Are All Seed Companies the Same?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Pony, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

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    I just got a new seed catalog, from Vermont Bean Seed Company in Randolph, WI. "Well," I said to myself, "isn't that where Shumway is located?" Sure enough, I go online and it's the exact same address as Shumway!

    Around about the same time Shumway really improved their service, I also noticed that there seemed to be a connection between Shumway and Jung Seed.

    Often, I get catalogs from Bloomington, IL. Same address, many different names of companies. Same exact pictures and copy, but different prices and company names.

    Now, I do know of small seed operations that are owned and operated by one person or a group of people, but who owns Shumway and Jung and Vermont and Four Seasons and....

    ARGH!!

    Has anyone else noticed this? Can anyone explain it to me?

    A very confused
    Pony!
     
  2. dlangland

    dlangland dlangland

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    My dad has tried to tell me that same thing for years. Same seed/same source/dif. names for the most part, yet I never wanted to believe it. I know for yrs. when I lived in South Dakota I used to order from Gurney's Seed and Nursery out of Yankton, SD, but since they went bankrupt a few yrs. ago, their catalog, pricing, even postage is the exact same as Henry Field's out of I think it's either Ill. or Indiana. Dissapointing. Like, have you ever wondered where Kmart's Martha Stewart seeds/bulbs derive from? Deb
     

  3. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Pony, the answer to your question about seed company ownership is here:

    http://davesgarden.com/gwd/whoownswhat.php

    You are correct in that Jung's owns Vermont Bean and Shumway. Shumway, Seymour's and Totally Tomatoes plus TT UK were previously owned by a Wayne Hilton who bought the names only for a few thousand dollars. Vermont Bean was acquired by him via a hostile takeover. When Hilton decided that he couldn't run a seed company properly, all the pieces were for sale. Due to a longtime personal friendly association between the original founders of both Jung's and Shumway's, Jung's felt that they should rescue Shumway's rather than see it vanish entirely. However, it was a hard bargain as they had to accept all of the other companies as well. (We won't go into the massive "phantom" seed inventory which was also involved and which made it terribly difficult to fill orders from those stocks!)

    I do know the owner of Jung's, Richard Zondag. In fact, met with his brother, Robert, yesterday to set up supplying their stores with garlic next fall. It's one of the few major companies which has been in the same family for nearly a century, 2007 will mark 100 years. If all goes as planned, you just may see one of my tomatoes on the front page of their catalog for that year. Barring total disaster, that will be when we release Wisconsin 55 Gold, the previously unknown yellow sibling of Wisconsin 55.

    Martin
     
  4. dlangland

    dlangland dlangland

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    Good information, Martin. Thank you. I have ordered from Jung's before and always liked them. Deb
     
  5. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

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    Martin, I was glad to see your reply. I figured that if anyone knew the answer, it would be you. :)

    I'm glad Shumway is still around (if for no other reason than the catalog!). Appreciate the "inside story", too. Thanks! Whew! Talk about a collective consciousness... ;)

    Does Jung have actual storefronts, or do you mean "stores" as in "supplies set aside?"

    I am looking forward to seeing the YELLOW WISCONSIN 55 on the cover of Jung's seed catalog! Congratulations!

    Pony!
     
  6. Pat

    Pat Well-Known Member

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    No, all seed companies aren't the same... but ones like Jung (and the others they own) have one thing in common.

    (66% positive) (42)
    Jung Seed Randolph, Wisconsin
    (United States)

    (54% negative) (-8)
    Henry Field's Seed & Nursery Lawrenceburg, Indiana

    Why shop with them (but enjoy their catalogs) when there are Pine Tree

    (90% positive) (176)
    Pinetree Garden Seeds New Gloucester, Maine
    (United States)

    or Johnny's Selected Seeds
    (98% positive) (129)
    Johnny's Selected Seeds Winslow, Maine

    or Baker Creek

    (96% positive) (82)
    Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. Mansfield, Missouri
    (United States)
    (United States)

    to select from (and support so they are still around) and others.

    (All these ratings are from Garden Watchdog at http://davesgarden.com/gwd/ ).

    If there is something that one of the good companies doesn't have, then I can see going to one that has a bad rating, but if the good companies have it, why support the bad ratings one (and potentially either want to add or add to their negative rating)?

    I really suggest looking up a seed company before buying from them.

    Pat
     
  7. Ardie/WI

    Ardie/WI Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I've been ordering from Jung for about 40 years and never have been disappointed. In fact, we've been known to make a family trip to Randolph to buy seed in early spring. I kmow that the Steven's Point store is closer but the one in Randolph has more personality.

    I usually only order from Jung and TotallyTomatoes. I know there is another seed company catalog that I've ordered from but the name escapes me.
     
