Thanks to this post by Talitha Purdy at Cold Climate Gardening I am now a Fedco devotee. Fedco is a seed cooperative started in 1978 and offers a great selection of seed varieties, many organic, at reasonable prices. But it is so much more than that. The catalog is amazing. All newsprint, illustrated with black and white drawings and clipart, it is one of the most informative and enjoyable catalogs I have ever used. It is peppered with quotes, jokes, groaner puns, an illustrative diagram of "The Gardener's Brain (with Seat of compost pride& greed and First pea envy area) and very detailed growing information.
In addition, Fedco is unabashedly political, taking on agribusiness with its recent decision to drop the Seminis seed line now that Monsanto has bought the company. But the choice was not unilateral. Customers were given several choices and the majority indicated that they did not want to continue with a Monsanto business.
Beyond their biopolitical stance, what has endeared me to this company is the honest descriptions of varieties. If low germination is a problem, the customer is not left to discover that at planting time. I was especially glad for the heads up on a pea variety that I wanted to order
Peas come 6-10 (6.64 average in 2004) to a pod, sweet and delicious if harvested promptly when a little under full size. Caution: Quality drops off rapidly after reaching full size. Since pods ripen very uniformly, noted CSA grower Elizabeth Henderson suggests making succession plantings.
Had I planted these and harvested a little late I might have been very disappointed with the variety. These kinds of descriptions are as valuable as talking with a fellow gardener over a glass of iced tea.
How this gem of a company escaped my notice for so long is a mystery.