Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some of our Research Department’s Favorite NEW for 2014 Products

Artisan Tomatoes


 Tastes as good as they look! Try them all; only Johnny's has the entire line up of Artisans.


Glow Pepper

Sweet specialty peppers from our Breeding Program.

Bel Fiore Radicchio

Stunning, adaptable, unique, and great for adding flare to a salad mix.


Raja and Suraj Eggplant

These mini eggplants that can be sold along with Ophelia for a tricolored eggplant container.

KN Bravo Radish

A purple daikon- color is inside and out.  Striking and unique!


The perfect fit at a time when beets are increasing in popularity and baby vegetables* continue to be trendy.

Adelaide Carrot

A true baby carrot*


Mini Kabochas


Single serving wintersquash.

*Please note: Babybeat and Adelaide are what we call “genetic minis”.  This means the variety is a mini or baby size at full maturity, as opposed to simply being harvested early/immature. 

Why go with a genetic mini instead of simply harvesting and immature full size variety?  Because the flavors will be fully developed and the tops will be proportional to the roots.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Standard Shipping Now Available for Canadian Customers

Our December Commercial Sales Team blog comes from Chris Siladi, Commercial Sales Rep for Canada. Here’s some background information on Chris:

Chris started with Johnny's in 1998 with over five years of experience working on market farms and in the fresh vegetable retail trade. He has enjoyed growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers for over 40 years. Chris has more than 15 years' experience helping growers in Canada and international markets, during which he has remained current with emerging farming techniques and acquired extensive knowledge of existing markets. He has helped many growers to become more efficient and successful while building a strong relationship between the grower and Johnny's Selected Seeds.

As the Commercial Sales Rep for Canada, Johnny’s recent improvements to our Canadian shipping process are especially important to Chris.
“Johnny’s now offering Standard Shipping to our Canadian customers means that they’re able to place an order on our website or through our Contact Center and receive the same rates that we offer our customers in the United States*.  You now have the option to choose the Standard Shipping rate indicated for the value of your order (see chart to the right). This is a huge change for Canadian customers! Before now, you could place an order on our website but a Johnny’s customer service representative would have had to contact you and let you know the various shipping options available for your order. Now, if you choose Standard Shipping as your shipping method, you can simply place your order online, see the applicable Standard Shipping chart, and you can continue to check out on the website with confidence that your order will be shipped via the Post Office and arrive shortly; no phone call is required before your order ships.**
“In the many years I have been working with Canadian growers, I’ve heard complaints that placing an order was sometimes difficult because a customer had to make a choice of various shipping methods. Now that our shipping process has been streamlined, our Contact Center staff is able to spend more time interacting with you about the things that are important to you, such as your choice of products, rather than the issue of shipping logistics.
We are confident this will improve the shopping experience on Johnnyseeds.com, as well as placing an order via the phone or by mail, for our Canadian customers. We are looking forward to your feedback on this new process. This change was prompted by our customer- your input is very valuable to us. Please do not hesitate to let us know how you think this new process is working.”

To contact Chris, you can reach him via email at: csiladi@johnnyseeds.com, or Toll-Free: 800-854-2580, ext. 5311.

Otherwise, for general inquiries about Johnny's Commercial Sales, email service@johnnyseeds.com and we will get back to you shortly, or visit our Territory Sales Representatives page at Johnnyseeds.com.  

*Canadian customers are not able to receive free shipping on orders over $200.00
** Please note, we cannot offer Standard Shipping on orders worth more than $1,000


Friday, December 20, 2013

What’s New at the Farm- A Look Back at 2013, and Forward to 2014

Each year about this time, we sit back and look at the growing season; what worked and what didn’t, as well as what could stand some improvement. We also consider the challenges we may face in the next growing season. Some things like weather and pests are give ins each year, but other large issues that only surface once in a while for a grower - and how they’re approached- will determine your level of success that season. A varied list of challenges await all farmers each growing season and to assess them now, and come up with a thought-out plan of approach, will hopefully lessen the effects of these issues in the busy Spring planting season ahead.
I’ve outlined below some challenges we faced in the 2013 growing season and how we plan on overcoming these issues in the upcoming year.


This was a big issue in 2013. A part of this was getting our compost and fertilizers delivered and spread on time; supply problems you could say. For compost, we had four suppliers and of these four suppliers one had weed issues, one had rocks in the compost, and one had delivery problems. The fourth was the most expensive, but they have an excellent product and their delivery schedule is second to none. If I needed 300 yards for Monday morning, when I got to work on Monday there would be six 50-yard trailer dumps waiting to unload. The best product and best service gets my vote. All of our compost for 2014 has been delivered and will be ready to spread when we are next spring.

