In recent years, more growers have started saving their own seeds, or even selling seeds on a commercial scale. Here’s how to think about whether saving seeds for sale could be a good fit for your farm.
Why Sell Seeds?
Selling seed can be quite lucrative and further diversify your farm’s income streams. There are also other advantages.
If you have enough of them, you can use the seeds you’ve saved to grow your vegetable crops. This allows you to adapt important varieties to your own unique growing conditions and methods.
It also makes your farm a bit more self-sufficient. At the beginning of the pandemic, for instance, seeds were hard to come by, even for professional growers.
Know the Basics
Seed saving is a complex science, so if you’re not an experienced seed-saver, begin by familiarizing yourself with the best-practices.
There are many good seed-saving guides on the market, but few of them deal with the scale or equipment needed to save seeds on a commercial scale. One of the best resources for would-be professional growers is The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio.
But even seed-saving guides geared towards home-gardeners will provide you with a solid understanding of the fundamentals, so don’t pass them by entirely.
Select a Market
Before deciding which crops to grow, figure out how you plan to sell your seed crop. Is there a small seed company nearby already selling some local varieties? If so, a good first step might be reaching out to see if they’re looking for any contract growers.
A common arrangement in the seed-saving world is for larger sellers to contract with growers, each of whom grows a few different seed crops.
Alternatively, you can sell your seeds yourself. If you already have customers coming by your farm to pick up CSAs or frequent a farmstand, consider creating and selling your own seed packets.
You could also reach out to some local businesses to see if they might be willing to let you set up a rack of seeds by their register. Hardware stores and nurseries are a good place to start. If you do decide to sell your seeds yourself, make sure your seed packets advertise that the seeds were grown locally.
Select Your Seed Crops
Selecting which seed crops to grow requires consideration of several variables, so take your time making the decision. Some of the key variables to consider include:
How much space would it take to grow out a profitable seed crop from a certain vegetable? Some vegetables need to be grown a certain distance away from other varieties or crops in the same family to prevent cross-pollination, so research this in advance.
Are there specific seeds that might be of particular interest in your community? Many people might be drawn to regional, heirloom varieties, for instance.
Some seed crops require special equipment for harvesting or processing, so make sure to research any requirements like this up front.
As with anything else, some seeds are worth more than others, so research which ones you might be most profitable for your farm.
Selling seeds on a small scale can be a great way to diversify your farm’s sales and can benefit your operation in other ways as well.