Running a Small Scale Seed Selling Business on a Small Farm with Dan Brisebois (FSFS131)

 

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          There are a number of crops you can grow on a small-scale agricultural land. Crops you can sell as a CSA, crops you can sell in bulk to restaurants and groceries, or crops you can sell over at farmer’s markets. But apart from the usual vegetables, have you ever considered selling a different crop, say seeds?

 

Today’s Guest: Dan Brisebois

            Dan Brisebois graduated from McGill University where he studied Agricultural Engineering. Together with Frederic Theriault, he co-authored a book about crop succession entitled Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers.

 

Relevant Links                                                                                           

            Tourne Sol Farm – Website | Instagram | Facebook

 

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • Diego opens the episode and introduces the guest, Dan Brisebois (00:30)  
  • Initially getting involved in the small-scale seed business (01:57)
  • Was selling seeds always part of the plan? (03:07)
  • Approaching seed growing as a potential business (03:53)
  • How lucrative is growing and selling seed (05:20)
  • Selling a grown tomato vs. selling a tomato seed (08:08)
  • The idea of not trellising tomatoes and leaving them to grow on the ground (11:48)
  • A better way to do something (14:26)
  • Techniques of growing seed more efficiently (15:45)
  • Relatively easy crops to grow for seeds for beginners (17:56)
  • What about breeding plants apart from just growing seeds? (21:00)
  • Segregating seed and vegetable production (23:36)
  • Selling by packet vs. selling in bulk for seed companies (28:40)
  • Growing the business with sales (29:34)
  • Marketing the seeds (33:20)
  • The common questions about their seeds (34:02)
  • Minimum size of land to seriously grow seeds for sale (36:55)

 

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Dan Brisebois Project

Diego: [00:00:00] Typically, when you think of small-scale agriculture, you think growing vegetables on a limited amount of land. But today we're going to think a little bit outside the box, and we're going to talk growing seeds for vegetables on a little bit of land. Stay tuned for that. Coming up.

Welcome to the world of farming, small and farming smart. I'm your host, Diego. Today's episode takes us to Quebec, where farmer Dan Brisebois is doing some amazing things at Torn Soul farm. Dan tarted out like a lot of other small scale growers, growing market vegetables, intensively to sell to his CSA customers. But unlike most other growers, Dan also had another plan in mind as he started his farm, a plan that would really distinguish him from many of the other small-scale growers, because from the beginning, Dan's plan was to integrate seed production in his small farms, operation seed, which could be used on the farm and seeds, which could be sold.

Dan's now about 10 years into the seed growing and seed selling business, and things are going well and he's producing and selling a lot of seed. It's proving to be a nice little business for his small farm. And I think he can prove to be a lucrative and viable add-on business for other small farms. But before you start thinking, I don't have enough room on my farm to grow seeds as well as growing market vegetables.

Thank again, because Dan is dedicating less than half an acre to seed production. So you don't need a lot of land to produce seeds. If you're looking to cashflow a small piece of land or diversify your farm operation, pay attention. Let's get into it, running a small scale seed business on a small farm with Dan Brisebois.

Why, Dan, how did you initially get involved in the small-scale seed production business?

Dan Brisebois: [00:02:01] I got into, I got into seeds. separately from getting into the seed business. But I got into seeds because I was working on a farm and I had some friends working on another farm. And when I went to visit them, a few of their fellow apprentices were really into seeds and it caught, I got caught, or, I caught the bug and, and I started to realize that there were seeds all over us that could be collected or all over the farm. And so I just started to collect seeds initially from whatever I could.

One of these friends subsequently started to grow seed on contract for a few, seed companies. And that kind of showed me that there was a possibility of doing that financially. So when we started our own operation, we, an operation was a vegetable operation. We were doing organic CSA, vegetable baskets. I thought we could maybe give that a try. And we started growing seeds. For other seed companies, in our first year.

Diego: [00:02:56] So when you started out your farm, was having the seed growing initially part of the enterprise plan or was, it will grow some of our own seeds if we can sell them, great. Or were you saying really budgeting in that income is part of the whole farm plan?

Dan Brisebois: [00:03:13] I think it was a, the former, we were growing some of our own seeds. And, I had made a couple of small contracts for five or 600 bucks in our first year. So it wasn't a large amount of money and it wasn't something we were planning on. It was just, an extra bonus at the end of the year to make that sale. Or, I knew there was a snow was coming, but to get the money for it. So it was for fun and for learning, in the first year.

