Still fighting to save Landreth Seeds

October 2 , 2011

Marketing Miracle? Landreth Seed Co. fights on

I began tellilng the story of the historic D. Landreth Seed Company a few weeks ago, after reading posts by Mr. Brown Thumb and following activity on Twitter and Facebook.

Basically, the oldest seed house in America is in deep financial trouble and is on a mission to sell one million dollars’ worth of catalogs in a very short time. Orginally, it was one month. Now, after weeks of good publicity in the traditional and social media, owner Barbara Melera, who I interviewed on September 11, thinks she may have bought herself another 60 days. She sent me a report of the developments in the past month. You can read the full report here. Here are some of the highlights:

The weekend of September 10-11, the orders started to ease, but our facebook genius, Christin, was contacting organizations like John Deere, ABC News, Oprah, etc. and our Fabulous Beekman Boys were lighting up TreeHugger and Planet Green. Mr.BrownThumb, a very popular Chicago-based blogger, made several posts, and during that weekend, on the Mike Nowak Radio Show in Chicago, I was invited to give an interview. By Monday, the order rate was again at about 1 per minute. Mike’s outreach to the Chicago community was impressive and sustained itself for almost 10 days.

Below is the comparison for facebook activity throughout the past month.

Monthly Active Users
# of Likes
Wall Posts

Most of the orders (more than 80%) were either for more than 1 catalog or a catalog and other product. I do not have firm numbers right now, but it looks like the average order size was about $20.00.

We have only had 2 organizations place a bulk order for catalogs for their constituents. This has been the only disappointment in this effort and it has proven to be a real impediment to driving the numbers substantially higher. We currently have one order for 100 catalogs and one order for 60 catalogs. The catalog would make a great giveaway for any of the audience driven TV shows like Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, Emeril, etc.

I believe, but I do not know, that we have made enough progress, that we can buy our selves another 60 days. We’ll see. We have been selling catalogs one person at a time throughout America. I told you at the start that I have always felt this was America’s company. This process has been uniquely American and if it succeeds, it is beginning to look like it will be exclusively American.

Here are the numbers as of Saturday, October 1: $7,643 via chipin and $122, 096 in
online orders plus $635 phone orders. Total – $130,374.

They still have a long way to go, which is why I’m happy to have Barb on the program again this morning. Once again, here are various links that you can use to get the word out: Facebook sites Landreth Seed Co, Save Landreth Seed Company, Order their 2012 Catalog!, and probably more. If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #savelandreth. If you just want to make a contribution, go to and click the icon on the upper right hand side of the page.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals
Return to Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm

It’s been almost nine months since we visited with Jody and Beth Osmund from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm in Ottawa, Illinois. In their own words, “We raise and animals in ways that nurture and respect nature’s systems.” Cedar Valley is an old-fashioned family farm on the banks of Indian Creek, where Jody and Beth returned a few years ago to become sustainable farmers and raise their sons: Richard, Duncan and Jack.

Here’s their report on 2011 to date:

Our year has gone well, especially on the production end. Our meat chickens performed very well this season with better survivability and growth which allowed us to finish our season a few weeks early. Also, some small innovations on the farm paid big dividends in labor savings. CSA sales growth has slowed, however, our numbers are a bit ahead of last year. With more marketing efforts this fall and winter, we plan to spark more growth of the CSA. As part of that effort, Cedar Valley Sustainable Farmstays in touch with its customers and members through a Facebook page.

Jody continues his work on the Illinois Local, Food, Farms, and Jobs Council  to help foster our local food economy with the goal of all state institutions sourcing 20% of their food needs in IL by 2020. Policy wins in 2011 include passage of the Illinois Cottage Foods bill and the establishment of the the Illinois Farmers Market Task Force. The whole family participated in Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s lobby day last spring–working for passage of these bills.

Along with Greg Gunthorp, an innovative hog and poultry grazier in Indiana, Jody is serving on a grant advisory panel for the Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT). The grants which will begin next spring, will help livestock farmers move toward more humane management practices that emphasize grazing. There will be a Fund-A-Farmer launch party October 24th at Uncommon Ground in Chicago at 7:00pm. Jody will speak about Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm’s practices and its pioneering Meat CSA program.

Next week, Beth will continue to hone her organizational skills and explore future leadership roles by attending the White House Project’s Go Run event in Northbrook, IL.

Jody & Beth continue other leadership roles serving on the vendor board for the Logan Square Farmers Market and serving as farmer faculty for CRAFT’s Farm Beginnings farmer training program and the Michael Fields Agriculture Institute. They continue to guide the North Central Illinois Farmer Network greenfarmers. In January, Beth and Jody will be presenters at the Illinois Organic and Specialty Crop Conference. We are, also, a soccer family. CVSF sponsors a team. Jody coaches two rec. league teams, and their oldest has joined the Chicago Magic travel soccer club. Needless to say, our schedule is very full.