We use pelletized chicken manure for our organic fertilizer. We have been purchasing from a company which also spreads the product. With our dry, then wet Spring, we had many problems getting our fertilizer spread in time to do our fieldwork. In early May, when the field conditions were fairly dry, the supplier first couldn’t get the product and then didn’t have time to spread it before the heavy rains arrived. When everything else finally cooperated, the spreader truck was out of commission. The end of May found us scrambling to fertilize, prepare the soil, lay the plastic, and plant all in a rather frenzied procession. For 2014, we purchased our own new fertilizer spreader which holds four tons (our old one held 600 pounds). I will order our soil amendments (based on soil test results) this month so we’ll have them on hand come February 15th. The advantages of this include having adequate supplies on hand, being able to spread in that early season window if we have one, not having to worry about the roads being weight posted, and lastly, being able to haul 4 tons of material instead of 600 pounds. Loading one- ton bags will be faster and easier than using 50 pounders too. Four tons will cover eight acres so many fields can be spread with one load instead of many.  


Weeds are a constant challenge in any farming system. In our squash and pumpkin trials and nurseries, we like to leave a bed between planted beds so it’s easier to trace the vines for accuracy in determining which fruit go with which vine. This amounts to approximately ten feet of space between the strips of plastic in which weeds like to grow. Weed control while the plants are small is relatively easy; it’s once the vines come out into the open and are between the beds that weed control becomes difficult. The vines make it nearly impossible to mechanically cultivate the areas with weeds. A few years back, we started using hay mulch for weed control; a good idea but fraught with drawbacks.  The labor it takes to roll out and spread 350 large round bales of hay is a tremendous amount. To put in perspective, it takes approximately 320 hours.  The thickness at which it rolls out varies with how the hay was baled and what type of grass it was. A thin grass, like annual bluegrass, rolls out to a 3-4 inch depth whereas a swale grass can be a foot thick. Therefore, the bale may cover two hundred feet, or it may cover only fifty.

This year we purchased a straw shredder which unrolls and shreds the bales before spreading them onto the field. We took delivery of this unit last month and did some testing in the field to try it out. It will put down a uniform layer of hay mulch to four hundred linear feet twelve feet wide. Two people should easily be able to spread 3 acres a day; therefore all of the work will be finished in less than three days.   
Another success from 2013 was widening out the rows of crops on plastic that have row covers on them. We cover our peppers to prevent cross pollination and to give the plants some protection from the harsh Spring elements.  We use wire hoops to keep the row covers up off the plants, however. This also prevents us from cultivating the peppers as we don’t have a tractor tall enough to straddle the covered rows. By spacing out the rows to allow us to go between them with our smallest tractor, as well as a four foot tiller, we can now cultivate out the weeds all season long. It uses a bit more room this way but saves a tremendous amount of hand labor, which we can always use somewhere else. We’ve used this spacing for years in our tomatoes to facilitate equipment for spraying so the setup was easy to figure out. This allows more crops with wider spacing for next year; at least the ones with row covers.

The Land Base:

 You can almost never have enough good land to have a good rotation plan. If we had 35% more land than we need in any given year, think how much we could put into cover crops and devote to rotation plans. Last year I added a twelve-acre field and this year I added seventeen more. I think that’s good for a while. We’ve got a couple of small land projects that will add another four acres of good soil. Many of our fields need work to become productive again so this is where we’ll focus some of our attention in the upcoming years. We added a couple thousand feet of drain tile this year and have some stumping to do next year, so it looks like we’ll be busy in 2014 too. Farming is always busy!

The Weather: 

No, I can’t control the weather. All we can do is prepare for the worst and enjoy the best. We do everything we can in the previous Fall so we don’t have to do it in the Spring. Two years running we’ve been on the fields earlier than ever before, and then we got constant rains which put us behind. Once you get behind, it’s pretty hard to catch up and stay caught up. This year we’re implementing a seven day work week schedule. No, not seven days in a row but rather spreading out the work to seven days instead of five. It’s just too hard to schedule the same two days a week off for everyone. We work hard all week then everything stops for two days then we’re back at it for another round on Monday.

I realize not everyone wants to work only on sunny days and have rainy days off. Me neither, but I do want to get the work done, and if we have the optimum weather conditions and it just happens to be a weekend- we’re going to work. And, if we get heavy rains during planting season, I know we have done everything possible to get the crops planted correctly and on time. At all costs, try to be ready for Spring long before it gets here.

Lastly, one final thing I think will make a big difference to the folks working on the farm, is for me to spend more time in the field and less in the office. I like being in the field; that’s where I started. I can do everything here that needs to be done, and more importantly I can train folks how to do the tasks we need to do. I researched most of the equipment here; in fact I bought most of it, and know how best to use it to achieve the results we’re looking for. I know the funny little nuances and quirks of the equipment and tractors. I know how to cultivate and plow and spread compost and so on. I also know how I want it done. I want it done to the same high standards we do everything here at Johnny’s. I’m sure the farm crew will enjoy more of my presence in the field in 2014.

Until next time,

Friday, December 6, 2013

Q&A with The National Young Farmers Coalition

We recently interviewed Wes Hannah, the Communications Coordinator and Organizer for The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). Below, he gives some background information on the NYFC including what the organization offers, and sheds light on valuable resources, for young farmers everywhere.