  8. mamabear

    mamabear Well-Known Member

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    I love Baker Creek. They seem to have really good seed and I've had wonderful luck with the harvest from the seed.
    mamabear
     
  9. apirlawz

    apirlawz playing in the dirt

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    I noticed Pinetree had a high rating...but I think that might be changing. I'd researched them last year when I started hearing a few complaints about them here and there. It seems that they've been having problems in the past two years or so with filling orders on time, expecially with tubers, live plants, etc. Last year, I'd ordered 20 lbs of potatoes from them for my market garden...got them in JUNE! They claimed vendor issues, but that really didn't mean anything to me when my garden's ready at the end of April, and everybody else has theirs in! :grit:

    Other than that, they are usualy not at all prompt, quite a few mix ups, and very often, I have seeds swiming around the bottom of the box/envelope when I get my order. Mesclun anyone? :bash:

    Soooo, I will still use them when experimenting with new varieties, but nothing more than a few packets here and there. Of course, YMMV!

    ETA: The good ones....
    Johnnies - can't live without them, ridiculously good service and products! Chesmore, Stokes, Mountain Valley Seed are good for price and prompt service. I got some killer sweet potato plants from Jung last year, which has been a nice change. :goodjob: I'd had a streak of bad luck with them for a couple of orders prior, and was considering dumping them from the line-up.
     
  10. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Pony, Jung's has 5 garden centers in Wisconsin. I've often said that it is like walking into a huge seed catalog. Everything in the catalog is in those stores and then some. Right now, they are Christmas centers with trees, wreaths, poinsettias, etc. That will all be cleared out between Christmas and New Year's. Then spring seed stocking begins shortly after.

    When it comes to the Garden Watchdog, I look for the number of negatives in the most recent season and the nature of complaints. Jung's had 3 negatives in 2005, Pinetree had 5. One of Jung's negatives was so trivial that it was because the person answering the phone did not know where their trilliums were grown! A negative not on GWD is the fact that Pinetree was selling Speckled Roman tomato seed as Opalka last year. (The seed source for both was Seed Savers Exchange of Decorah, Iowa.) I also could have submitted a negative about Pinetree when Carola potatoes did not arrive until over a month later than requested and after I'd given up. For certain, I won't bash Pinetree since they have always had a good reputation. But there are grumblings behind the scenes that I think of as normal for a company getting too big and having growth and personnel problems.

    Martin
     
  11. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

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    I generally take complaints on watchdog sites with a grain of salt. Some people post without talking to the company first, some just shoot off the cuff. I like Paquebot's suggestion of looking for trends in the complaints.

    For instance, Shumway was getting a reputation for poor service, but committed to changing that. In dealing with them the past two years, I have only positive experiences to share. Does this mean they never make mistakes? Of course not, everyone makes mistakes. But they are quick to rectify whatever is wrong. Example: One package of garlic cloves in my order were mushy and moldy. They immediately replaced them, and could not have been nicer about it when I phoned.

    Contrast that with a company that doesn't believe in Customer Service: I called Maytag for a part, and they were as unhelpful as they could possibly be, even when I gave them more than enough opportunities to work with me. THAT sort of behavior is what should get written up as a negative customer experience.

    Don't know about all the other seed places, but I will be opening up the RandMcNally site to get directions to Randolph as soon as the holiday madness is behind us. ROAD TRIP! :)

    Pony!
     
  12. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Pony, since it's your thread to start with, we're not hijacking it!

    Shumway's was a problem child right off the bat when Jung's bought it. An awful lot of seed turned out to exist only on paper. When this forum was still Countryside, I was busy acting as "purchasing agent" for some members who were waiting for a Shumway order to arrive. That was when Jung's thought that it would be great to hire the same people and keep the same locations. Those same people didn't work any harder for Jung's than they had for Hilton! There was an interesting fact that although there were many seed stocks which turned up missing, a former employee was able to open a small company and just happened to have all of those varieties!

    Next year, all companies were shifted to Randolph. There, the local telephone exchange was totally overwhelmed to the point where local service also was almost non-existent. Going from say 4,000 phone orders daily to 12,000 just didn't work! Postal center also was not set up to handle such an increase. Right in the middle of that deal, their catalog building burned which wiped out their entire paper and printing stock. Seed packets were coming down needing to be stapled shut after having been printed with just the barest of information. In the past two years, the phone banks have been greatly expanded and the local system brought up to a high capacity.

    I also recall the garlic fiasco! As soon as it showed up in the local store, I knew that there was a problem and solved it with my pocket knife. That year, Jung's had to have someone else print the plastic bags and they used the wrong type. The bags were supposed to be the perforated type to allow air flow. The wrong ones were OK for short periods of time in cold storage but not at normal temperature. Last year, Russian Red somehow ended up in wrong type also so that printing is possibly still contracted out.

    There are 5 Jung's garden centers. The home one is in Randolph, a city which is still under 2,000 population. (About 3,400 for the entire township.) Ardie would have a choice of either that one or Steven's Point. Then there are two in Madison, one on the far SW side and the other on the far north side. The fifth one is Sun Prairie and the one that I recommend for convenience for anyone coming from the south. The goal of the stores is to have all seeds stocked by 20 Jan and they usually do. Gardeners come in with a well-worn catalog and may spend half a day filling a shopping cart or basket.

