Idaho’s Snake River Seed Cooperative Sows Seeds that Thrive in the Intermountain West.
As more and more people are gardening – including many millennials – the demand for seeds is high. Idaho’s Snake River Seed Cooperative is rising to the occasion with a wide variety of heirloom, non-GMO seeds for more than 300 plant varieties, all local to the Intermountain West. The company’s focus on organic, locally adapted seeds is a sustainable trend perfectly designed by its collective ownership, all of whom are family farmers. The company also gives consumers a chance to support local and smaller farms. Their motto is that sharing seed-saving knowledge with farmers in the region is vital to growing a robust, regional seed shed. The seeds are packaged at the cooperative’s headquarters and then sold by independent businesses across the state.
Now in its fifth year of operation, Snake River Seed is a sustainable and green company that helps farmers and even backyard gardeners better the health of their plants and vegetables. Each seed is already adapted to the area’s soil, air, and climate, giving each a better chance to become a successful plant. Each of the 30-plus farmers that contribute seed to the cooperative keeps his or her garden free from fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides and uses low-input gardening techniques that mirror what somebody would do on a small plot of land or in a backyard. Each seed is essentially organic (some growers are too small for actual certification) and open-pollinated, which means the buyer can save and use the seeds from what they grow. Twenty-five to 50 percent of the price of each seed packet sold goes directly back to the co-op farmers, meaning each farmer earns as much as ten times more than they would be working with a larger corporation. The company did more than $1 million in sales last year.
One of these farmers is Snake River Seed’s founder Casey O’Leary of Earthly Delights Farm in North Boise.
“You’re supporting a local economy, you’re supporting local business, you’re supporting local pollinators, you’re supporting all these really cool things that we’re doing, and also you’re getting seeds that are going to do way better in your garden. We always say they’re grown and packed with love and it’s true,” O’Leary explained. “There’s a lot, and that’s everything from a huge assortment of vegetables to different flowers. We do a lot with native plants and native flowers to support local ecosystems and pollinators.”
O’Leary explained that her main goal is to make sure her seeds get better and better every year. However, the bigger picture is for Snake River Seed to be a part of a local food movement in the Treasure Valley. Many mass-market seed packets are not optimized for specific regions. She stressed that every gardener would have a more successful garden by using local seeds. Overall, every garden in Idaho will get healthier using Snake River seeds.
“It may be easier to run over to Wal-Mart in April and buy an already flowering tomato plant, but part of what makes the Treasure Valley special is our agriculture producers,” said Rachel Spacek, Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. “[We have a] duty to support the way of life here…and that means buying local seeds.”
From native seeds to wildflower seeds, vegetables to bee balm, Snake River Seed has a variety of seeds for every type of gardener, large and small. A Seed of the Month Club is also available, which includes a regular newsletter with planting, growing, and harvesting tips.