Yikes! And I thought I was busy. Not only that, but they wrote that whole report. I’m thinking of hiring Jody and Beth to do my website work each Saturday. Of course, I can’t afford them. As always, my thanks to the great folks at Angelic Organics Learning Center for connecting me with great farms like Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm.

Eco-system restoration as a fall (and winter) sport

Stephen Packard is a bit of an icon in the Chicago and Midwest environmental community. He has long been involved with the National Audubon Society, Chicago Region, as well as Chicago Wilderness, The Nature Conservancy and more. He has developed programs of restoration and monitoring for tallgrass prairie, savanna, woodland and wetland ecosystems.

So I was surprised and pleased when I received an email from him this week asking me if I would be willing to talk about a first-of-its-kind restoration project at Deer Grove East in Palatine, which has its kickoff celebration this Saturday, October 8 at 10:00 a.m.

Packard joins me this morning and says that, in the past, when a concerned group of citizens wanted to restore a natural ecosystem to a developed area, it was often take decades of work with handsaws, loppers and people ripping out invasive annuals and perennials. But thanks to an infusion of $2.5 million from Openlands, the area was cleared with bulldozers, back hoes and brush clearing machines to re-establish the wetlands and generally get the project off to a running start.

This is a unique opportunity for residents, families and friends of all ages to learn how to be a preserve steward (or to help teach others, if you already know) for prairies, wetlands and woodlands. You can also work with experts like Packard, Doug Stotz (Field Museum ornithologist, author and Amazon explorer), Linda Masters (Openlands restoration ecologist who has been managing the professionals who’ve started the project), and Bill Koenig (Forest Preserve District volunteer coordinator). They will not be lecturing–instead, they will be giving one-on-one lessons about the ecosystems while you work with them. It sounds like a fabulous and unique opportunity.

For two years, professionals working with Openlands have cut 125 acres of brush, controlled 150 acres of noxious weeds, planted 52 acres of wetland and 66 acres of prairie and are working on 50 acres of oak woodland. Total project area so far: 175 acres. But this work just gets the ball rolling. Many of the most crucial parts over the next few years will depend on trained and empowered volunteers who will learn how to start on the 8th.

Here’s how the day will work:

  • Refreshments 10:00 AM –
    Gather just beyond the west end of the Deer Grove East parking area.
  • 10:15 AM – Short Informational Program
  • 10:30 AM – Tours Begin (Dress for weather & possible wet or muddy ground)
  • 11:30 AM – Return for Refreshments, Q&A, Meet the Experts
  • Noon – Additional Tours available for interested parties

For directions and more information go to the Dear Grove East website, (still under construction). The reason for the headline of this article is that once work begins on a site like this, it never really ends. So be prepared to work through the fall, into the winter and beyond. But in the service of making the earth whole again, how can you really call it work?

Will Chicago finally get real recycling?

The world changes tomorrow. Well, perhaps only if you live in Chicago and you happen to have a blue recycling cart.

That’s the day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “managed competition” program starts. For the next six months, three groups will be engaged in a head to head to head battle for the right to run all or part of Chicago’s recycling program: Department of Streets and Sanitation workers, Waste Management and Sims Metal Management Municipal Recycling. Before Richard M. Daley left office, his administration devised a plan to divide the city into six service areas, all of which were to be outsourced to private companies.

Mayor Emanuel modified that plan by assigning two of those areas to city employees to see if they can effectively compete with private companies. Waste Management is responsible for three areas and Sims has one. The City is giving all three groups exactly six months to prove that they can handle Chicago’s recycling efficiently and, at the same time, help cut into the city’s massive budget deficit. At that time, reportedly, a cost-benefit analysis will determine which group(s) will continue to handle recycling. (The map of how the city is divided into service areas is on the home page of this website.)

As you might know, I am the president of the Chicago Recycling Coalition (full disclosure: I do not receive a penny for my work there. I wish I did make money and I would be happy to disclose that, too.) We at the CRC have a few questions about this “competition” that will play out over the next six months.

Among the questions: What are the exact criteria for the cost-benefit analysis? How fair will the competition be, and how transparent? Is six months is enough time to determine whether a recycling group should be locked in for the next seven years? And on and on. Log onto the CRC website to keep abreast of what we discover over the next few months. Meanwhile, if you live in Chicago and want more information about the blue cart recycling changes, log onto the Chicago Recycling Coaltion or this City of Chicago web page.