I'm Julie, founder of Annie's Heirloom Seeds. Scott is my husband, and we have 3 children, Carl, Anne and Aurelia. Annie was my Grandmother. She was an amazing woman. She grew up on a dairy farm, and later married my Grandfather, Jake, and became a farmer's wife. Grandpa experimented with various farming ventures, eventually settling with almond orchards, which is what I remember as a child. My mother remembers Grandma's gardens with beans and tomatoes, and the jars of canned goods on the shelves. Kentucky Blue was Annie's favorite bean, and today it's one of the Annie's Favorites, one of my favorite beans as well. Beans are definitely a family favorite. I have fond memories of Sunday dinner at Grandma's house, and there was almost always a bowl of beans on the table.
Annie's wasn't what we started out to do in life. Scott and I began as scientists, Scott in physics and I in chemistry. We lived in Chicago in the city and eventually moved to a small house in the suburbs. It was during that time that Scott's grandfather became very ill and died. It was on the way home from his funeral that something he told us kept coming up, "the city is no place to raise a family." I know many of us can and do raise our families in the city, but it just wasn't for us. So we began the search for what we really wanted to do in life. Scott found a book in the library called "You Can Farm" and that started us on our journey towards Annie's.
We moved back to Michigan and bought our first farm with 20 acres of pasture. We tried growing everything, grazing cattle, raising chickens, milking cows and goats, and growing vegetables. Vegetables were by far our worst thing. I was just terrible at it, but I'm pretty stubborn, so I kept trying. I eventually asked a friend to teach me, sharing all my garden space with her, but she got pregnant and quit, leaving me a garden mess yet again. Finally, the next year I met Laura. She had the knowledge but no land, and I had land and no knowledge. She came out every week to work in the gardens, teaching me how to prep the garden and grow everything. I tended the gardens through the week and we shared the bounty. Our children were the same ages, so it was a wonderful day spent socializing and working and learning.
The next spring I went to a talk by an Amish farmer on gardening. He said that his friend had a brix meter, which measures the sugar content in vegetables and fruits. He said that when the sugar content is highest that the nutrients are greatest and the flavor is the best. This friend grew heirlooms and hybrids side by side and that the heirlooms always had a higher brix content. And if you are going to grow vegetables, you should do your best to find heirlooms to grow. And that started me on my mission to grow heirlooms.
They were hard to find and purchase at that time. I hunted the internet for companies and found a few. Some sent dead seeds, some refused to work with me when their websites wouldn't accept payment, and yet others took so long to send the seeds that I forgot I ordered them and they arrived well after it was too late to plant. And no one sent planting instructions, so I was back indoors hunting down instructions when I wanted to be out planting. It was frustrating. But the vegetables that did come up were amazing. Vegetables that I thought I didn't like were delicious. It wasn't vegetables that I didn't like, it was hybrids!
And that was when I realized what I was supposed to be doing. It was my job to find all the wonderful seeds and make them easy to buy and grow. At that time heirlooms had the reputation of inferior seeds, ones that had poor germination rates and didn't grow well. I knew that wasn't the case. It was the poor handling that caused the problems. It was old seeds that should have been tossed. Annie's would be the seed company I wanted to buy from. The one that I couldn't find. With a commitment to customer service, fast shipping, fresh seeds, and helpful gardening information. We'd carry only our favorite varieties and every product description would be written by us from our experience.
The next year I picked the first 300 products that became our first catalog and grew them all. Side by side, with plant markers everywhere, and my science background became apparent. And we tasted everything, cooked and raw, comparing how they grew and tasted. I took pictures and began writing what was our first website and catalog.
It's been 6 years now, and it is as rewarding today as it was in the beginning. I get to grow and test and taste so many wonderful vegetables. I have the joy of gardening and knowing that everything I do helps everyone else have the garden they want to grow as well.
Thank you for your support. It is because of all of you that Annie's can continue to be a wonderful life for our family and friends. We will continue to work hard to make Annie's even better, and with your help I'm sure it will.