Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The things we can and cannot control…

We go through a rather laborious process with ordering seed for the following year. We use sales history to forecast how much seed we need to order for our customers. Many of our suppliers will sell completely out of many varieties they produce in any given year. This situation creates a rather undesirable process where we have to wait for the new seed to be harvested, conditioned and packaged in the fall. Many times new seed does not arrive at our company until well into January and February. Not only is this an inconvenience for our customers, it creates costly back orders for our company. One year our back order shipping expenses cost us nearly $200,000, and we do not charge customers for back order shipments. We do everything we possibly can to prevent this, but more often than not, it is out of our control.

The things we can control are such things as ensuring our customers always receive courteous and friendly service in the call centers, top quality products, a customer friendly web site, and expedient packaging and shipping. We also guarantee that when our customers speak with our product specialists, they will receive helpful and useful information.

We work very hard at this to ensure that every customer’s shopping experience with our company is a good one!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We like who we are… Family Owned!!

There have been comments by some consumers that large, multi-national corporations have gobbled up the small family owned agricultural companies in America. Big business has taken agricultural products into the science lab, resulting in many genetically modified plants… frequently improving production, disease resistance, and creating other benefits. This is much more common in the field crop business, such as soy beans and field corn, and is not nearly as common in the fresh market vegetable marketplace… at least not yet.

Our company, just like it was throughout the 20th century, is a family owned business. The family principles that made Harris Seeds a market-leader over the years remain in place today.

Harris Seeds is owned by the Dickes family of Illinois. Our Chairman, Byram Dickes, grew up on a family farm in Indiana and he understands what it takes to make a good agricultural company tick.

We believe that a family owned business has distinct advantages, as we stay connected and focused with our customers… those good folks that are responsible for making our company successful.

We like being family owned, and we expect to compete effectively against those organizations owned by the large, corporate giants.

We are Harris Seeds… a grower friendly company!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Be Vigilant!!!

Late blight was devastating in the northern part of the USA last year. For the professional tomato and potato growers, many times it caused complete loss of crop and income. That’s sad.

This photograph of late blight on tomato plant was taken by Dr. Meg McGrath, Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University.

For more information about late blight, check out the following link from the New York State Cooperative Extension at Cornell University:
For the home gardener, it came in on diseased plants shipped from the South and wiped out most tomato production in gardens in the Northeast. For most hobby gardeners, they would find it difficult to be able to assess this nasty disease. The most effective means of controlling late bight is to pull and destroy infected plants before the disease spreads, and it will quickly. There are also biological controls available, and we recommend that home gardeners go online and search for the topic for more preventative information.

There were a bunch of new gardeners last season that came into the marketplace, and unfortunately, their conclusion for the loss of tomato plants may have been the lack of a green thumb, and this was not the case. It is a sad event when families anticipate their very first, home grown tomatoes, only to realize that their plants have died in only a day or so.

Be vigilant!!! Go online and learn all you can about late blight.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Only in Texas!

I visited my brother and sister a few weeks ago in South Texas. It is always nice to get away during the winter months. While I was there, my brother and I traveled from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande Valley to a small farm town called Carrizo Springs. It was a three hour ride through some very desolate territory.

Our mission was to visit our good friend Bruce Frasier. Bruce is the 5th largest cantaloupe grower in the country, and the very largest grower of onion transplants in the USA.

He was kind enough to tour my brother and me through his onion fields. Needless to say, we were extremely impressed with his 400 acres of onion transplants…that’s right, I said 400 acres, and that is a lot of plants. The fields were squeaky clean, and the onion transplants were of superior quality, with many of them being harvested while we were there.

All of these transplants are harvested by hand, and it was quite surprising to witness such an efficient operation. The entire farm is over 2500 acres of vegetable production, and that was impressive.

Bruce grows and supplies our onion transplants that are found in our catalogs. Transplants are direct shipped to customers around the USA. We are confident that these transplants are the very best in the country.

And by nature, those Texas folks are tremendous hosts. We enjoyed a tasty beef dinner on Bruce’s patio that evening. Texas is surely a special place.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Organic Leadership

With the addition of many new organic and untreated vegetable seed varieties to our catalog this past season, we thought it would make sense to find an individual that could head up this ever growing department. We were very fortunate.

Last year, a young lady from Iowa came to our area and went to work in our call center. She was wonderful with customers. We soon learned she was an integral part of a successful sustainable vegetable growing operation for many years in Iowa. Her knowledge of organic production and varieties was very impressive. Needless to say, she soon became a part of our marketing department.

Her name is Solveig Hanson, and we are delighted to have her on our team. She has been immersed in plug and liner customer service duties all season, but as soon as the activity comes to an end, she will take over her new role as manager of the organic and untreated seed department.

Sometime this summer she will publish her first newsletter dedicated to the needs of organic and sustainable growers. It will be full of helpful tips and information. Please watch for it.

In addition, she will fill a leadership role in finding new organic and untreated vegetable varieties to add to our product line. Her knowledge of the marketplace will be invaluable.

The Harris Seeds Company is committed to supporting the organic marketplace and we believe Solveig is just the person to get the job done…welcome Solveig!