Diego: [00:03:39] When you were just starting out, how did you go about actually saying, okay, there's a business here? You knew some people that were contract growing was that your exposure to the market? Because I think it's one thing to say, Oh, let's grow seeds and sell them. But then the next step becomes, who do we sell them to? How do we get in touch with those people? How do we set up a deal, all that type of stuff.

Dan Brisebois: [00:03:57] So I knew it was possible, to sell seeds to other seed companies. and I knew a number. I knew if I knew of seed companies that were in Ontario and Quebec that were selling seed to gardeners and farmers. So I knew that model existed, And so the first thing I did when we were setting up our business is I went and spoke.

I was at the world organic conference, which is a larger trade show and conference. And I went and spoke to all the seed companies that were there about the possibility of growing seed for them and two seed companies. so they were looking for growers specifically for heirloom tomatoes, and we're happy to provide some seed.

Or some starting seed and then they'd buy bias a fixed amount at the end of the year at a set price. And, so it was just, I guess it was, knowing that we're doing it and then asking questions and that kinda got us going on it. I didn't know what the potential really was on the longterm. but it probably took about two or three years before starting to realize that the business potential is a little more interesting than just a little bit of extra money.

Diego: [00:04:59] Can you elaborate on how interesting it could be for somebody looking to get into this type of business or add seeds as a different business unit on their farm? How lucrative of an opportunity is there?

Dan Brisebois: [00:05:15] The selling seeds is the important part to consider though. Growing is also important. you have two markets.

You can either sell seeds. Bulk to other seed companies who will then resell them in smaller formats, or you can sell small packets to, to individuals and farmers and gardeners and so forth. And you, or you can do a, both of those, which is what we do on our farm. I'll talk specifically about bulk, first, or maybe I can mention packets first, if you think about the amount of seed in a tomato.

You might be able to, like in a cherry tomato, you might have enough seed to put in two or three packets. If you can sell each of those packets for $3, that cherry tomatoes worth $9. So that you don't need that many cherry tomatoes to have a hundred packs and therefore like a $300 sale. So for the space that it takes, growing seeds and selling them, or packets is insanely lucrative. Purely from that perspective.

Now there's a whole bunch of other things that people don't always consider on the marketing aspect of it, but really from the growing part in the space, it takes, packet sales are very lucrative. We talked about bulk seed sales. That would be, growing out a seed.

Lot of, if I was growing tomatoes, it might be two or three pounds of tomatoes, two or three pounds of a tomato variety that I'm growing for a seed company and that they will then resell in small packets lucratively. so growing box seed I find is comparable to growing market vegetables that are being sold through CSA or farmer's markets.

And met market vegetables. There is a range of crops from crops that might only make 10 or $15,000 an acre to crops that are making a hundred to $150,000 an acre. And, depending on the type of crop and the variety and also the price you can get for it. which often is related to how common that crop is, but something like tomatoes or peppers or eggplant seed usually falls into the sort of that $40,000 range.

Something like beans might be on the lower end, unless it's a really unique bean that's then you might be able to get more than 20 or 30,000, but I don't know that 40,000 as possible. per acre for beans, and the stuff like carrots seed, might be on the higher end. so it depends a bit on your market and your variety and, and your negotiation skills, always.

Diego: [00:07:35] Sure. And there's a bunch of stuff there. I want to dissect a little bit. So let's assume that we're operating in a perfect world here. If you were growing, say tomatoes, what do you think would be the comparison of growing the tomatoes and selling them as fresh tomatoes on an acre versus selling them is seed. If you grew that everything out on that acre just for seed. I know it's all obviously going to depend on who you're selling to the market, all of that but if you had to equalize a lot of that, do you have a rough sense of what seeds would generate per acre versus the fresh veg?

Dan Brisebois: [00:08:12] There's two elements in that one is the profit, the income that you make, but the expenses are very different in both scenarios. So if I was on our farm, we grow tomatoes for market, like fresh tomato, the fruit, And we grow all our market tomatoes under Caterpillar tunnels. So under plastic. so there's work that goes into putting those structures up there.

they're staked and trellised, we prune them to a certain, like to two liters and then let those grow down, throw up. and, we don't do any subsequent pruning, but we do a lot of trellising. And then when we're harvesting, we harvest. Three times a week in the real peak and then two times a week, subsequently.