    Don't wait until the last two weekends of May. If I stop in then, they try to put me to work! Usually it's a need for someone who is tall and/or strong and I seem to qualify!

    Martin
     
  13. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

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    As I recall, it WAS the Russian Red that arrived in less than lovely shape. The rest of the garlic was very nice, though.

    Hmm... Sun Prairie... Seems to me that J&L Jeep is also in Sun Prairie, thereby making it easier to get DH to accompany me on this road trip.

    The end of January sounds good. By then, I should be going stark barking mad.

    In the meantime, all the information you're supplying, Martin, is fascinating, and is certainly keeping me entertained on this cold Winter afternoon.

    THANKS!

    Pony!
     
  14. Pat

    Pat Well-Known Member

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    I'll add that the ones I listed were ones I had problems with. I gardened in Houston for over 20 years, and the tricks you had to learn to be able to garden there. One of them was the proper time to plant. When I'd order seeds, if the company waited until they thought it was the right time to plant, it was good for the next year's planting for me.

    I also learned to buy tubers locally if at all possible. They would be there when I needed them (and not frozen in shipment or late). I still believe in buying tubers locally, and to be honest, at least half my seeds. I beleive in supporting my local feed and seed store. I want to keep them in business. The seeds and tubers I can't buy locally (varieties or things they just don't have) I'll use the seed catalogs.

    Unfortunately I have to buy all my trees, berries etc. by catalog as there isn't a good nursery (that stocks what I'm looking for) around here. Because I never bought them from catalog before I base my where to buy on the watchdog because they seem to match my feelings on various seed companies I am familar.

    If I have cast aspersions on companies that are no longer guilty of what they were doing I aapologize.

    I also tend to shy away from companies that have to offer gimmicks to get you to buy (buy $25 and we will give you $25 more worth of seed or plants or what ever). If they can't get their business by being honest and provide good service then they try and sucker you in (as I was with the Michigan Bulb company too many years ago to admit to when it was), but I did learn something from them (and it was only 1 spring).

    I still think we should support our local Feed and Seed stores, and those companies that provide good honest seeds in a timely manner and back it with good service. I do not plan on retrying a company that burnt me before, nor one that is not listed as good in the watchdog. I will watch PineTree (but, didn't have any problem with last year's order from them).

    Again, if I have cast aspersions on companies that are no longer guilty of what they were doing I aapologize.

    Pat
     
  15. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

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    No offense taken, at least not for my part. We've all had different experiences with different companies.

    As long as I can get my seeds, I'm pretty happy. If I can get my seeds with good customer service, I'm pleased as punch.

    And any time I get shabby service (and believe me, I am very easy to work with), I let people know.

    Pony!
     
  16. birdie_poo

    birdie_poo Well-Known Member

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    I'd have to say a big fat NO.

    You get what you pay for with most companies.

    I'm desperately trying to change everything I do in the way of ordering from companies or shoping from companies that aren't employee, environmental, or customer friendly.

    There is one seed company that has yet to refund my over payment.

    I refuse to buy from companies that sell patented seeds.

    I refuse to buy from companies that have any direct interest with Monsanto.

    I am slowly, but pregressivly, starting to just deal with certified organic companies.

    I'm also going to stick with heirloom and no hybrids. WIth all the changes here and there with hybrids, you don't know exactly what it is that you are getting anymore, and if you want to can, forget hybrids!

    I highly recommend Seeds of Change.
     
  17. sylvar

    sylvar Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I love Johnny's Selected seed. Even though they tend to be a little more pricey. The info you get on the packet there is priceless. Things like WHEN that seed was collected and the EXPECTED germination rate based on the last seed test (and the date of that test).

    Shane
     
  18. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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  19. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Nichols Garden Nursery in Oregon as well as Territorial Seeds also of Oregon are great companies. I think it is important and prudent to buy seeds and plants from companies that are in the same zone as your garden. Trees especially. If a tree is born and happy in Missouri for instance, it is not going to be thrilled with the Maritime Pacific NW.

    It is also important to support whenever possible small, independently owned businesses of any sort. Otherwise, all we'll have left is Walmart and Monsanto, and wouldn't that be a depressing scenario?
     
  20. Ardie/WI

    Ardie/WI Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I must share the story of my first trip to Randolph,WI to Jung Seed Co. I had my VERY handled, bedragled Jung catalog with me and also my very large messy, wrinkled list.

    We got out of the car and lo and behold, all the customers charging out of their vehicles had the same crazed expression I had. The also had the same beaten looking catalogs and lists. it was like in the movie ET, where all those people were driven to go to Devils Tower. We had to get those seeds! Nothing was going to stop us! :viking:

    By far,everyone was so friendly. We shared notes and helped each other find seeds. It was as if we were of one happy family and I guess we were...we are gardeners!