Seeds are obviously amazing.
Given enough time and the right conditions, a few grams of genetic code can become a 3-tonne oak tree.
In much the same way, The Seed Company by E.W. Gaze is sprouting anew from roots stretching back almost 100 years. New focus and new products for a new generation of gardeners, has owner Peter Byrne looking forward to the future.
Byrne is reviving the business of his Great-Grandfather by riding the new-wave of agricultural old-school. He says a new social media strategy and renewed interest in growing one’s own herbs and vegetables is helping to revitalize the store in ways he’d never imagined.
“The traditional Rubber-Boot-Gardener (a term Byrne’s Grandmother coined to describe those who grow for the sheer love-of-the-game) has gotten much younger nowadays, from 15 to 20 years old!”
Millennials returning to the earth has brought the need for new methods of growing: instead of the traditional row-patches, people are building above-ground planters and bypassing digging up Newfoundland-sized rocks. Where once they would have sold a tropical fish-tank now sits a hydroponic lettuce kit.
“People are starting to get it – ‘oh my God, if the ferry doesn’t get in, then the shelves in the grocery store are gonna be bare!’”- Byrne remarks on the shaky state of island produce. “Cauliflower gets up to $7.99 a head! I can grown my own in a raised bed and I don’t need a field to do it in anymore.”
The Gaze Seed Co. was founded in 1925 by E.W. Gaze and remained in the family under Byrne’s Grandmother until her passing in 1987. The business was put under new ownership; under whom Byrne worked for several years before moving on to pursue school, career, and kids.
It would be another 20 years before Byrne stepped foot in his family’s old store — this time with the intention of buying back the business. He says it was like walking into a time capsule; much of the original equipment, furniture, and even the carpet lie waiting to be brought into the 21st century. And that is exactly Byrne’s plan.
It’s funny how things work out. Byrne feels the success of the big-box stores that once drew customers away from downtown have now created their own market gap; one that requires helpful and knowing staff in the age of too-much-information.
“They are turning back time nowadays — the staff here are knowledgeable, you can’t get that at a big box store … You’ve got to choose between three types of turnip seed, ‘why this one or this one or this one?’ It’s hard enough to get things to grow here anyway!,” Byrne explains.
“All of our seeds have been time tested to work for Newfoundland – the turnip seeds we sold 100 years ago: we’re still selling them now.” Byrne explains his new strategy is a modern twist on his Grandmother’s: know your customers, know your products, and offer something new that nobody else has.
There’s no Farmer’s Almanac for an island economy. A recent string of downtown business closures hurts the whole team. Here’s hoping The Seed Company get’s to reap what they have sown when they come up on their 100th anniversary in 2025.