My two first seed contracts

These days, seeds make up a bigger part of our gross sales than vegetables at Tourne-Sol co-operative farm.

This is a big change from year one when we sold $600 of seeds.

Let me tell you how we came to actually sell $600 of seeds.

Summer 2003

I was managing La Ferme Du Fort Senneville in the Montreal West Island.

My friend Tanya (I mentioned Tanya last week – she worked at Everdale and had inspired me to start saving seeds) had rented 1/8 acre on a nearby farm to grow seed crops.

She had seed contracts for everything she was growing. I think the total amount came to $3000.

My entrepreneur mind did a little math – ? acre at $3k comes to $24K an acre.

These days, that doesn’t sound like much with all the stories of making $100K on less than an acre. But at the time it compared very well to what I was seeing on well managed farms,

My flourishing seed passion and my entrepreneur mind found an intersection in the Venn diagram.

January 2005

While we were crop planning for our first Tourne-Sol growing season, I was thinking about seeds. While I was planning our seed garden to grow seed for our own use, I was also curious about seed contracts.

At the Guelph Organic Conference, I went and talked to all the seed companies in the trade show. I asked them if they ever contracted seed from small farms.

Karyn from Terra Edibles was my first enthusiastic yes.

She handed me two packs of tomato seeds and said grow these out and I’ll buy this many ounces of each variety. She also told me the price she paid per ounce.

Then because I admitted I didn’t have a scale, she told me how many cups of tomato seed that would be. (Pro tip – buy a scale).

Colette at Urban Harvest was my second yes. She handed me one pack of tomato seeds to grow for her. She also told me how much she would buy and at what price.

Summer 2005

I grew the tomatoes in a separate part of our field isolated from our main tomato patch. I grew them in one long 300 foot roll  with other seed crops in between each tomato variety.

I harvested the ripe tomatoes.

I scooped and squished the tomato insides into jars.

I let the tomato insides ferment for a few days. 

Then I decanted the mixture to separate the seeds and dry them

Fall 2005

I packed the seeds in boxes  and sent them to the Terra Edibles and Urban Harvest.

January 2006

Back at the Guelph Organic conference – I went to chat with Karyn and then Collette.

They handed me checks for the seeds. And we started talking about what tomatoes to grow year.We also discussed what other crops they might be interested in.

That $600 sale wasn’t much compared to the 110 CSA shares and 2 farmers markets we also did at Tourne-Sol in year 1. 

But $600 was still a decent sale. 

And it was an easy number to double for year two. 

And then double again the following year. 

And suddenly we’re selling more seeds than vegetables!

Next workshop: Thursday Dec 15 at 2pm Eastern

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