The other day, I had a great conversation with Botanical Interest's seed buyer, Janis Kieft about the seed buying business. I found Janis to be very knowledgeable and transparent about the company she works for and the seed buying/selling industry in general and I appreciated that.
When I asked Janis if Botanical Interests still sells Seminis/Monsanto seeds, she flipped through a few papers then told me without hesitation that they still get the Celebrity Tomato seeds from them. "Celebrity is a very popular tomato for home gardeners." Then Janis went on to explain why Botanical Interests has ended up buying fewer and fewer seeds from Seminis/Monsanto over the years.
"I've been in the seed buying business for over 15 years. Years ago, Seminis had a division devoted to home gardens. They looked for varieties with great flavor and production rather than their shipability." As time goes on, Seminis, under Monsanto, has stopped producing some of these. Like Spinach Correnta, which Botanical Interests found out would no longer be produced when Janis called to place an order last year. Seminis/Monsanto owns the parent plants used to make the F1 hybrid Spinach Correnta. Spinach Correnta is favored by home gardeners because of it's heat resistance and great production.
As Janis explains one possible reason for Monsanto's decision to not continuing producing this particular variety, "Spinach Correnta may have only been one of ten spinach varieties that Seminis carried, but under Monsanto, maybe it was one of fifty." We both agreed that Monsanto probably just thinks that we should pick another variety of spinach. Maybe they've even produced a way better one! But I know that one of the strongest traits of home gardeners is our individuality. We grow things that we love. Things that work for us in our gardens. Besides scale, I think that's the biggest difference between us and big time farmers. Seven years ago Botanical Interests was buying 8-10 varieties from Seminis. They now only buy one because the others have been dropped from their product line and are no longer for sale.
Where I get on a soap box then make Monsanto an offer they can't refuse:
I completely understand and appreciate Monsanto's decision to stop looking for and producing seeds favored by home gardeners in order to focus on their target market. It's probably an excellent business move on their part. After all, us home gardeners are never going to make them rich. I get it - it's not their deal. But what I don't understand is why they decide to stop producing the variety and at the same time refuse to allow other growers to produce it. If we (home gardeners) are not their target market, seed companies we buy from can't possibly be considered their competition. It seems rather mean spirited to me. In fact, this bothers me more than anything else I've read about Monsanto. Because it reeks of bad intentions.
We may not be Monsanto's target market, but we home gardeners are working professionals, writers, business owners and much more. The CEO at the large metropolitan hospital where I work is an avid gardener. I imagine that any Monsanto rants he might go on would be in the presence of some pretty important people. See, Botanical Interests won me over with a short phone conversation and here I am writing a blog post about it that will reach any person who reads this blog. In short, we probably end up significantly contributing to their bad public persona and they don't get that. It's time for Monsanto to do some damage control and I think we home gardeners are the perfect place to start.
Dear Monsanto - give us back Spinach Correnta and I'll wear an "I Heart Monsanto" shirt for a day. Look at it this way, it won't cost you anything to allow another grower to produce this popular home garden seed, and I'll be out the cost of the t-shirt. I'll even make a promise to rebut any bad Monsanto talk with the story about how you so kindly gave up the rights to this popular seed for no other reason than, you're nice. That kind of crap goes a long way with people. Before you know it, folks will be saying all sorts of nice stuff about you. Maybe you could even make this into a big marketing campaign to show people just how nice you really are by offering up these popular seeds. Like every year you'll give us another popular home garden variety that you don't want to produce anymore. I'd be glad to help with that. Call me.