Seed Voyage: connecting foodies with backyard gardeners

Seed Voyage is connecting local vegetable growers and connoisseurs through a simple online marketplace that gives everyone convenient access to the best homegrown produce in the community.

Every yard is a potential farm in the making. And not just any farm, a farm filled with the highest quality fruits and vegetables you’ve ever tried. By some estimates, one-third of all households grow food for personal consumption.

“I grew my first veggie garden last summer and was blown away by the flavour and quality of my heirloom tomatoes and peppers,” says Shawn Sowten, Seed Voyage founder. “I’m just an office guy with no farming experience whatsoever, yet my produce tasted better than what the grocery store offers.”

“When you think about it, the idea makes sense,” he adds. “At an industrial farm, the foremost concern is yield and profits, whereas I’m just worried about flavour and quality. There are hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomato available in the world and yet you’ll be lucky to find two generic tomato types in the supermarket. Grocery stores cater to the mass market, which means they will always be constrained. It just isn’t economical for them to carry 50 different types of heirloom tomato. Now multiply that by the number of veggies you actually go through in a week from asparagus to zucchini.

“I quickly realized that many of my friends and neighbours were also growing produce, but the best part was they were growing unique and exotic varieties, not the generic foods found in any grocery store. Seed Voyage was founded to connect these passionate home growers with local consumers that seek and appreciate specialty foods like heirloom tomatoes, rainbow carrots or fingerling potatoes.”

Sowten estimates a grower could make about $500 on 100 square feet per summer. For summer students or retired folks with access to more land, a growing season could earn upwards of a few thousand dollars.

“However, for people like me, the appeal of Seed Voyage is to find a new use for those weeks in August and September when everything goes ripe at the same time,” he said. “Instead of giving away all of my delicious produce, I can sell them and use those funds to purchase other amazing produce from local gardeners.”

Why would a consumer want to buy these goods?

It’s a no brainer,” says Sowten. “Amazing quality and flavour. Homegrown foods are picked at exactly the right time with no ripening on trucks. Even a generic veggie that is picked a few hours before eating tastes great. But specialized varieties, like my Cherokee Purple tomatoes, which I grew last summer, amazing. You’ll start to wonder how those red spheres in the grocery store are even allowed to be called tomatoes. In the end, these are foods that are ultra-local and grown by passionate gardeners feeding their families.”

That’s where Seed Voyage comes in.

The online platform is designed with one thing in mind, to connect growers and consumers so they can buy and sell their locally grown produce. The home gardener signs up on and inputs their address and the foods they are growing. The local consumer signs up and inputs their region of interest (for example, within five km of their house) and the foods they are interested in buying. When the produce is ripe and ready for harvest, the grower will send notification and any consumers with matching preferences will be alerted. Purchases will be confirmed online and picked up at the growers house. All transactions are electronic, so there’s no need to make change at the door. There are no fees for signing up, only a small transaction fee when goods are sold. Visit seedvoyage.com to sign up.

Photo: Seed Voyage founder Shawn Sowten.

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