So there's a lot of harvest labor that goes into that. And then at the end of the season, there's a lot of takedown, so there's a lot of physical work that goes into it, but we're probably, we might be generating maybe, 120 or $130,000 an acre off of those tomatoes. But there's a lot of work that goes into it.

When we grow tomatoes proceed, on contract, we do grow them on a black plastic, which is the same as for, for market tomatoes, but we don't trellis them. we don't, stake them. We don't prune them. we just let them grow on the ground and we harvest once every week or two.

We wait till there's a lot of fruit on the plant. And then we go through and do a bulk harvest and process that. And, as long as the fruit can be perfect looking or it can be damaged as long as it's not really diseased and rotting, we can extract the seed from it, which is not the case with market tomatoes.

We have to sell the best stuff and so two or three harvests will be enough to get the bulk of the tomatoes and then maybe we could get a fourth harvest in later on, but not necessarily. It's usually by then we have enough seed that we've met our goals. And so that's coming into in about $40,000 an acre.

So it might be a third. Of the third to a quarter of the sales per for the acre, but, in terms of profit, the labor and expenses a lot higher in the other scenario. So I don't know exactly how that works at determining the profit per acre.

Diego: [00:10:32] No, that's a good answer. So it's for the market veg. You're getting more net sales out of it, but you're putting more labor hours into getting those sales versus the seed, which is less hours and less total revenue.

Dan Brisebois: [00:10:47] That's right. And with the market veg, we also have the infrastructure of buying and building and maintaining these Caterpillar tunnels.

Diego: [00:10:56] How did you arrive at the idea of not having to trellis and stake your seed tomatoes? Because if I was just going into this, I would treat them just like I would a fresh vegetable, not knowing any better. So how did you arrive at this idea of we'll just let them grow on the ground. We'll harvest them and, big batches versus treating them exactly the same as you did for your market vege?

Dan Brisebois: [00:11:18] it took a lot of years of figuring out how little we can do if something which is often the case with any crop, be it seed crop or vegetable crop. We try to figure out how little work we can do to get a marketable yield of good quality. and so in our first year or two, we were trellising the seed tomatoes.

just the same, if you didn't in the same way, we were doing our fresh market crop and. Over time. I tried a few crops that were in trellis and it worked out and for awhile, I was harvesting once a week, from early August on, through mid September. And then I started to realize the early harvest, we just weren't getting that much seed.

So we started to harvest near the end of August. So we may have missed the first fruit. but, But we're getting the bulk of the seed and subsequently, visit. I visited a number of seed farms and seed companies. And so seeing how they do things has tweaked the way that we do things.

now one thing to assume in this scenario is that you're starting with good foundation seed and you're just bulking it up. If I was starting with something that was, had a lot of, had a lot of diversity in the seed stock, and shade them color. I couldn't just simply do that.

I'd have to, grow out a bunch of plants, select the ones I liked best and, and save the seed a couple of years, to clean it up. But if you're what you're starting off with is good, then you can just grow out and bulk up. and when you're growing seed for a seed company and that they provide the seed, you assume that what they're like, you basically, what they're sending you is what they want you to grow out and bulk up, when I'm growing.

And this is one of the differences when I'm growing seed for my own seed company is if we start, we go out and find a variety and we grow it out. We are responsible for making sure that it's good stock seed before we start bulking up. And, and sometimes we've definitely gotten seed loss that are, not as clean as we'd like and have to take more years or more to clean it up. Does that make sense?

Diego: [00:13:17] No, that's a great answer. I think there's a lot of lessons in there. One. Don't be afraid to try new things, two, really observe what you're doing when you're harvesting, what type of results you're getting in adapt. And in three, look at what other growers are doing and take what they're doing that's successful. In your experience of looking at other seed growers. Have you found anything where they were doing something and you're like, why are they doing that? And you found a better way to do it?

Dan Brisebois: [00:13:43] Yes, but it really depends on who you're comparing yourself with because. There are seed growers who've just been doing it for a few years and the seed growers who have been doing it for a really long time. And people grow in different conditions. People grow for different purposes, and people, and there's a lot of differences in the seed companies too. So some seed growers. Are selling all the seed that they grow as package to their own company.

And so they might be growing really small seed, lots to have many, I think might be growing 200 varieties, but a small amount of plants for each variety to make sure they have a big diversity, which is different with somebody who's growing mainly to sell bulk, whether it be, have a lot fewer, a lot lesser diversity, but many more plants.

