Thursday, January 7, 2010

Spinach Correnta: How Monsanto Can Improve Their Reputation with Home Gardeners


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.

The offer:
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.

10 comments:

  1. Gina,
    Love it! Great Idea.

    Monica

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  2. I know what you mean, I wrote a post about this a while back. http://chiotsrun.com/2009/12/17/say-no-to-gm-vegetables/

    As much as I like to see the good in everyone, it almost seems as if Monsanto is one of the evil companies trying to take over the world from an old James Bond movie. After watching "The World According to Monsanto" a hearing about what they've done to some farmers I don't want to support their company in any way, so I've been switching to all non-Monsanto seeds.

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  3. Oh, I have to agree with Chiot's Run. You wouldn't find an "I Heart Monsanto" shirt in my closet...ever - no matter how much damage control they do. They really are just pure evil. But it would be nice if they could stop bullying the home garden market...when they don't even want a piece of that pie.

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  4. We Gchatted about this and I totally see where you're coming from on this, but on the other hand as someone who "creates" things (pictures, words yadda, yadda) I see where they are coming from.

    If one day I wanted to stop blogging and announced I was going to zap the blog and another blogger asked me to hand it over instead so the content doesn't get lost forever, I'd be like "are you out of your mind fool!"

    Considering your post on hybrids, I'm surprised you want this baby out there. There's probably a bunch of cooler spinach varieties available, or people could just develop another.

    LOL @ all of us who have seeds on the brain.

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  5. Gina, this is an inspired post! So disappointed that Monsanto hasn't gotten back to you yet. But somehow, not surprised.

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  6. If I give you some of my spinach correnta seeds will you wear I hate Monsanto shirt? Just kidding, but I do still have some botanical interest seeds that I can send your way if your interested.

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  7. Wow, I bought a pack of Correnta spinach seeds and was just looking them up on Botanical Interests' website to link to my blog (I never got around to planting them last year). I'm sure glad I picked them up then! Let me know if you want some, I surely won't use the whole pack, maybe we can swap something.

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  8. I would dearly love to get hold of some Correnta -- even just a few seeds -- anybody??? themisslena@gmail.com

    I have some plants in the garden that produced all last year and then overwintered -- and they still haven't bolted! If I can ever get them to kick some seed, I may try to reverse-engineer the hybrid... 'Lena

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  9. Found some in 2 seconds on EBAY..........through a different distributer - Olds.

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  10. I hope you have educated yourself on Monsanto since you wrote this article.

    I would take this article down. It shows how naive you are about the real nature of this "Seed Company".

    Sustainable and Monsanto contradict each other.

    Good luck to you.

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