We love these folks more and more each year. Every time I open their catalog, it makes me happy. Their mission statement sort of covers why: “.. to preserve our shared botanical heritage and grow a new era of sustainable culture and ecological wisdom. We support independent, regional agricultural initiatives that foster vibrant, sustainable economy, and true food sovereignty.”
They carry only open pollinated varieties that ‘grow true from seed”, meaning when you save seed and plant it, you’ll get the same variety. Although they are not 100% organic, they support small farms who cannot afford organic or biodynamic certification. They provide seed from their network of skilled regional growers and independently-owned North American seed producers. That often means you are supporting small family farmers when you buy seed from Sow True Seed.
Want custom printed seed packets for your special event, business or fundraiser? You can get them from Sow True.
Sow True Seed has an impressive, very well rounded section of seeds, which can be hard to find from companies who don’t carry loads of varieties for each plant. It is obvious they really take care in varietal selection. This is a standout aspect of Sow True. They could easily be your only seed company and you’ll have a great garden.
Some of our favorite selections include: Jericho lettuce, Ashe County, Red Ruffled and Tangerine pimento sweet peppers, Hearts of Gold melon, Red Acre cabbage, Snowball self-blanching cauliflower, Ronde de Nice summer squash, Blue Hubbard winter squash, and Bush Pickle cucumber which is great for containers. They also carry Tam Jalapeno, a variety we grew years ago to make salsa for those who can’t take much heat.
Sow True Seed also has a fun selection of Seed Collections for those just starting out or wanting some inspiration. Their catalog provides useful information on throughout, including companion planting information, making the catalog a valuable resource.
Please support these folks, as they are a wow of doing the future right. Plus how awesome is there name?
If you are one of those people who want organic seed, not matter what and no matter the price, High Mowing if your seed company. They carry 100% certified organic, non-GMO verified seeds. That folks, is a big deal.
Having this type of standard does come with a cost though, their seeds are often high priced compared to other companies.
They also carry a large selection of hybrid; non-GMO, varieties. Although seed savers are not fond of hybrids, those who are looking for new varieties bred for our changing climate are grateful for them. High Mowing is very picky about who they partner with and offer such a large selection of hybrids, from modern hybridizer’s intent on expanding organic seed varieties. They carry seeds from breeders at Cornel University, Vitalis, Kultursaat, Genesis Seeds and other University and quality seed breeding programs.
High Mowing serves organic growers and is dedicated to providing very high quality seed. A new standout for us this year is their Halblange Parsnip, an open pollinated variety from Bingenheinmer Saatgut, a biodynamic company in Germany. Shorter and stockier roots are easier to grow in our clay soils, or in gardens where the soil has not been built up so much yet.
They also carry our hands-down favorite green leaf lettuce, Waldman’s Dark Green. We also particularly like their selections of radishes and spinach.
Whenever we have a bug or other problem that prompts us to look for a hybrid, we always go to High Mowing first. We’ve liked Caraflex F1 cabbage and Yaya F1 carrot, all first offered from High Mowing, so much they have become staples in our garden.
As you can see, the folks at High Mowing carry a unique collection of quality varieties from around the world, Great folks, great seed. Our only con, is some varieties are above our home gardener recommended price point of being below $4 a packet. You get what you pay for.
The easy answer is to purchase your seed from one of the companies on our Recommended Seed Company List. This works great if you have come to trust our process of evaluating companies.
I am not an “activist”, it is has never been my interest or my bent, yet I do “vote with my dollar” and so choose to support companies who have the values I consider important. To that end, each year I research companies, read a pile of seed catalogs and compare varieties and plant lists of those folks I know and trust and those I don’t.
It has become clear that in addition to the current 13 criteria we use to evaluate a company, two more need to be added. Here are our additional criteria and why we added them. See the first 13 criteria.
Does the company sell varieties that are owned by companies who engage in genetic modification of seeds?
One company in particular, who was on our list for years, has staunchly continued to offer a small percentage of varieties owned by Monsanto. Granted, most of these varieties were not bred by Monsanto, but were bred and owned by companies who Monsanto bought a few years ago. For those like us, who do not want to support companies who engage in genetic modification of seed, the act of buying from a company who buys from a company who engages in genetic modification of seed, is indirectly supporting companies who engage genetic seed modification. Prior Unity Garden does not support this activity. Therefore any company who buys seed from companies who create GMO seed will not make our list, even if they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge.
You may be thinking, but if they signed the Safe Seed Pledge, then they are not selling GMOs, right ? Generally speaking, you are correct, they are not selling genetically modified seed, but they can still sign the Pledge and sell seed that is not genetically modified from companies who make GMO seed. Doing this practice now excludes a company from being on our recommended seed company list.
Does the company actually grow the varieties they sell?
There are ‘seed houses’ who are resellers of seed only, buying seed wholesale and reselling it. They may grow some of it, but do not really have field trials, so are not really in touch with the varieties they are offering.
We have found the seed quality and reliability from these companies to swing wildly and these companies do not have people you can talk with about growing specific varieties they offer. While this may be fine for some folks, we find it frustrating when evaluating specific varieties for growing traits our clients have requested. In effect, you become the testers. Because we want to recommend the highest quality seed companies how offer the highest quality seed, we will not be putting companies on our list who do grow all or most of the varieties whey offer. These companies simply cannot support what they sell to the high degree other companies can.
In some cases, a company will offer seed from a variety of local farms and this is a practice we love seeing as it supports small local farms and seed. In this case, the seed house may not trial every variety, but their partner farms are growing seed and this practice has proven to be an excellent marker of quality seed, in part because the farm’s name is on the seed. These companies do make our list. Granted, most of them also test all or most of the varieties they offer.
Who owned the company?
As large Agribusinesses buy out smaller companies, this question is becoming more important. It used to be seed companies be handed down through generations of a family. Now, it is good to know and sometimes difficult to find out. Often the Agribusiness does not want their ownership known.
Call the company, see what is written in the catalog and website. The point here is avoiding supporting agribusinesses who engage in generic modification of seed.
Companies who are owned by large agriculture businesses will usually sell varieties they own, so knowing what those varieties are, helps you discern if you want to support that business or not.
It is a delineation of the Safe Seed Initiative by the Council for Responsible Genetics. Companies who adopt this pledge do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered or modified seeds or plants.
Some people poo-poo the list because some of the companies who signed the Safe Seed Pledge had purchased some seed from Seminis seed house that was subsequently bought out by Monsanto – hence the perceived link between some honestly safe seed companies and Monsanto. These companies responded and stopped buying seeds from Seminis, to be true to their Pledge and their values.
The other reason the Safe Seed Pledge is poo-poo’d is because of the phrase “we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants”. The word ‘Knowingly’ has been criticized as not good enough, but is used because of the possibility of contamination from genetically modified plants, by such situations as wind bringing pollen onto an organic farm, which is out of the control of the farm (and isn’t making them happy either).