On every farm, I'll see stuff that I would do and see stuff that I wouldn't do. Yeah.

Diego: [00:14:33] The reason I ask is because it's, in any industry or sector, you're always going to have the people that have been doing it for 40 years and they for better or worse, always do things the same. And then you get people that are new coming in and they innovate and find things that work the best with new technology. And you're a pretty switched on guy. So I was just curious if you had seen any ways where it's like, Hey, they're doing it this way, but we could really do that better and make this more efficient.

Dan Brisebois: [00:14:59] What I've realized is so I've, I've grown almost every crop that you can grow for seed. And I failed at a lot of them and when I really pay attention on or what crops I can do really well on, and for those crops, I figure out what works really well in our system.

And when I visited other farms, They don't always do things the same way. I'm weaseling out of your question here, but, I would say really what's been important for us as opposed to methods is figuring out what can grow well. like we, I've never had a successful kiss, carrot seed crop on our farm beet seeds, I've had one out of three or four crops, so I just don't grow a lot of those crops. Whereas brassica greens, and the first couple of years, I had some problems with the timing of when to see them and some of the density. But once I had those variables down, I haven't had a crop failure in eight years of those crops.

And, and sometimes I have killer crops. I, we do a lot of brassicas and it's the same thing with squash and cucumbers. We're really successful with those, with tomatoes and peppers also. So figuring out what we do well, and that's based, some of that's based on my skillset, but a lot of it's based on our climate and where we live.

So figure out what we do well, and then starting to focus the business around those has been really vital. And sometimes it's taken a while to really learn my lesson. As I get more experienced, I'm more cavalier in dropping something that I'm not sure it's definitely going to work. So every three or four years, I'll try something again. And see if I can do it better.

Diego: [00:16:34] No, that's a great answer because I think a lot of people don't pay enough attention to that of they just want to do everything or they don't even take the time to stop and say, What's really working well and what's not? And I love that idea of we'll just focus on what we can grow well and what doesn't grow very well, we'll just cut that off.

For somebody who's new and wants to try growing crops from seed. Do you have any suggestions in terms of what crops that they can maybe start on that are typically easier to grow out to seed versus harder crops?

Dan Brisebois: [00:17:12] If you're new to seed saving, there's two answers I'll give you. One answer is based on, the production methods and, In seed biology. There's two groups of plants. There's those that predominantly self pollinate and they don't need a big isolation distance to avoid cross pollination.

And then there's those Crow, those props that cross-pollinate easily and need a big isolation distance. So it's always great to start with crops that are easy, that don't need as much isolation distance. Tomatoes beans and lettuce are our, the eat. Some of these tomatoes and beans are really easy to grow.

Peas peppers are fairly easy. Also let us can be very easy in terms of controlling the cross-pollination, but sometimes the cleaning can be a real headache. There are good ones to start with because you don't have to do everything right about your isolation is distance. The number of plants you grow, whereas something like let's say corn or onions, corn.

Technically, it's very easy to save the seed. Once you have the cob, the ears maturing, but they need much more ice, the better isolation distance than other crops do. and you need to grow a lot of plants to have good genetics. So if you only grow 10 plants, your population is not going to be fantastic.

And your seed won't be good after a couple of years of selection. But the other thing I'd say is. Just try anything and everything. if you're interested in getting into seed, there's a lot of learning to do. And any learning that you do will probably be good. And so I would probably say start small with a few different things of what you like to grow as a vegetable or what you're curious about and go from there.

And. I would say compared to a lot of other agricultural endeavors, I wouldn't jump into seed quickly with the goal of making money. I think that there's definitely a market there and it's a very good crop financially and profitably, but the skill set is more it's more difficult than just growing market veg.

Like you have to be a good market grower first. In many of your growing techniques to then be a good seedsman or seedswoman. That's a great answer.

Diego: [00:19:25] What are your thoughts in terms of not just growing seed, but breeding out specific varieties in traits for plants? I think that's one thing that sounds like a great idea to a lot of people.

Do you have any sense of opportunity out there for that and, or competition you may face?

