Just like fashion designers await the hottest trends for spring, this is the time of year gardeners and farmers eagerly peruse the famous Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog, looking for novel items like purple carrots and the latest microgreens.
And just like last year’s fashion gives way to the new, Johnny’s added 150 items in 2019, mostly seeds, as it does sell garden tools, manures and other products.
The company still is in its most active business season, which started at the beginning of the year. Just a couple weeks ago, workers were spending 11 hours a day, three days in a row, filling orders for a special offer of free shipping on orders topping $50.
“Our growth is concentrated in January, February and March, when people buy seeds in bulk,” said Gretchen Kruysman, co-CEO of the company, which has administrative offices in Fairfield and research, packaging and warehouse operations in Albion.
“Our primary customer is the small farmer who sells at a farmers market or brings their products to a community supported agriculture location,” she said, although the ranks of home gardeners are growing quickly.
Every year the company has introduced new products, a handful of which it develops itself and the rest from other companies or growers.
“The breeding process takes about 10 years, similar to a new drug,” Kruysman said.
That means only two to four new seed varieties will be ready for sale each year. Johnny’s breeding team develops new seed varieties that could potentially grow into tastier tomatoes or purple or red carrots.