You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

America's oldest seed company is in danger of closing

By Monica Milla


America's oldest seed company, D. Landreth, which has been in business since 1784, is in danger of having to close its doors forever on Sept. 30. But there's something you can do to help.

The D. Landreth Seed Co. was founded in 1784 and has introduced many flowers and vegetables into the United Sates, including the zinnia, white potato, various tomatoes and 'Bloomsdale' spinach. It carries many heirloom seed varieties that preserve the gardening history of our country.

Due to a series of unfortunate legal issues, the company's accounts have been frozen by a garnishment order (details on the company's Facebook page, or if you're not on Facebook, see the details here). If the company is unable to raise the funds needed by Sept. 30, Landreth will cease to exist after 227 continuous years in business.

Landreth's owner for the last eight years, Barbara Melera, is selling the company's seed catalogs for $5 to help raise funds. The catalog is worth the price; it is printed on thick, nice paper with old-style illustrations, beautiful photos and plant information.

I have always bought my seed potatoes from Landreth and enjoyed taking with Melera at various trade shows. She is knowledgeable, down to earth and passionate about seeds and plants. Even as cheap as I am, I bought a catalog, and I sincerely hope that will help keep this seed house around for another 227 years!

It's important to have smaller seed companies that sell heirloom seeds. Many larger seed companies sell only hybrid or genetically-modified seeds and offer a limited variety of plants and flowers. The amount of heirloom vegetables and seeds to choose from is much larger and diverse, and it keeps our food supply interesting.

I personally need purple potatoes and white tomatoes, for example. Because heirloom varieties haven't been genetically modified, their seeds are true, meaning the seeds you collect from one plant will grow into that exact same type of plant next year.

This is not true for hybrids, meaning you have to buy new hybrid seeds each year, instead of collecting your own.

Monica Milla, the Garden Faerie, is a master gardener volunteer, instructor, speaker, garden coach, and author of "Fun with Winter Seed Sowing."



Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

By the way, an update--I also bought seeds and catalogs (yes, multiple, as gifts for fellow gardeners) from Landreths. The catalogs arrived quickly and were absolutely beautiful and full of gardening information. Had old time favorites and heirloom, non-genetically altered seeds of plants I'd never heard of and loved to read about. I'm going to keep the catalog as a gardening resource as well as for the pleasure the illustrations give me. I am happy to be on their mailing list--when they can afford one!--and will be planning on ordering more if we are lucky enough that they are around in the future.


Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Thanks to you, and everyone who's helping get the word out! I ordered a catalog and some seeds.

Amy Bruhn

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Stories like these are so often missed in the mainstream "paid" media. I for one am tired of independent companies being run out of business for one reason or another. They used to be the backbone of this country and our local communities and they provide diverse products and services that the corporate big box stores just can't deliver on with their cookie-cutter growth plans. I have always given my business to independent companies wherever possible, and especially now in this difficult economic climate.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

Landreth must have been doing something right to have continued to be in business since 1784. Their history states the "it is the only American company still operating daily that existed when our country became a nation" Even if this statement is embellished, they still have a pretty inspiring history. They also chose to have the catalogue designed by and printed by a small family owned US company and not outsource their printing overseas, which would be much less expensive for them. American jobs... In today"s economic climate many businesses are struggling. I would find it very sad to see Landreth go under. I agree that this is not a "bail out", it is selling their product. Last time I went to Borders to purchase a calendar, there were not many priced at $5. I'll be buying several and giving them to my gardening friends for Christmas gifts. Thanks Monica for bringing this to our attention. Best of luck to Landreth.

Ramon Gonzalo

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

The comments above are acting like this is a bank bailout. The seed company is selling a collectible item for $5.00, not asking for donations. Nobody is asking any one to "give" anything-so to act like you're being taxed to support this company is ridiculous. I'm going to order extras to make up for the cheapos.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

Ms. Milla, I read all of the material in the link provided within this story, and it remains unclear to me what is the nature of the legally authorized garnishment. Frankly, after having read all of the material in the provided link, I also have the same questions (I suppose of you, since you authored this article on that @johnnya2 had/has. How is their dilemma not the result of financial mismanagement on their part, and for what reason should I or anyone else try to bail them out if their predicament is of their own doing? I saw nothing in the material in the provided link that shed any light on these questions.


Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

Um, Monica, I suggest you ignore DBH. It's not your job as a blogger to answer every silly nitpicky question everyone has. DBH, maybe you can get your own blog, where you ask and answer persnickety questions to your heart's content?


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

Ms. Milla, from the tone of your reply, it seems you have made an unwarranted assumption that I thought you or Landreth was trying to strong arm me or others into buying their catalogue in order to bail them out. I am well aware that "This is not your [my] problem. This is America--you [I] don't have to do anything you [I] don't want to." The condescending tone was unnecessary. The point in my comment was that there was nothing in the information contained at the link you posted that explained why this was anything than another company (however laudable and historical it may be) that was about to go belly-up in this economy. If you had included the information about the summons having been sent to the incorrect address in your original posting, or if the information at the link to which you directed the readers had included the same information, a better perspective could have and likely would have been achieved. Perhaps you will consider being more informative and less condescending in your future submissions and replies to earnest commenters. I hope so.

Monica Milla

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

DBH, Landreth was unable to appear to a hearing because their address on the summons was wrong so they never received it. This is not your problem. This is America--you don't have to do anything you don't want to. There is a huge groundswell for Landreth going on in fb, twitter, and elsewhere by gardeners who don't want to lose food diversity and live in GMO-land.

Monica Milla

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 10:05 p.m.

THIS IS A GARDENING BLOG, it will have personal viewpoints of its contributors (who, incidentally, are not staff or even paid.) Johnnya2, Once you read the actual link of what happened with the money being due, I will be happy to address your comments. Macabre, this is a GARDENING BLOG, not hard news. I understand the layout of makes it hard to tell the difference between personal opinion and news, and I'd be happy if you let the editors know.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

So now you're running advertisements for Pennsylvania companies? You should separate them from the news feed. Usually there's an "advertising" marker of some sort.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

So if I have this straight, Landreth owes a woman $250k that is due NOW. She wants an extension of two years, but the women who Landreth owes money to, does not want to give her one. Landreth still has not paid her, and now has a judgement against Landreth, and I am supposed to give Landreth more money and feel sorry for them? I am going to try that with my car payment. Just give me a two year extension. I wonder how long I will keep my car in that scenario. I know nothing about the products, but if this company is a great ongoing concern, they could sell it to settle their debts, or sell more seeds. If they could not pay the note now, what makes anybody think they can pay it in two years?