoned seed saver, seed work becomes easier, quicker and much more profitable. We’ll definitely be talking about this in future posts!
How to Actually Save Money Farming
If you want to save money, look at your farm systems and focus on
- Integrating your staff into your farm,
- Improving and clarifying harvest techniques,
- Reducing transit times between crops and tasks, and
- Evaluating and better prioritizing how you fill time.
Any of these actions is likely to be more profitable for your farm than saving your own seed.
If Saving Seeds Is Not About Saving Money, Then What Is It About?
That’s a great question.
6 thoughts on “Should you save seeds to save money?”
I don’t save seed to save money. Yes I do save money by doing it but the real reason I save seed is to grow better plants for my conditions. For more than 10 years I have been saving seed from the best growing specimen plants and now I have vegetable lines that are consistent, productive, delicious and predictable. Tomatoes, fava beans, peppers, sweet peas, snow peas, cucumbers, squash, beans, spinach and fall wheat. I have even developed my own line of potatoes from real potato seeds that grew on my Yukon gold plants many years ago.
That sounds like some fantastic work!
Are these varieties that you only use yourself or do you share them with others?
Effectively, seed saving is not the most financially profitable use of time by a market gardener. But seed saving is profitable on other aspects :it can become one’s contribution to select seeds adapted to specific environment, to pursue survival of lineage abandoned by big companies, to contribute to gardeners community self reliance. It is also a long lasting hobby as it permits the observation a the full circle of life evolution and become often a challenge not only of saving seeds, but improving their quality (and that of the offsprings) and is a source of reward, thankfulness when fellows garners appreciate the results of one’s work.
You’ve hit the hammer on a number of nails!
Thanks for you insights,
There is a true psychological boost to starting the farming season without a $1500 whole in the budget. With tight margins, I believe saving seed can make a difference for many farms. For some crops, if you want to specialize and scale them up, I do think you can save a fair amount of money. Like so many aspects of farming it is grower specific whether it makes monetary sense. Marketing channels matter too. I breed (make crosses) across many species and clients love to hear about it. People are hungry to discover these things. It is a marketing advantage. This blog always showcases the other joys and advantages of seed saving like adaptation and improvement. Always a fun read!
I agree that saving seed can help out your budget. But I think it takes some solid experience to get to the point where you can reliably save money by saving seed. That is why I’m discouraging people focusing on saving money as the reason to save seeds.
Your point about the marketing advantage of new crosses is very important. Are you only breeding these crosses for your own farm or do you share/sell them. I’d love to hear more about your work.
Thanks for reading. I’m glad you’re enjoying Going to Seed!