Last week, Chris Thoreau and I talked about sourcing high-quality seeds from reputable suppliers.
Today, we’ll get to know more about one such supplier. Lisa Mumm of Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds joins us to talk about the history of the company, and what they do to ensure they’re delivering safe, quality products.
Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (00:55)
We have a long history of selling seeds for sprouts and microgreens, and I’ve been involved with the farm for as long as I can remember.
By the time I realized the degree I’m taking up in college wasn’t a good fit for me, my parents were thinking about retirement and exiting the business. I came back home to do just that, and I found that staying connected with the family farm was something I wanted to do.
Now, I’ve been managing the business for 9 years.
When the business started in 1982, everything that my parents sold was grown on their farm. Sometime in the ’90s, the business started to outgrow the size of the farm. We’re a relatively small farm in Saskatchewan at about 500 acres. Half of it is still an old-growth forest, so we only cultivate bout 250 acres, which is quite small for the need of the business today.
Even after my dad and I had most of the land under cultivation, we were only supplying about 2% of the seeds that we sold.
This is actually the first year that we’re not growing any of the seeds that we sell. We’ll reassess in 5 years because I really do love farming, and I do love growing seeds. But first and foremost, I need to make sure our customers are taken care of and that I’m running this business well.
Meeting Strict Hygiene Requirements (03:35)
When we have a farmer who wants to be a seed supplier, our first step is to run a very extensive quality analysis of the sample of the seed they’ve grown. If they pass and meet all of our criteria, we then have to make sure that they follow our own set of good agricultural practices that ties into our food safety program.
We also make sure that they’re in good standing with their organic certification. We do a lot of ongoing monitoring of our suppliers as well as hold annual reviews.
What are the most common reasons for rejecting seeds? (04:40)
Obviously, germination rate and yield are big factors. There are also the appearance, taste, as well as mold in the seedbed, but they do vary from seed type to seed type.
Microgreen seed vs. Regular seed (05:00)
With microgreen seed, we have food safety considerations that we don’t have in garden seed. We do extensive pathogen testing in every lot of seed that comes in before releasing them. We also have a GFSI food safety program in place, as well as a lot of procedures and good manufacturing practices to make sure that once we receive our seeds, we’re not putting it at risk through our storage, or processing, or bagging, etc.
How has the dramatic increase in orders affected Mumm’s? (07:30)
It was hard for us—it was about two and a half months of wildly increased sales since people started focusing on food security and local food production. It was a big challenge for us, but we were fortunate that we didn’t have to staff off, and we were actually able to support the community by bringing in more staff. But seed supply and inventory were definitely a challenge. Right now, things are back to normal and we feel comfortable with that.
Was the COVID-19 demand just a blip in the radar, or was it a paradigm shift? What does it hold in the future? (08:30)
We’re just planning about winter, and we’re doing some thinking and planning around a potential second wave and what that could mean for our inventory and supplies. I think that’s an important planning process for everyone to go through even on the supply side of things.
But I do think that a silver lining to this awful pandemic is that the world has focused some of its energy on food security and local food production, which are areas we need to pay attention to.
Was there ever a shortage of seed or was it more of an order-handling issue? (09:45)
I can’t speak for other companies, but for us, it was both. Even with the extra staff, we weren’t able to keep up with the volume of orders. We did run out of certain types of seed, but it wasn’t a worrying supply issue because the supply was there. It was just the logistics of getting in and getting it tested that took time.
Do you foresee any shortages next year and how do you plan on combating that? (10:40)
We’ve done a few things. We have an excess in inventory of certain products like specialty crops as well as crops that are a little more difficult to procure. As for crops we go through in huge volumes, we don’t really have the capacity to oversupply with them, so we’re looking into secondary suppliers should the need arise.
In terms of food safety, what should you look for when sourcing seeds? (11:55)
From a food safety perspective, the key pieces would be to make sure the seeds are pathogen-tested; possibly go buy from a supplier that has a really robust food safety program in place; and if you want to feel really, really confident about your seed supplier, then having a third-party-verified food safety audit is the best verification that you can have.
If they don’t have that third-party audit, you can always ask them a series of questions about how they handle the seed, and what good manufacturing processes they have in place, what they do with allergens, etc., and basically make your own audit.
Another key point is making sure that the growers are using good agricultural practices in fields.
Microgreens and sustainability: Does the land use justify the calories produced by microgreens? (13:35)
A couple of different perspectives there:
(1) I feel that microgreens are so incredibly nutrient-dense that they offer good value in terms of input in the land required to produce seed
(2) they’re very, very low-waste. They help with diversifying crop rotation since having a crop rotation that isn’t diverse enough is bad for the environment and bad for the soil. Some good examples of this are alfalfa and speckled peas.
Are there some key things all growers need to know about seeds? (15:15)
Probably first and foremost, use your ability to test samples regardless of your seed supplier. It’ll save you a lot of time and headache rather than getting a seed lot that doesn’t work well for you. More in general, the biggest challenge we’re facing around the world is climate change. We also need more farmers to transition to organic, as well as equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful as organic producers. We’re fortunate that in Canada that we have organizations that help in just that.
As a Canadian company, what does shipping to the US look like for the buyer? (16:40)
There won’t be any fees when it hits the border, so it’s usually pretty seamless. Right now, our lead time is a little bit longer than usual, so if you place an order right now, it would probably take a week at our facility, and then two weeks in transit. The only real delays in the border are our occasional home sprout orders.
We ship about 60 or more small-scale orders to the US a day, as well as a handful of commercial orders. We have a lot of experience getting seed across the border.
Want to learn more about Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, one of the premier microgreen seed suppliers in all of North America? You can check them out at Sprouting.com!
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