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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Horticultural Treasure Trove In Jeopardy

(Courtesy D. Landreth Seed Company)

Our colleagues at the public radio show “Living On Earth” first introduced us to the D.Landreth Seed Company, which is “as old as dirt,” having begun in 1784.

Current CEO Barbara Melara tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young that the company not only “introduced the United States to the zinnia, one of America’s most beloved flowers in 1798, [but] it actually introduced most Americans to tomatoes when it sold seed for the very first time in 1820.”

The company also provided seeds and plants for Commodore Matthew Perry’s mission to Japan in the mid 19th century. In the company’s records are 150 years worth of old catalogues containing information on agriculture and horticulture.

But now, America’s oldest seed house is in financial peril: Barbara Melera and her husband borrowed money to buy the company in 2003, but now the investors are suing for the money they put into the company.

Melera says the worse case scenario would be if a judge rules that the assets have to be sold off to pay creditors.

As a result she would expect that, “All the seed inventory will be sold, the equipment will be sold, the catalogues will be auctioned off and for all intents and purposes, the company will disappear.”

But she’s encouraged by the fact that since the company’s predicament was first publicized last year, they have heard from people around the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico and Great Britain, placing orders and ordering catalogues.

She says that each purchase, even if it’s a $5 catalogue is “a statement that this company can be a viable entity. That there are people who will buy our products once they know that the company exists.”


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  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    Done, just ordered two catalogs.

  • Sdowers

    I just ordered seeds and a catalog!

  • HeyHeyYou

    I think part of the problem is the website. Update it with larger images of the items and they’ll be more appealing to the eye.

  • Karen Faaleolea

    I was going to buy seeds anyway why not from this company?

  • Noelle

    Bought some seeds & spread the word! Best of luck! Another great story on Here & Now!

  • Woolenegg

    Bought two catalogs and posted the website link and the link to this story on my FB page. I’d not heard of the company before today, but hope to help spread the word (and I think I’ll order some of those ground cherries and a few other things too!)

  • jcherfas

    That this can happen in the US, where there is no legislation preventing the sale of specific varieties, really does speak to the fickleness of the market. If, as people have said elsewhere, people really do want the seeds, why isn’t Landreth able to supply them? Too many competitors? Poor quality? Something else? I note that at least one commenter has singled out the Landreth website …

    The big question for me is, how many varieties offered by Landreth are not offered by another seed company in the US or elsewhere?

  • Al

    I have watched from the late seventies onward of a number of small seed companies being swallowed up by larger companies. One that comes to mind is Monsanto.
    I used to sell seed packets while in high school in the sixties to raise money. All three of those companies are history.
    The ruling elite and their corporate buddies know that if you control food you can control the people.
    Heirloom seeds are becoming a thing of the past with your choices today are those of hybrids.
    Having planted some of these modern hybrids so created by these large corporations, I find that they do not grow well using organic methods.
    Hybrids are created so that the consumer must use some chemical based fertilizer and pesticides to grow them. Its part of their genetic makeup.
    Try it sometime and see.
    Most people are obvious to where there food originates from. Many think its a supermarket and that’s about it.
    The problem is that people don’t think and just fall in line with the flow.
    I suggest many of you read the book, Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey M. Smith
    Watch the video of 60 minutes at You Tube.
    The Dangers of Genetically Modified Food

    Americans have become guinea pigs for Big Food. In due time you end up over at their friends in Big Pharma for some treatment. In the end, they are exploiting your health for MONEY.The Obama Regime has many Monsanto people in high position representing corporate interests. Also surrounding Obama are dozens of those from Goldman Sachs. Your country is being hijacked once again via the White House.

  • Eva

    bought a catalog. while I understand the company has extremely limited means and upgrading the website is probably last on the list, i’d suggest a paypal ‘donate’ link or maybe look into something through kickstarter? I fully support the company but don’t have any place to grow plants right now so don’t really need the catalog – would love to just have the $5 go straight to the company!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Harrison/100001538982181 Robert Harrison

    Let us help save this seed company so they they will bloom with God’s help fro many more years to come!

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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