3 Woman-Owned Seed Companies

The owners of Fruition Seeds, Renee’s Garden Seeds, and Hawthorn Farm are leading the way for female entrepreneurs in the heirloom seed industry.

| Winter 2017-2018

  • Fruition Seeds in upstate New York is co-owned and -operated by Petra Page-Mann.
    Photo by Fruition Seeds
  • Fruition Seeds grows 60 percent of the seed it sells.
    Photo by Fruition Seeds
  • Based in New York, Fruition Seeds regionally adapts hundreds of cultivars for short growing seasons.
    Photo by Fruition Seeds
  • Petra Page-Mann of Fruition Seeds with her favorite disease-resistant tomato, 'Chiapas.'
    Photo by Fruition Seeds
  • The folks at Renee's Garden Seeds--including Renee Shepherd herself, kneeling at right.
    Photo by Renee's Garden Seeds
  • Renee's Garden Seeds tests cultivars for two seasons at trial gardens in California and Vermont before seeds are offered in the company catalog.
    Photo by Renee's Garden Seeds
  • Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden Seeds.
    Photo by Renee's Garden Seeds
  • Kim Delaney of Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds in Palmerston, Ontario.
    Photo by Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds
  • Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds offers vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, and grasses.
    Photo by Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds
  • A bee dives into a chive flower at Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds in Ontario.
    Photo by Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds

Fruition Seeds

Fruition Seeds is nestled in the hills of Naples, a small town in the Finger Lakes region of New York. On five farms totaling 25 acres, Petra Page-Mann and her partner, Matthew Goldfarb, grow regionally adapted seeds for the Northeast. Born and raised in Naples, with a childhood spent in her father’s garden, Petra says, “I grew up really appreciating plants adapted to this place I call home. Each place has its own unique ecosystem, and genetic diversity is what has allowed plants to thrive.”

The root of Fruition Seeds is the understanding that genetic diversity and collaboration are fundamental parts of a healthy food system. To that end, it’s important to Petra that her customers know where their seed was grown. Most seed companies selling directly to farmers and gardeners are seed distributors, buying wholesale seed from growers and reselling it in smaller packages, but Fruition grows 60 percent of the seed it sells. The rest is sourced from partner farms, with only 10 percent of the seed grown outside the Northeast.

“Each of our cultivars is very personal to us, and they all have a story,” Petra tells me. One of her favorite stories is of growing Valencia peanuts as a child and harvesting a mere two peanuts per plant. She chalked it up to her garden being located too far north. A few years ago, though, Fruition received a gift of 1/2 pound of ‘Northern Hardy’ Valencia peanut seeds, selected and maintained over many years in Northern Michigan. Petra says, “A month away from harvest, a woodchuck moved in under the bed. It was also the coldest season on record. But after the first frost, we dug them out and found 21 peanuts per plant. Last year was hot and dry, and we got 42 peanuts per plant! This is truly an incredible cultivar to ensure abundant peanuts in a short season, and this experiment shows the power of regional adaptation.”

During the last century, some experts believe we’ve lost more than 80 percent of seed cultivars through the industrialization of our food system, the commodification of seed companies, and the decline of seed saving overall. But Petra is full of incredible optimism, bolstered by determination and a realistic understanding of what can be created when we engage with seeds and soil. “Though we’ve lost untold genetic diversity and wisdom in a handful of generations, there’s infinite potential in a handful of seeds,” she says.



Petra looks to the future, developing new open-pollinated cultivars. “We’re creating heirlooms for future generations,” she says. “Can you imagine if we stopped writing books? Every heirloom we know began as a new introduction in its day. If we’re to survive and thrive as a species, it’s only because we’re writing new books and saving new seeds.”

Learn more at Fruition Seeds.






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