The Good Non-GMO Seeds
23 Oct, 2011
This is the story of Jim and Kristen Mitchell, a Phoenix, Arizona, couple who a few years back found themselves at a crossroads—and who ended up founding Humble Seed, a company through which home gardeners could find premium, non-GMO, non-hybrid seeds, along with the expertise to help them get started on, continue or expand their planting activities.
“My husband and I moved to Arizona a few years ago and found ourselves in a situation where we wanted to start a business,” Kristen Mitchell, co-founder of Humble Seed, told Organic Connections. “With our new company we wanted to create a situation where we felt like we were helping people get back to basics, versus taking advantage of people during predatory times. A lot of people were out of jobs, and there were home foreclosures and what have you. We wanted to start something positive during bleak economic times.
“Jim comes from a commodity trading background and I have a biology degree. A garden seed company was something that we could put both of our passions behind.”
Within their motivation was the desire to assist people in growing their own produce. “Right now we’re in the midst of a huge cantaloupe fiasco from Colorado, and people are getting sick,” Mitchell said. “So there are a lot of questions these days about where our food is coming from. In addition to that important point, growing your own food is economical and healthy. There are a hundred and one positive reasons for having a little herb garden in your kitchen or a full blown garden out back that your family can benefit from in so many ways.”
From an environmental and health standpoint, the Mitchells also wanted their seeds to be as nature intended. “Our first goal was to have a non-GMO seed,” Mitchell explained. “We just didn’t want anything genetically modified within our inventory.
“Our second goal was to have everything be non-hybrid, which means you can save seeds from your produce and know they’re going to grow for you next year. So much conventional produce right now is hybrid, because they want to transport tomatoes 1,500 miles to their destination, or desire watermelon not to have seed. In order to do things like that, you’ve got to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and create this plant in order to do it. The downfall is that those seeds then are sterile or can’t be planted again next year. We wanted our customers to have a one-time investment in Humble Seed; it starts with gardening and then continues on for years to come.”
In addition to these constant qualifications, many of the seeds available from Humble Seed are of organic and heirloom varieties.
As they began researching to start their business, the Mitchells realized they had another purpose: to make gardening a cool thing to do. “It always seems like when you look at seed packs there’s a photo from the 1970s of a head of broccoli,” said Mitchell. “There might be some artwork but it seems to cater toward age 75 and older. We liked the idea of what Starbucks did to the coffee bean—just escalating it to a respectable place and bringing some fun into it. We’re simply trying to make it cool, hip, fun and engaging.”
The packaging makes it easy for a gardener to decide what to do—what the Mitchells call “grab and go gardens.” “When we were in the gardening departments of various stores, we would see people go to these packs or racks and wander around, not knowing what to get, very disengaged,” Mitchell recalled. “Additionally, these packs were sometimes stored outside and exposed to the elements, falling apart, and we thought that that was a very poor way for seeds to be treated and also not very engaging for the customer. So we saw a win-win for both our retailers and our customers: our retailers get eye-catching packaging, and our customers get grab-and-go gardens. All of our seeds are packed in resealable Mylar bags as well, which protect the seeds, allowing for ‘plant now or later’ convenience.”
The Humble Seed assistance doesn’t end with the purchase of seeds. “We act as a conduit for helpful information,” Mitchell continued. “We’re very closely tied to our local Permaculture Guild and help people identify the resources right in their own backyard; regardless of where you are in this country there’s an extension office, there’s a master gardener there waiting to help.”
The Mitchells also provide assistance through social networking. “We get questions on Facebook quite often, and we’ll post answers back out to our community. There’s a wealth of information right there at their fingertips.”
The response to Humble Seed from the public clearly shows they’re on the right track, and the Mitchells are only looking forward. “Response has been overwhelming,” Mitchell concluded. “Every time I go onto my Facebook page and I see over 12,000 followers there, it’s very humbling. People are just so engaged and emotionally connected to it; they remember themselves gardening, or their grandma gardening. It’s something that they want to get back to and we’re just trying to make it easy for them to do so.”
For more information, or to shop for seeds, visit www.humbleseed.com.