Oregon daily emerald. (Eugene, Or.) 1920-2012, April 25, 1980, Page 6, Image 6

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    joe cone
tip of the tongue
This being Earth Week, we all
have carte blanche to be "en
vironmentally conscious," so I
thought we should consider
ourselves as something other
than happy-go-lucky food con
sumers. Let’s consider food
production instead, specifically
an overlooked part of the vege
table-growing business — seed
development. Some new
developments in the seed busi
ness can help you grow better
vegetables and outwit the
recession, at least a little.
Backyard gardening, on the
increase in Eugene, is observa
ble in a number of ways. Take a
look at what your neighbors are
doing. Look at the four Eugene
Community Gardens. On cam
pus, even, notice that this year
the Urban Farm is larger and
more diverse, and at Amazon
Housing, families have gotten
together for the first time to im
prove garden soils, and demand
for garden spaces has in
Another sign of the times is
Territorial Seed Company, a
new business located in Lorane.
Territorial Seed, owner Steve
Solomon says, is devoted to
supplying and developing
vegetable seed varieties best
adapted to the Pacific North
west climate west of the Cas
cades. "We have a climate here
that’s different from any other
part of the United States, and so
the seeds marketed by the big,
national seed companies don’t
always work well here,”
Solomon says.
A key factor in determining
the success of a particular var
iety of seed — a factor many
backyard gardeners are un
familiar with, says Solomon — is
the amount of heat a plant gets
during the growing season.
Many vegetables will ripen their
fruits only after they’ve received
a certain amount of heat, which
scientists measure in "heat un
Iowa, for example, gets 5,000
heat units during a growing
season, while the Willamette
Valley around Eugene gets only
1,800. "So,” Solomon explains,
"if you’re growing a kind of corn
that takes 82 days to mature, in
Iowa, what the seed packers are
really saying is that the corn
takes 3,800 heat units to ma
ture, and in Iowa it gets those
3,800 in 82 days.”
In Eugene, that same variety
of corn would have received
only 1,800 heat units, and "by
the end of October, it would not
have matured; there would be
no corn, and the frost would get
the plant," Solomon says.
"That happens to gardeners
up here all the time; they read
these catalogs and get misled,”
Solomon says. Tomatoes, pep
pers, eggplants, melons,
watermelons and cucumbers
are all controlled by the amount
of heat they get. The search for
varieties of these vegetables
and others which would do well
in this climate was what led
Solomon to start Territorial
The Growing Seed Business
Judging from the response
the first-year business has
received, a number of gar
deners west of the Cascades, it
seems, think locally adapted
seeds are a good idea. Solomon
Cultural Forum
1980 Film Conference
of the
Saturday, May 10
EMU Forum Room
Susan Shadburne - Presentation of
ideas, grant writing, and preparation
of scripts
Mike McNamara - The Business
of Filmmaking
Manson Kennedy - The ins and outs
of Film Distribution
Lenny Lipton - Overview on being
an independent filmmaker
Films by Oregon Filmmakers
107 Lawrence
Jan Baross
Ken O'Connell
Joe Valentine
Sharon Sherman
David Joyce
Doug Pollock
$3.00 U of O Students
$6.00 General Public
Tickets on sale at EMU Main Desk
• Seating is limited, so participants are encouraged to pre-register
• Those who have pre-registered will have priority
• Registration includes the conference itself and admission to the evening film showing.
• For mail orders: send a self-addressed stamp envelope along with a check to cover the cost of
tickets to EMU Main Desk, Erb Memorial Union, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403 Make
checks payable to the ERB MEMORIAL UNION
This conference is funded in
part by the Festival of the Arts Committee
has received more than 2,500
orders since he began dis
tributing his seed catalog in
January; he expected about
1,000. He’s confident about the
future — he says at least a half
million of the 6 million people
living west of the Cascades in
Oregon and Washington are
However, Solomon doesn’t
yet intend to develop his own
varieties of seed for so small a
market size.
Currently, many of the t erri
torial Seed varieties are types
that tested well at Oregon State
University’s vegetable-testing
station in Corvallis. Others
come from seed companies in
Holland and Japan, where the
climates are similar to the mari
time Northwest. Solomon con
ducts his own trials on two large
garden plots at his Lorane
home, and he monitors seed
testing at the University's Urban
Farm and at other Willamette
Valley sites.
Seed development, as op
posed to testing, is a giant, mul
tinational business, Solomon
American gardeners are
familiar with the big-name
American seed companies like
Burpee and Northrup-King, and
they probably assume, Solomon
says, that these companies
grow all their own seed. In fact,
Burpee, for example, "grows
about 20 to 25 percent of its
vegetable seed.” They buy the
rest from companies that gar
deners, who buy seeds through
mail-order catalogs, never hear
of or buy directly from.
One of these so-called
primary growers is Royal Slius,
an old Dutch company that has
operations worldwide.
When Royal Slius identifies a
market for a new strain of cab
bage, for instance, says
Solomon, the process of
developing that seed may take
years, span continents and cost
millions of dollars' Professional
plant breeders in Holland start
the process by developing a tiny
amount of a pure hybrid seed
that bears the desired charac
teristics. This "foundation
seed” is then developed at
breeding farms under close
monitoring until a small quantity
of ‘‘stock seed” is produced.
This seed is then sent to seed
growers in “the one best place
on the planet” where this variety
should grow.
In the case of cabbages, Mt.
Vernon, Washington, is one
prime site, though we can’t buy
any of the thousands of these
cabbage seeds grown for Royal
Slius in Washington. In due
course, Northwesterners may
be able to buy the seeds from
Burpee, which buys seeds from
the Dutch company that pack
ages the Washington-grown
The international seed busi
ness is so complex, costly and
potentially lucrative that the lar
gest corporations are increas
ing their moves to control the
market, Solomon notes. The ITT
corporation recently bought
Burpee Seed Co. Sandoz Phar
maceuticals now owns North
rup-King. Union Carbide, Mon
santo, Celanese and other
chemical multinationals recent
ly have purchased major seed
In the Northwest, the increas
ing public awareness of the ad
vantages of local, small-scale
farming indicates that perhaps
in the long run, people will deny
the domination of big corporate
Solomon looks ahead 5 or 10
years when he would like to
establish a foundation to
develop seed for this area.
Meanwhile, he’s working to ex
tend the growing season here
by adding cold-resistant varie
Territorial Seed Co., Box 27,
Lorane, Or. 97451 publishes a
seed catalog and a useful guide,
Growing Vegetables West of the
Cascades ($3).
Joe Cone has written restaurant
reviews for the New Haven
(Conn.) Advocate, the Wil
lamette Valley Observer and the
Friday and Saturday Night