Dan Brisebois: [00:19:46] if you can breed new varieties that are interesting to other people, that's fantastic because no one else has them and you can get a better price for your seed than if you're just growing out a standard variety.

so in terms of opportunity, if you're able to do the work and able to do it's really great to do, There is other people doing it, but, the, farmers and gardeners. So I was looking for new crops that are good and breeding or adapting varieties to your site. It's a really great opportunity both to make, to make a name for yourself when you're selling seed.

But it's also great to, if you are a market grower or a garden yourself to create varieties that do better in your system. and that are more fit to where you are. And so every time that you grow out seed, you are selecting for the conditions that you're growing out under. Now, if you grow 40 tomato plants and save seeds from all 40 plants, you're not doing any selection pressure, but if you were to grow out, let's say 4,000 turnips for market as a farm, as a farmer's market for basket, and then you save your best, a hundred turnips and you send those proceeds.

And then the rest is what you sell. Your crop will just get better and better. So this is not going to talk. So not even really tackling plant breeding, it's just selection. So that over time, if you're talking about things you like, you'll have more of that in your population. now breeding per se is maybe a step or two more than that you have to do some sort of cross, And you're doing a lot of selection. So that might add, between three and six years before you have something that can be released. And that's just at a sort of an amateur level.

I think some of the largest systems might take longer than that to release stuff. That's an extra, bunch of work before you have something marketable, but once you have something marketable, you're the only one that has it.

Diego: [00:21:38] And in your case, you're growing plants out for seed and you�re growing plants to fulfill a CSA for somebody who's trying to do this on their farm. Do you think that. You segregate the crops. So you have your seed crop in one area and your market vege in another area, or if say you had a hundred foot beds, you could say, okay, 50 feet of this bed is for market beds. The other 50 feet is for seed. And I know it varies on tomatoes cause you've obviously changed that. But for other crops, do you think it makes sense to mix the beds or do you totally segregate off your seeds?

Dan Brisebois: [00:22:16] We have done both, but over time, we've moved to having dedicated seed production areas and dedicated, crop production areas.

and I guess just to back up a step, I would say it depends a little bit on what stage you are of seed production. So if you're at the point where you're actually producing seed, then we do have separate areas, but if we're at a selection process, if we're selecting radishes or turnips or, even something like chicory or escarole, We'll grow those out in our main vegetable plots and we'll split the best and then replant them elsewhere in the next year in our seed production areas.

but during the actual seed production a year, if it's a commercial crop, almost always do we do it in a separate area. and there's a few reasons for that. one, one is, the crops have different growing needs. Do you have different, irrigation needs? So when the, when it's an early plant, both seed crops and vegetable crops need to be irrigated to get established.

If it's really dry conditions, But once your plants have established, you probably want to minimally irrigate your seed crops. You'd really don't want to get once it starts to set flowers and then set seed, you don't want to get any of the aerial parts wet. So you could keep drip, you're getting with drip irrigation.

but you don't want to do any kind of overhead irrigation. So that's one thing that doesn't work well in a mixed area. the other thing is seed crops on the ground a lot longer than market crops. if something tomatoes, it's not true because they're both, you're harvesting the fruit, but if you're doing a rugala, you're a, rugal a crop has finished in four weeks and then you could tell it in and plant something else or, go to a cover crop with the seed crop.

it's probably going to be there for almost three months, maybe three and a half months. And, you have to keep that part of your garden active longer. So if you're going to incorporate the rest of the area and either re crop or put a cover crop in, the seed crop will likely be in your way.

And, another aspect is, what you're going to be planting in that area after the seed crop, because, You can't harvest all the seed off of the seed crop. Some of the seed will shatter and fall to the ground and it becomes a weed problem for the subsequent year. So after we grow a seed crop, we don't till the soil immediately, we leave, all the residue on the surface, we might mow it.

after harvesting it, we might mow it so that everything, any weeds are destroyed and the certain, the plant residue is chopped up. But any shattered seed will be on the surface and it gives it a chance to germinate, when it rains and also gives it a chance to be eaten by beetles and mice.

and so by it, whereas if you plow it under right away or till it down, but right away, you're going to bury all that seed and it's going to be coming back for years. So if you leave it on the surface and only till the next year, you're going to wind up with, With a lot less weed pressure, much quicker.

