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Seed “Designed” For The North
Theresa and Dan Podoll’s favorite vegetables are becoming favorites across an ever-wider area. Their Prairie Road Organic Seed varieties include Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert squash, bred by Dan’s brother, and Dakota Winter onion, believed to have been brought from Prussia by Dan’s great grandparents in the late 1800’s. Bred and selected to thrive in North Dakota, they are filling a niche in the seed business.
  “A lot of smaller seed companies have been rolled into corporate holdings, resulting in a loss of regional varieties that don’t sell in large enough volume for the large corporations,” says Theresa. “That left a hole for us to find varieties that did well, especially in northern tier states.”
  The Podolls previously made the transition from organic gourmet turkeys to contract seed producers. “We were selling turkeys on both the East and West Coasts,” recalls Theresa. “When our processing plant shut down, we were unable to find a replacement and had to reinvent ourselves.”
  After raising vegetables for seed under contract, the Podolls offered some of their family favorites to the companies to try. As sales of those varieties grew, they decided to sell the seed themselves.
  They added other regional favorites like Homesteader peas, introduced to North Dakota in 1908, and Hidatsa Shield beans, grown by the Hidatsa tribe on the Missouri River in North Dakota. Today the 34 varieties offered are a combination of family and regional heritage varieties, as well as new varieties developed by the Podolls and others.
  The varieties are all open-pollinated and organic certified. The seed can be saved and replanted by anyone buying it. However, varieties planted in a garden with other similar varieties can crossbreed. While that can result in an exciting new variety worth keeping, it may not. Not only are Podoll’s seeds bred true, they are evolving and improving.
  “We are continually selecting the best plants so they can adapt to environmental changes,” says Theresa. “As disease and insect pressures change or ramp up, we are selecting those plants that best handle stresses. We are also saving those most suited to our palate.”
  She points to the company’s vine crops that were subjected to 3 days of high wind. She notes that only the strongest plants were able to survive. While 2014 was a poor year for production, it was a great year for selection. Saved seed will be stronger.
  “When challenged, Mother Nature selects for the strongest and most fit plants,” says Theresa. “This was a perfect year for other crops with good production. Because we are small and diversified, we can absorb those kinds of shocks and yet gain ground.”
  Although the company specializes in varieties selected for North Dakota, they are now selling seed in stores across the Dakotas and Minnesota and expanding into Iowa and Wisconsin. Customers from across the country order from the online store.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Prairie Road Organic Seed, 9824 79th St. S.E., Fullerton, N. Dak. 58441 (ph 701 883-4416; info@prairieroadorganic.co; www.prairieroadorganic.co).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #1