Sow True Seed Thriving in Third Year

Peter Waskiewicz
Co-Founder,/Seed Curator
The market booth hosted by Sow True Seed was bustling with so many visitors last Saturday morning that I was lucky to catch up with business owner Peter Waskiewicz.  He was patiently answering each customer's question at the Asheville Herb Festival.  The booth offered small plants from the Sow True warehouse in downtown Asheville, as well as a wide variety of seeds.

Plants available for local customers
The business started by Waskiewicz and friend Carol Koury in 2009 has been growing these past three years like an heirloom tomato plant in June.  Waskiewicz explains what Sow True means,  "All of the seeds that we grow are selected for Southern Appalachia and the Piedmont region.  And they're all non-hybrid, open-pollinated varieties, which means that they are the type of plants that you can save the seed and use them again.  And it's a very important part of the sustainability movement, because the problem with hybrids and GMO varieties is that you can't save the seeds and use them again, and so it requires the growers to continue every year to buy the seed varieties from the seed companies that have the patents on them."

Sow True Seed has recently expanded to offer seeds for culinary and medicinal herbs, as well as many popular heirloom vegetables.  You can find Pink Brandywine and 15 other types of tomatoes, several of them certified organic.  The hundreds of seed offerings include Blue Hubbard Squash, Greasy Cut Short Pole Beans, and even Gourds.  A network of experienced growers and seed savers has coordinated to build a program that everyone in the region can be proud of.  Sow True offers extensive information on its website about seed saving. 

I asked Waskiewicz if it's harder to grow with seeds that haven't been treated with fungicide or hybridized for disease resistance.  He thinks we'd all be better off going back to the type of seeds our great-grandparents would have used.  "The reason that some of these have been around for millenia, thousands of years, is because they are very reliable varieties.  And so it's kind of a myth that treated and hybrid seeds actually do better.  There are some applications in commercial agriculture where hybrids deal with certain conditions better.  But we focus on the non-hybrid varieties that are the tried and true best ones; and then, like I said, there's a reason they've been around forever." 

Molly restocks inventory
Sow True's beautiful logo, folksy catalog and educational website combine just the right amount of marketing savvy with genuine, old-fashioned customer service.  CEO Koury brings her background of concern for women's health and the environment.  Waskiewicz offers experience in agriculture and permaculture design, including several previous years with North America's first certified organic seed company.

Community involvement includes letting volunteers work in exchange for seeds, as well as supporting school and community gardens.  Global involvement includes sending seeds to Haiti and becoming a Living Wage Certified business.  Sow True has begun partnering with schools and groups around the country to offer a seed fund-raising program that can put 30% of income back into local communities.

A pretty gift packet can be the start
 of an entire Children's Garden,
 Culinary Herb Garden or
 Appalachian Native Garden.
This small business has joined with dozens of others around the country in signing the Safe Seed Pledge, vowing to not use genetically engineered plants.  Directly above a reprint of the entire pledge in their catalog, the company states a motivation that runs deeper than any seasonal profits, "Sow True Seed endorses the basic right of all people to enjoy a safe, ethical and sovereign food production and distribution system."

Artist makes eco-friendly planters!

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