There's also a potential added benefit that, but when that shattered seed germinates, you might have a flush of a rugal or a bok choy, or, if it's salad, greens or lettuce, you might be able to harvest some of it as a market crops. Same if it's radishes or turnips. so that's something that we assess a reason to keep.

see production and vegetable production area separate, and then maybe the last reason to keep them separate is, is cross-pollination. With tomatoes, for example, a lot of their needs are similar to what a market tomato would be. But with the market tomato, we might tamper it a lot more, but if we weren't pampering the market tomato as much, we can maybe grow it in the same space. Except if we are selling the seed commercially, we probably want to have 50 to 150 feet isolation distance. Between tomatoes so that we're sure there's no cross-pollination even if a smaller, even if a smaller distance might be adequate for personal use. if the seed is for sale, we really go for the higher high-risk ranges.

Diego: [00:26:22] Going backwards a little bit in terms of selling in a packet versus selling to a seed retailer. With your farm, how much of the seed you grow goes to packet sales versus to, or seed retail? Or do you have a rough idea of the percentage?

Dan Brisebois: [00:26:38] Yeah. So in terms of, let's say by dollar value, maybe 10 to 15% of our seed goes to other seed companies and we've decided to seek to maybe a dozen other seed companies.

and then so about 85% is being sold to, to farmers and gardeners. and we're different from a lot of the small seed companies in that we don't only sell by packet, but we also sell in a bulk format. So if somebody wants to buy a pound of a ruthless seed, we can. So we do sell into that, not just like a two or four gram packet.

Diego: [00:27:10] There's a lot there selling your own stuff. And what's been the key to growing that part of the business? Is it are most of your sales coming locally in your own region? Are you shipping across Canada for most of those sales? Like how did you build up that business? Because I like the point that you made before.

You can sell via packet, but the problem is then selling. You have to be able to distribute those packets and market, those packets in market, your sales. So what's worked for you and growing that niche of your seed business.

Dan Brisebois: [00:27:43] in Canada, there's been a, the last 20 years or so maybe even longer than that, there's been a number of events called CD Saturdays and city Sundays that occur. And they happen once a year in a town or a city. And, it's a gathering of seed savers and seed sellers. And at these events, we'll usually be, maybe to two or three seed companies to a dozen seed companies and the larger ones that sells seeds.

It's kinda like a farmer's market, but for seeds. So this has actually created a really good opportunity for new seed companies to come in and get a foothold. so when we started selling seed by package, they'd be in our third year of our business and we started going to these events. With, I think we probably had 20 seed varieties in our first listing.

at this point we have about maybe 200, 210 varieties. so that was the foundation of our packet. Sales was starting to go to the CD Saturdays and Sundays. And the first year we went to one or two at this point, we go to about a dozen of them. And, and and that, my correspond to about.

Maybe 30 or 40% of our sales is coming through those events. And for that, all we have to do is show up with, a nice stall and package seats. we. We started doing mail order fairly early on. but initially it was just, a print catalog that we distributed, a cheaply printed catalog and one or two pages that we distributed and get we get, email orders and mail orders.

And then about four or five years ago, we invested in a, in an online store and that's been really fantastic. we have not done, we've done some ads and magazines. and such, but really it's been word of mouth that the business has been growing by. And we've been happy with that because we have a vegetable business that is doing very well.

We don't have to rely on growing the seed business too quick to, to be able to make a living. So we've been able to grow it at, a semi sane, speed. And, probably in the last four or five years has been growing 25 to 50% a year. which is which is good, but we're trying, we're not, we don't want it to go much quicker than that because we don't want to get stuck in a problem where we can't keep up with demand or can't provide good customer service.

so I think that basically, maybe to summarize as we've had, a good way for people to contact us, be it a catalog or a seed store, and we provide. Really, we aim to have quality product. We want something that germinates well and varieties that do good in our area. And with that, we get repeat customers and these tell their friends and it kind of spreads. We do sell seed across Canada, but the bulk of our sales is taking place in province, in the province that we live in, which is Quebec. So maybe like 80% of our sales are within our own province.

Diego: [00:30:33] Is that how you market yourselves more or less as Quebec-adapted seeds?

Dan Brisebois: [00:30:39] we market our stuff as, so we're certified organic. So that's one way we market our seed where it's all open pollinated, and it's, all trialed or selected on farm. And, so yeah, I guess we're marketing our stuff as stuff that those well in our area, We could put an extended to Quebec or Eastern Canada. but we don't really broadcast the geographical, limits to where it does. I think that stuff, our stuff probably does very well also in Northeast of the Northeast US, too.