• Can you give us a brief description of what The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) does?
Learn more about
the organization
NYFC is a grassroots coalition dedicated to representing, engaging and mobilizing young and begining farmers and ranchers to work toward their success  In our advocacy work, we bring the young farmer voice to the table on federal policy discussions.  In areas ranging from USDA programming to food safety regulations, NYFC makes sure the next generation receives the support it needs to be successful.  At the same time, we work with farmers around the country to organize local coalitions.  These affiliated groups organize for mutual aid in everything from social networking to labor sharing to group purchasing of supplies.

• What resources do you think are most valuable for young farmers to explore?

We have the privilege to interact with thousands of farmers at all different stages in their careers.  I would say the most valuable realization that young farmers have is that there is an immense amount of knowledge out there, whether on the production side or the business side.  The key is recognizing your needs and reaching out; we see connections developing all the time between beginning farmers and their cooperative extension agents, more experienced farmers, and especially between each other.

At the same time, I think there are some specific resources that we heartily recommend more young farmers should explore.  We've worked with land trusts around the country looking at the way they combine their conservation focus with incentivizing land transfer to a younger generation.  While there's a lot more that can be done, young farmers need to be reaching out to land resources like that. 

Additionally, there are great programs out there from the USDA and state governments designed to support education and land access for younger farmers.  The more demand we as a movement can show for those programs, the more we'll be able to successfully push for improving and increasing them.

• What are the some of the biggest challenges that young farmers face?

That question lies at the core of NYFC's mission.  When NYFC first formed, we conducted a survey of over 1,000 young and beginning farmers, asking them that very question.  The greatest challenges young farmers are facing are land access, lack of capital and credit, and access to healthcare. 

The cost and availability of land is an enormous issue for beginning farmers, especially given that many do not come from farming backgrounds.  We've seen a huge increase in land prices over the past decade, along with a concentration of land in the hands of older farmers.  These together mean that the next generation is facing a tougher time in acquiring the land they need to start successful businesses.

Starting a farm can be an expensive proposition, so the concern over lack of capital is not surprising.  We've seen many new farmers turning to vegetable production over animals or other enterprises because of the lower start-up costs.  Despite the USDA programs designed to help them, many beginning farmers still struggle with accessing those basic needs for their new operations.

Finally, healthcare tends to be a huge problem.  Farming is one of the most dangerous professions in the country, and because many new farmers are self-employed, many of them can't afford health insurance.  We have heard numerous stories of on-farm accidents that put a huge financial strain on a farm because of that problem.
Visit the National Young Farmers Coalition at http://www.youngfarmers.org/

• What do you think are some of The National Young Farmers Coalition biggest triumphs over the past year?

NYFC has been taking on a number of different issues, from pushing for the passage of a pro-farmer farm bill to analyzing the way land trusts interact with beginning farmers.  One recent triumph is our food safety campaign.  Earlier this year, the FDA released their draft of new food safety regulations for produce farms and facilities.  This was the first time those laws were rewritten in nearly seventy years, and there are huge long-term ramifications for how they affect beginning farmers, as well as the entire agricultural community. 

NYFC worked with a coalition of other organizations in poring over the rules and producing a comprehensive analysis.  We worked with our affiliates and members around the country to organize the National Day of Action to Save Local Farms, a grassroots project designed to compile hundreds of comments to the FDA before their comment period closes.  To date, we've organized over seventy letter-writing parties in thirty states, and we are confident that we can effect positive change in the FDA's regulations.

• What are some of the perks of being a NYFC member for young farmers?

Being involved with NYFC means being a part of a nation-wide community of beginning farmers who share resources, organize in local coalitions and advocate for each other.  Being a part of that community means creating better systems that will improve conditions for all farmers everywhere. 

At the same time, we know that farmers need immediate support in their careers.  That's why we've worked with more than a dozen agriculture-related companies to provide useful discounts to help out right now.  NYFC members have access to 5% off at Johnny's Selected Seeds, 10% off Working Person's Store and many other great deals.
You can sign up for email updates at the NYFC website

 • What role does Social Media play in the work the NYFC does?

Social media is a huge part of NYFC's work.  The coalition's organizing and advocacy successes depend on the activism and enthusiasm of thousands of our supporters.  We rely on the viral energy of beginning farmers to spread the word and recruit each other.  While in-person  meet-ups and conversations form the backbone of farmer organizing, social media often jump-starts our outreach and allows us to stay connected with countless young farmers on a regular basis.

• What are some of the biggest misconceptions people tend to have about getting into farming?

There is a common conception of agriculture in America as been focused only on large mono-culture farms.  The truth is, the farming community in this country is incredibly diverse, from the small-scale, intensive vegetable farms and dairy operations to the massive tracts of wheat and corn.  There is a place for every newcomer to find success, regardless of their passion.

• What’s the best way for someone to learn more about the work that the The National Young Farmers Coalition does?

The first step is to check out NYFC's website at  youngfarmers.org!  We have more information about the growing beginning farmer community and how to get involved.  We also have resources and databases for more information, and regular updates on the NYFC blog.
Photo courtesy of the NYFC website