'Adaptive Seeds' Works to Reclaim Our Seed Heritage, Part 2


Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement spotlights 18 Oregon farms and farm supporters who are committed to a return to ecologically sound agricultural practices. This group reflects the diversity of people, both young and old, who are reshaping our state’s food system and reclaiming our right to eat well. In their stories you will hear how they came to be where they are, learn something about the challenges they face, and share their happiness at the successes they’ve enjoyed thus far. The following profile has been excerpted from Planting A Future. Read Adaptive Seeds Work to Reclaim Our Seed Heritage, Part 1 for more information.

Planting Garden Side House

Sarah and Andrew eventually founded Adaptive Seeds in January 2009, and then in November of that year, they reached an agreement to lease the property at their current location, which they named Open Oak Farm. But it’s hard to make a living as a start-up seed company, so Open Oak Farm began a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership to generate the revenue they needed to keep their farm afloat. The CSA worked out, and though it was a lot of work, it supported the initial growth of the seed business.

Now, five years later, Andrew and Sarah believe it’s time to take the plunge. They have terminated their CSA and made Adaptive Seeds their full-time commitment. But I guess the question is whether one hundred percent annual growth over a five year period is really enough to live on. It sounds good, but what does it mean in actual numbers?

Sarah admits some nerves… “this is the year that… I don’t want to say make it or break it, but yeah, that’s kind of what it is. And if it doesn’t work it probably means an off-farm job for one of us.”
Andrew remains resolute, “We’re trying to figure out where the money we made in our CSA is going to come from. The good part is that we’ll have that much more time to spend on the seeds, which we really needed to make the seed company flourish. And I believe if we’re smart and a little bit lucky and really, really tenacious, we will be able to make it work.”

Sarah adds, “But it’s one hundred percent dependent on the retail price point, right? If you’re a gardener you’ve probably noticed in seed catalogs that a pound of something will go for like $60 wholesale while a gram will retail for $3.50. Right? So that’s like a thousand seed packets… okay, not a thousand but there’s something like 450 grams per pound, so do the math. If you can sell retail by the gram then you’re making significantly more money.”

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