Diego: [00:31:10] And on the flip side, selling to a seed wholesaler. If I'm new starting out and I want to approach a seed wholesaler. What types of things should I be thinking about prior to approaching that wholesale or based on your experience, are there certain things that you think make you look more attractive as a seed grower? Or are there common questions that seed wholesalers ask and want answers to?

Dan Brisebois: [00:31:36] There's definitely some basic questions. are you or certified organic or not? do you have, the isolation distance and those kinds of questions can make or break, just having that first discussion, if certified organic is not necessarily for all seed companies, but for the companies that it's necessary for it's, it's a deal breaker.

if you don't have it, I think. It's also really important for you to be, to be fairly realistic about what your capacity to deliver is. And, seed a seed company will not jump in a first year with you with really big contract. they'll probably start with a couple of varieties and if you deliver well, They'll expand.

if you have a reputation already with, sound to other people and people can vouch for you, some companies might jump in fairly quickly, but that's, you've already done your relationship building with others in the same community by that time. so I think that it's good to have saved seed yourself first, before you start growing seed for other people.

And when you commit to growing something. It should be something that you already feeling pretty confident that you can deliver on. it's I think that, maybe you could say if you're committing to three or four crops, two or three of those, you're pretty sure you can deliver on and maybe one is more risky.

At least you can show something. if the stuff that's less risky, doesn't succeed. But if you commit to for risky things and nothing succeeds, the seed company is not going to be as interested in continuing relationship with you. I think it's something that you get into.

Slowly, and it's different than selling market vegetables in that with market vegetables, clients week after week. So if you have good tasting stuff, one week, they'll come back the next week and buy more or the same stuff versus the seed company. it's every year it's an annual transaction as opposed to a weekly transaction. So if you really burn bridges, it might take a while if ever to rebuild those bridges.

Diego: [00:33:43] In terms of having the capacity to grow out seeds. If you're selling to a wholesaler, what's the kind of the minimum size piece of land. Do you think you need to make a serious goal of this where it's not just a hobby and we're not talking pocket change and say you just wanted to grow, focus on one or two crops. What's the smallest amount of land you think you could make a good goal of this ag?

Dan Brisebois: [00:34:11] It depends a bit on the crop that you might consider, but, it can be fairly small. you can maybe grow a pound of tomatoes out of 20 or 30. That fee, maybe even less than that, some cherry tomatoes and that pound of tomatoes might sell for 300 bucks.

So I guess one question would be is what is a serious goal. but you could probably make, it probably takes you about 20 to 30 feet to have enough plants to have a good population of many things. maybe it might take you, maybe I'll go back. So tomatoes that you're growing, in a bed you can grow one row.

So you have 20 to 30 feet. You can definitely be selling three or $400 a seat off of that. But if you're growing something like, like a rugala, you'd probably want to have three, three rows per bed. So in the, maybe in 20 or 30 feet, you can have 60 to 90 plants, which is probably the lower side of a good population.

And. that's probably produced at least $500 a seed. It's about a thousand dollars a seed. so they're not, let's say $500 a seed. So it's not huge space to get that kind of revenue. So if you're thinking five to $10 per foot of bed, if you want to make a $10,000, you're talking about. 1000 to 2000 feet of bed that you'd need

Diego: [00:35:36] Like a lot of things, it depends on what you're growing, but you can make some progress on a small space. This isn't, you need five acres to really go after this?

Dan Brisebois: [00:35:46] No, it's, I would say it's really five acres. You can grow a lot of seed off of five acres. we currently have about three quarters of an acre in seed production.

And part of that is our trial grounds part of that's breathing. So maybe it's even half an acre that's in seed production. And, but you can, this is for a long time, we were probably more at, like a 10th of an acre. So you can do quite a bit with very little.

Diego: [00:36:14] There you have it, the small scale seed business as a standalone business or an additional business unit on an existing farm and a realistic view from someone who's doing it. Dan Brisebois Dan actually did a presentation on this subject at P V3. And I have that presentation posted on YouTube. I'll link to that in the description for this episode.

So be sure to check that out. If you want to learn more about growing seeds again, that whole presentation is available on YouTube. Dan's also written a great book on crop planning. I'll link to that in the description, and for more information about Dan, check it out in the links below in the description for this episode.

That's all for this one next week. I'll be back with another small scale farmer making a grow event in between now and then keep hustling and crushing it until the next episode where it's all about farming. Small in farming.

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