Consider Buying Local Garden Seeds, Too

Locally grown seeds are more likely to be well-adapted to the growing conditions on your farm and frequently have historical significance.

by Robin Hackett
PHOTO: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Recently, more small seed companies with an emphasis on regional varieties have come to market. Although these companies don’t carry the same wide selection as larger operations, their local seeds also offer real advantages.

Here are some of the reasons you should consider purchasing seeds from a regional seed company this season.

Local Adaptation

Practically, this is probably the most convincing reason to buy local seeds.  Even most mid-size companies contract with growers from various regions. So, the kale seed you’re buying might have been grown on the other side of the country.  

Small seeds companies, on the other hand, tend to grow their seed locally. This means that the seeds you buy from a local company have a better chance of being adapted to your growing conditions. 

Still, some small seed companies contract with other growers to produce a portion of their seed. So, if you have any questions about where a seed crop was grown, contact the company to find out.  

Similar Growing Practices

For those using particular growing practices on their farms, it is increasingly possible to find seed companies that use similar methods. As you’d expect, seeds from similar conditions to those on your farm have a better chance of thriving in their new home.  

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So, if you’re a no-till farmer, seeds from a no-till environment might be the best match for you. Although it might take a while to find a seed company using similar practices, they are out there.

 The Buffalo Seed Company, for instance, is a small, Midwestern company that uses low-till practices to grow their seeds. They explain on their website that unless otherwise noted, the seeds they sell were grown in the greater Kansas City area for at least one season by us in soil tilled once, minimal organic chicken manure fertilizer, mulched 3 inches with straw, no chemicals, and unless specified, no irrigation.”

Genetic Diversity

Local seed companies also tend to carry unique varieties.  Given the concerning loss of genetic diversity in vegetables, supporting the production of unique varieties is a small difference that all growers can make.  

Read more: What are heirloom vegetables, and should you consider growing them?

Local History

Finally, local seed companies sell mostly heirloom and open-pollinated varieties instead of hybrids.  This is partially because of the extensive breeding that it takes to create and maintain hybrids.  

Also, many small seed companies embrace the unique, place-based stories that heirloom varieties tell.  The Hudson Valley Seed Company, for instance, sells a variety of heirloom seeds, many of which have some sort of connection to the Northeast. One of my favorites is Hank’s X-Tra Special Baking Bean, a regional heirloom from near where I grew up. 

Growing varieties like this are a great way to establish a connection to your region’s agricultural history.

So, as you conclude your 2021 seed shopping, check out what your local seed companies have to offer.

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